Running/owning/managing a busy pub

My cousin is absloutely determined to do this and leave a good career as a surveyor. He thinks he can make good money taking over or buying a busy pub and loves the idea of socialising and welcoming regulars who see their local as a hub of the community in Gloucestershire. He has found a good old proper pub, where the owner wants to sell and retire. said pub has a busy local following and is a bit  of s destination pub also


It serves great bar/brassierie food as well as having a 25 cover 2 rosette restaurant adjoined and 8 country style double rooms. Family and friends have told him he is nuts, and he will never work so hard in his life. This is a bad move right?

i'd only do it if it was a free house. working for a pubco etc is thankless.


 he is nuts, and he will never work so hard in his life.


Does he have any actual experience in the hospitality industry?

there's quite a niche practice amongst litig8ors of taking fools* to the cleaners and removing all their money and cars and first borns etc etc



* tenants of pubs.


was a bit embarrassing when one of them came to visit my parent's house "oh, yes I know XYZ village. that's the ABC Arms isn't it?  had a few out of there"



Is there a good chef or is the owner retiring because of the ball ache of finding and keeping good kitchen staff?  I know people who've run pubs and they've ended up in the kitchen themselves when yet another chef has decided to quit.

It will be hard work because you've got all the prep to open at 11am and then don't finish cleaning up until an hour or two after closing time.  Clearly that doesn't include time dealing with reservation enquiries for the rooms and the general management paperwork, etc.

Clubman has it. Friend of ours runs a Fullers pub and is really hamstrung by the price of beer that she is obliged to buy.

Other than that, why not?

I know someone who did this.  They found it a challenge initially, but ultimately it was a really wonderful experience.


Only joking.  It's shit.  You deal with everyone in the locality at their absolute worst.  Angry, having affairs, losts jobs, feuds, fights, young lads trying to score beers at age 16, fights, drugs, low level criminality, puke, police.  And fickle pyssed up customers who can boycott you for the most inane perceived slight.  Avoid this like the plague - this is a job for people with no other options.

Also unless he is very lucky with staff he will be massively stolen from until he is experienced enough to know all the tricks.

Heh.  My mate has a chap selling his own vodka and taking the money from the till.

Also, will come under considerable pressure from locals to have lock ins until all hours if he wants to keep the hard core local drinkers happy (the weekday mainstay of any pub).

Guy - you should take up being a pub landlord as a hobby to sort your problem drinking.

yes, that will work a treat, I would do what every other landlord with a drink problem has and kid myself by only drinking halves

It's a free house and a proper nice old school pub is the first thing. The owner wants to sell because he has had enough of working 7 days a week, and as sails said keeping a kitchen brigade of a certain quality over time is bloody difficult, especially when trying to retain rosettes and the like.

I think he has rose tinted spectacles, he goes there and the owner is front of house schmoozing and chatting to people who he has known 30 years many of whom are genuine friends. He also sees having a nice casual glass of something nice with locals as a plus, whilst eating like a king and being lord of the manor. He forgets about when the chef is sick and has to close the kitchen, or the cleaners aren't in, stock take, etc, etc. He thinks he can employ a general manager to do all this but these are far from cheap.

I look at my various locals and the managers seemed stressed as fvck and their employees.Afriend of mine who worked in the industry recons a good manager will cost 75k plus with benefits.


He won't be persuaded.

Avoid this like the plague - this is a job for people with no other options.

I'm not sure I agree. I know people who do it and love it. But they have been doing it for donkey's years.

You need to know how the business works inside out. You need to have a solid network of suppliers. You need to understand exactly how all your overheads break down (and these can be surprisingly huge). Someone who has managed pubs before has those contacts and knows how much ale is lost to ullage, for example. Some newbie who's bored of surveying won't have a clue about any of that stuff. If you don't know exactly how much margin you're making on each drink or meal or packet of crisps you plan to sell, you have no hope of turning a profit.

