Managing a public house is a role which demands a huge range of abilities, including excellent communication and social skills
Public house managers are responsible for the commercial success of a pub or bar. In this management position you would oversee the running of all aspects of the business, including front-of-house work, staff recruitment, accounting, stock control and possibly additional duties like marketing and advertising.
Being a pub manager requires strong management, commercial and practical skills. You'll have to constantly adapt to ensure that the pub is profitable, pleasant and safe and that it is run in accordance with the law and ethical guidelines.
As the sale of alcohol is restricted in the UK, pubs, restaurants, shops and other premises must be licensed by the local authority. As a pub manager, you'll have to obtain a personal licence to sell alcohol.
Some pub managers may own the premises, while others are employed by a brewery or pub chain to run the business.
Public houses differ widely so tasks may vary. Running a small, independent tenancy pub involves different challenges to operating a high profile chain pub.
Some large or lucrative pubs employ assistant managers to help with the day-to-day running of the outlet and so some responsibilities may be delegated to them.
In general, your duties will include:
- interacting with customers (including serving food and drink) and ensuring that high standards of customer service are maintained
- taking responsibility for pub safety and security, including recruiting and managing security staff in large or centrally-based pubs
- making sure you comply with health and safety regulations at all times in the pub, kitchen and other areas
- organising and advertising entertainment such as live music events, comedy nights, quizzes and karaoke competitions, which may involve researching and recruiting talent
- running promotional campaigns to market house products
- collecting and acting on customer feedback to improve the overall running of the venue
- undertaking regular stock checks, placing orders with suppliers and restocking (which involves physical work)
- ensuring regular maintenance of the premises, including cleaning and repairs
- recruiting, training and managing staff, including leading meetings to update and motivate staff
- monitoring profitability and performance to ensure sales targets are met or exceeded
- meeting with the area or business manager for the region to assess pub performance and set sales targets
- maintaining relations with members of the local community, the police and liquor licensing authorities.
- If you start as an assistant pub manager you could earn a salary of around £16,000 to £21,000.
- Salaries for a pub manager/licensee range from £20,000 to £35,000.
- Area managers are usually responsible for a number of businesses in a specific geographical location and can earn upwards of £40,000.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Benefits such as cheap or free accommodation and meal allowances are quite common, while some larger chains may offer help with subsidised childcare.
Low salaries within the hospitality sector are commonly supplemented with a pension scheme, share options and health insurance. Profit share schemes are becoming less common, but are still occasionally available.
Working hours are irregular and long as many public houses are open from lunchtime until late into the night.
The Licensing Act of 2003, which came into force in November 2005, has provided the opportunity for increased opening hours. It is usual to work weekends, evenings and public holidays.
What to expect
- Many public house managers are self-employed as tenants.
- The number of female pub managers continues to rise steadily, but women are still underrepresented.
- It's common for pub managers, particularly of rural pubs, to live in above the pub premises. While this may be helpful in keeping your living costs low, it may make switching off from work pressures more difficult.
- You may need to be prepared to move to different parts of the country to progress to managing more lucrative establishments.
- Some pub outlets bring in half a million pounds or more a year, so this role requires a responsible attitude to money and cash handling.
- Pub managers are on their feet for much of the time in an environment that may be hot and noisy. The smoking ban has led to wider use of outdoor areas, leading to a need for increased vigilance for problems occurring outside or near the venue.
- Travel is more common during the training period when some organisations like employees to visit various houses. Large pub chains may require overnight absence from home for training events and meetings.
- There are opportunities to work overseas, although it's important to check licensing laws and training requirements for individual countries.
No formal qualifications are required to enter this profession, although the following degree or HND subjects may improve your chances and allow you to progress more quickly:
- business and hospitality
- business or management
- hospitality management
- hotel and catering
In England and Wales, under the Licensing Act 2003, anyone supplying or authorising the supply or retail sale of alcohol must hold a personal licence.