It goes without saying that you need a decent chef (especially in a place like that), hardworking and charismatic bar staff and reliable housekeeping staff, but you also need to know how to do their jobs, because if you find yourself short staffed one day, you are fuck all use as a landlord if you don't know how to change a barrel, plate up a meal or turn round a bedroom ready for the next guests.

If you've worked in hospitality all your life and you get the chance to buy your own pub then you could make a roaring success of it. People can and do. But a surveyor who thinks it looks like a nice life? Nah, probably not.

what lady p said.


bloke I know who did it best had been a manager for one of the big compass groups or something like that having worked his way up.  knew exactly what the business side entailed.


Just heh.

This is a horrible idea.  Mate of mine (Kev not Dave) got out of his pub November before last, having put a lot of money into a refurb and a full refurb of the rooms, he was lucky to come out with only a £120k or so loss after 3 years.

There’s no money in drink, rooms and food are the only hope. 


And what others have said the staff will be on the take big time. He thinks he will inherit a loyal work force, which he will but not to him.From the outside it looks great but scratch beneath the grease paint and it is a recipie for disaster. He hasn't quite grasped rosette level chefs are not two a penny and easily replaced, and besides they want to move on very regularly.

If the food takings tank, then he cannot survive on the locals I would presume. He tells me the pub /beds/restaurant takes on average 15k a week.

Not just the staff but the suppliers too. They will see him coming from a mile off and he will get massively stiffed on the price of everything because they will know he doesn't have a clue how much anything is supposed to cost.

Would seem sensibly to get a job as a salaried manager for 6 months first - learn the ropes and tricks of the trade then decide whether to invest His life in it

He wants it to be like the guy who owned the Pot Kiln in Bekrshire, remember the chef who was aways on telly and bought a the Pot Kiln and made it look so easy and fun . Thanks Mike Robinson you may well bankrupt my cousin.

Indeed Lady P, but he has done the DD, which consists of eating, and drinking there and seeing how many customers are there and asking the owner about occupancy rates and average spend at the restaurant , and turnover , and waxing lyrical about the owners  top of the range rangey he changes every 2/3 years. He sees it as walking in to a ready made business where he can improve it and make loads of cash whilst having a jolly nice time.

I think this the sort of wonderful dream only really feasible if you are already insanely minted and can afford for it to be loss making to the tune of a few mill over 10 years.  Ideally you'd get the actual freehold so you can fall back on conversion when you get bored of it.

Is there still a weird thing where pubs lose money on booze and make it on food whilst restos are the other way round?

Would seem sensibly to get a job as a salaried manager for 6 months first - learn the ropes and tricks of the trade then decide whether to invest His life in it

What landlord would hire a bar manager who didn't have significant experience working in pubs in the first place? None that I can think of.

He wants it to be like the guy who owned the Pot Kiln in Bekrshire, remember the chef who was aways on telly and bought a the Pot Kiln and made it look so easy and fun.

Yep. The reality is that it is a business, and a remarkably complex, stressful and cut-throat one. The jovial landlord having a pint with his regulars is the equivalent of a social media "influencer" filtering the fuck out of their life on Instagram. He might be genuinely enjoying that pint (just as the Instagram "influencer" might be genuinely enjoying that cocktail on the beach). But it is a very very small part of the job, which is to sell people stuff and make a profit. The landlord is having that pint with his customers to project a kind of bonhomie that makes people want to spend money in his pub.

But 99% of his job is long hours, spreadsheets, accounting, hard bargaining with suppliers, making sure no money is going missing from the till, health and safety, dealing with people with no respect for licensing laws, managing staff, and all other manner of incredibly tedious things, all of which are necessary in order to run a successful business.

He sees it as walking in to a ready made business where he can improve it and make loads of cash whilst having a jolly nice time.

It's insanely arrogant to think that you can improve a business when you know next to nothing about it.