In order to gain a licence, you must have an accredited licensing qualification. Although it may be possible to study for this during a training period in a management position, it might be worth considering taking the qualification before, to help you gain entry into a role. You can obtain the licensing qualification from:
- British Institute of Innkeepers Awarding Body (BIIAB)
- Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (HABC)
- Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE)
In Scotland, legislation is slightly different - you'll need the Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (SCPLH). See BIIAB for more details.
Some of the larger pub companies run graduate training schemes in which you join the company as an assistant pub manager and work through a structured programme to learn all aspects of the role. You will then take the relevant licensing exams, gain more practical experience and move into a management position.
While you will usually be required to have a good degree, it doesn't typically have to be in a certain subject. You may be required to have relevant work experience though.
Pub managers are usually expected to have a good background in customer service at a supervisory level and experience of bar or restaurant work.
As well as this, you'll also need to show evidence of the following:
- a commercial approach (preferably developed through experience in a retail environment) and the ability to organise successful marketing and promotional activities
- a working knowledge of cellar management and catering
- literacy and numeracy skills
- ability to set and meet targets
- excellent staff management and leadership skills, plus excellent communication and social skills
- an understanding of relevant legislation
- knowledge of products served and customer facilities
- capability to respond positively to pressure.
A work placement with a company can provide a valuable insight into the industry and help you decide if you wish to pursue a career in the licensed trade.
Placements of between six months and one year are available and allow you to learn about all aspects of the business. This will give you the opportunity to try different areas of the industry and improve your job prospects.
The hospitality industry offers fast career progression from a relatively young age and there are also opportunities for individuals with experience in related areas.
Traditionally, this industry has not been a major employer of graduates in pub management roles, but this is now changing significantly.
As the industry becomes increasingly competitive, opportunities for ambitious, enthusiastic graduates with a keen interest in developing a successful business have grown.
Improved career routes, training opportunities and benefits offered by the big companies mean that graduates are recognising licensed retailing as a real career, rather than just a stop-gap job or a necessary step towards a career on the corporate side of the business.
Some public house managers are self-employed, while others are employed by a national or regional brewery or an independent pub company. Many of these offer management training programmes and an increasing number offer training schemes specifically aimed at graduates.
Look for job vacancies at:
You can also check local and national press for opportunities.
The training you receive will vary according to the size of the organisation you work for.
Larger employers seek to develop transferable skills, such as communication and generic management skills, while smaller employers focus on practical on-the-job training in areas such as cookery, valued hospitality and management qualifications such as those offered by City & Guilds.
Larger chains often have graduate training schemes or fast-track management schemes. These vary from company to company, but most provide a structured programme of practical training, formal and informal courses and, most importantly, hands-on learning.
Training is often undertaken in the role of assistant manager with support from the pub manager.
There are a range of other qualifications you can work towards. BIIAB offers:
- Level 2 Award in Beer and Cellar Quality
- Level 3 Certificate in Licensed Hospitality Operations
- training in areas such as door supervision and drug awareness.
For more information see BIIAB Qualifications.
You may also wish to consider taking a qualification through:
Managers of public houses that sell food must usually gain additional qualifications, such as the food safety awards offered at different sector-specific levels by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
Alongside these formal qualifications, you'll likely also complete an internal training programme. This will help to develop your communication skills, health and safety knowledge, and marketing and merchandising skills.
The first year or two in public house management is usually spent training and gaining the qualifications you need to perform the role as an assistant manager or supervisor.
Certain companies may then send you to work in a variety of locations to gain experience in a range of houses, which means that flexibility and geographical mobility are essential.
Following this period, you can usually expect to secure a management position at your first house.
After a significant period in this role you'll be able to progress in a variety of ways, including:
- moving on to manage a more profitable or larger house
- taking on more responsibility within pub management, such as becoming a regional manager
- changing direction within the company and moving into other areas, such as training, marketing or property
- opting for self-employment as a lessee or tenant.
Rapid career progression is common for managers who generate profits quickly and efficiently, especially in larger organisations. Fast movement around the industry is also relatively easy for pub professionals with a good range of experience.
BIIAB has more information and courses for experienced licensees and managers, including the Level 4 Certificate in Multiple Licensed Premises Management.