To follow on from wang’s point, a good chum of grandpa strutter with a good few million to his name bought a pub as a vanity project just because he liked the idea of propping up the bar of ‘his’ pub and chalking up rounds for his friend’s ‘on the tab’.

He was at heart however a businessman and although he could afford the loss it made him sick to the stomach that so many people had their hand in his pocket and so he became more and more involved, learning on the job, until he was basically full time. Not a great way to spend a retirement.

My grandparents spent their retirement doing B&B and it was definitely a full-time job. They loved it though. And my grandmother came from a hotel managing background so she had an idea what she was doing when they bought the place.

Lady P I agree entirely. He is a mid ranking partner in a smallish succesful chartered surveyors in the country so to speak, and cites him wanting to get  out because of working 12 hour days , travelling round the country for a "pittance" for about 100k. Well cus 12 hour days owning a busy pub would be considered part time .

He does genuinely believe all the work you have described can be outsourced to his general manager. Dear lord

Almost every general manger in such circumstances will behave like the metaphorical Indonesian research student.

wanting to get  out because of working 12 hour days



I regularly did 12 hour days when I was a humble barmaid and I can tell you the bar manager / landlord was always there well before opening and after closing and for most of the time in between.

It's a 9-midnight kind of job.

Almost every general manger in such circumstances will behave like the metaphorical Indonesian research student.

The general manager in the last pub I worked literally thumped a customer who tried to feel me up, and then banned him from the establishment.

I was actually thinking more of shagging the owner as comprehensively as possible whilst he was unawares, lady P

To really justify having a general manager you need several pubs for them to manage to make it worthwhile.  I remember a friend in the restaurant trade being overjoyed when he finally had enough outlets to justify hiring a full-time manager so that we he was no longer racing from overseeing the fit-out of a new outlet to unblocking the bogs in an existing restaurant before then helping out in the kitchen because someone hadn't turned up.

Only villains with a side gig make money out of pubs.

You mean only pubs which are a front for a money laundering operation make money?

Sails even chains like Young’s have general managers at their busy pubs as do spoons even .??

 I think he is as a surveyor struck by the beautiful premises and surrounds which are stunning to be honest. Average of 15 k doesn’t sound great though. I imagine a place like that must have at least 15 or so full time staff including a “expensive” head and sous /deputy . And as he aims for more rosettes that cost alone will sky rocket 

Lady P - yes sort of if by front you mean wretched hive of scum and villainy for which they take a cut

Lady P dunno he is light on the detail , I said if that is gross you’re in difficulties, because you will have to pay a mortgage on the building, which the present owner doesn’t because he bought it 30 years ago and was loaded anyway as is family were kinda landed gentry and left him a few quid . 

a 3 /4 rosette level chef is going to cost you two grand a week so that’s a big chunk already. I imagine it must be pre- tax but he is being coy 

I reckon about half of that £15k will go straight on staffing costs.

Ebit Young's and Spoons have a manager in each pub who's basically a glorified member of the bar staff and certainly doesn't earn £75k a year and will be responsible for rotas and bits but will answer to someone above them who'll manage several venues and there will also be some centralised ordering of food and drinks and the like from head office.  To support the kind of manager who's earning £75k you probably want him to be splitting his time between two or three pubs so he's the equivalent of a Spoons area manager.

Sails now u have fleshed it out you are probably about right, but a general manager of the pub I described who runs the pub as his own in effect would be on that surely. And a 3/4 rosette/1 Michelin star chef will deffo be on 100k plus an earn out ?

I rather doubt it and to make it stuck up I'd expect your manager to be on a £40k at most and the chef similar.  The last Michelin starred pub turned I restaurant I went to was owned by the chef and his wife and is now for sale as they couldn't make it work so he certainly wasn't taking £100k a year out of the restaurant.

According to my friend who's in the business it'd probably be more like 35k for the chef and 30k for the manager (given that he'd need someone with serious experience as he doesn't have any himself).

But then you'll also need your sous-chef, a handful of juniors, a kitchen porter, probably 8-10 bar and waiting staff (depending on the size of the pub and restaurant) and cleaners, just for the pub/restaurant side of things. A couple of your bar staff will need to have a good few years of experience and be capable of taking on management responsibilities as well as cashing up (meaning they need to be paid a bit more than the rest), or else either you or the manager will need to be present at all times.

Then when you consider the B&B side of things, you need one person to take care of the housekeeping (plus backup for their days off and holidays) and you also need a couple of kitchen and waiting staff from 7-11 am ish to cover breakfast.

Sounds as bad, if not worse, than a newbie running a restaurant.

90% fold within 3 years.

Who the feck wants to play half pickled mine host for the rest of your life?

And having to be there literally 24/7/365 would be like being in prison.


Sails say that again , there is not one , not one Michelin star 3/4 rosette chef in the country who earns 40k . I have a very close friend from uni who was a sous chef in a one rosette kitchen in Bristol he was on 40k plus free accommodation. Another who was a second sous chef in Richmond at a 3 rosette kitchen in Richmond was on 55k

so if you hire a chef who has a star elsewhere and you want them to get a star for your new gaff, you think 40 k will do it ? 

or if you want to hire a sous chef at a star restaurant who wants a head chef job at a new kitchen whose brief his to get then a star you think that will cost 40k ?!  Remember that series about a country house /lodge owned by a family in the costwolds who wanted to hire a chef who could get them a star ? They were paying 100 K and that was about 8 years ago mate !

Michelin star level head chefs cost 100k plus Marcus warring employed at the Berkeley now only has one star having lost one recently you think he is on 40k or 400k plus an earn out ?

Lady P this place has two rosettes already and 3/4 rosette ls considered equivalent to a star . So it’s right up there , as I say my mate was working in a 1 rosette kitchen in Bristol and was on40k not as a head chef but as a number two . So imagine what you have to pay someone to drag them out as a sou /head chef in a 3/4 rosette kitchen with a brief to get them a star in a country pub /restaurant in Gloucestershire? They want a fat salary and a profit share . The local head chef at my Young’s pub is on 35k I’m told and that’s no where near a rosette let alone 3 or 4!

I'm not saying it isn't good but it still sounds quite a long way off Michelin star level, and rosettes don't have the same prestige. If it really were that good I would expect the asking price to be much higher than for your traditional country pub and for there to be a lot of interest from people who are already serious players in the industry. I can't imagine a bored surveyor even getting a look in. 

Lady p u make a valid point but 2 rosette whilst not a star is serious cooking /food ? And not a million miles from a star if the owner CBA to make the investment.

my mate who was a sous chef in Bristol with a rosette had a trial at the anchor down Guildford way , it had hired a big bollock chef who had got a star in his own right elsewhere and his brief was to get a star for them . He trialled for third in command and didn’t get an offer . The head chef citing poor knife skills . That was for 60k plus accommodation.

the point I was making that sails mate would not be earning 35/40 k if he had a star absolutely not in a billion years 

Royalty that’s piss poor must be an outlier I guess but as you say benefits are great perhaps suited to someone near retirement? 

if I’m going to work 80-100 hours a week in a restaurant with a star they want to retain or with a brief to get one , the market rate is 100k plus all day . Less so if it’s a 2/3 rosette shop as lady p says 

No direct recent knowledge of the industry ebitda, but a close m4 was a great chef with industry accolades who got out because of low pay a while ago because he couldn't see a way to family supporting £ without taking the step into ownership/management and the risks that come with.

There's also no way in hell that a pub making 15k a week is paying their head chef that much. The last pub I worked in used to take around 10k per night just behind the bar on a busy Saturday. Restaurant would have been more. And that's not counting the B&B. The head chef there is on less than 30k. No rosettes but very good quality, fresh local ingredients etc.

A place that makes 15k a week just doesn't have the staffing budget to pay their chef the kind of salary you are talking about. 

I’m very tempted to buy a pub next door to me. But not to run it!  Just own the property and make sure that it stays a pub


Living next door to a pub is probably about the worst thing I could imagine.

Living next door to a pub is probably about the worst thing I could imagine

Crackhouse, tecco, gammony brexiteer?

Lady P, agreed must be pre-tax, as opposed to gross I would imagine

Looking at the caterer, Michelin star head chef in London = £90k.  Provinces half that.

To earn more than that you have to have a stake in the restaurant.

Vertigo, you can earn 30k as a microwave operator in a fairly busy pub in Reading. I can only allude to the examples I gave in respect of my mate at Uni, and what he was earning in a one rosette kitchen and that was in bristol.

Your example of 90k, in a london restaurant seems very thin, although if you are picking up the reigns in a kitchen that already has a star, maybe, if your brief is to get one from the off, then it will be much more than 90, as you are fishing from a small pool

I suspect the ones who have a track record of getting one from the off get loads of money yes, probably via profit share.  I doubt it makes sense to risk that much cashflow on a basic salary.

Realistically you are not going to hire someone like that unless you yourself have a track record of starting successful restaurants.

Ramsay has said publicly when he was at Aubergine , he was on 200k, that was over 20 years ago, before he left and took the team with him. I think he had one star at that point..

"you can earn 30k as a microwave operator in a fairly busy pub in Reading"

since when was min wage £30k?? 


What everyone else has said about this being really fucking hard work, killer hours, a recipe for alcoholism and a stress nightmare. 

And Vertigo 100k plus is not a dent at all in a michlein star restaurant or one that aspires to be, they probably spend that a year on veg.

wibble your second para is spot on, that is why they want paying well as a basic and an earn out.

Wareing has never owned a restaurant , and "only" has one star now, yet he lived in a multi million pound gaff in Wandsworth, and moved two years ago to a ridiculous detached mansion in wimbledon village, I doubt he did that on 90k basic..

And Vertigo 100k plus is not a dent at all in a michlein star restaurant or one that aspires to be, they probably spend that a year on veg.

Yes but the pub you are talking about brings in a fairly paltry 15k a week.

Ebitda very few chefs earn much at all. I provided proof up the thread for a just sub Michelin head chef at c.£40k plus bennos in a foody town. 

My mate in industry, who was close to Michelin level, left because he couldn't support a family without ridiculous risk / sacrifice.

Cheffing for most is a vocation and a great experience that doesn't last forever but is a lifelong skill and an experience that is as grounding as the military or other super disciplined roles. 

Your guff about microwave operators on £30k may be true but who cares.

You know not of what you talk. Hence taking Shiite.


Fuck me I do work for a few massive pub chains and the idea of a GM on £75k in a local pub on any description is beyond a fantasy.

Thats presumably the estimate of a super-important City lawyer who thinks that anybody earning less than 60k a year relies on food banks.

They will be closer to minimum wage than that.

??? lol I never mentioned those figures!


And as I say the 15k must be pre tax not gross. I standby what I said earlier no michelin star chef or its near equivalent earns 40k in any part of the country, none. Bit its true knockabout cheffing does not pay "well"

I cannot find nor recall of that country lodge/restaurant situate in costwolds which was subject to a documentary on BBC, where they were paying 100k

Hope he goes for it and proves the risk-averse nay-sayers here wrong.

Do please keep us updated if he goes for it.

According to glassdoor average area manager salary is 50-57, so about 40 for a branch manager?

Good luck to him if that's what he wants to do with this part of his life.

Obviously it would be better if he kept safe and pushed surveyor paper for the rest of his working life. Better than pushing lawyer paper presumably.

Hope he makes it work if he goes for it and fvck the sneery khunts.

what? and the manager  salary I described was for spoons.


OK. most employed michelinn star chefs earn 45k in the provinces and max 90 in London, oh yeah

"I'd like to call out Labour as liars, i am one of them who corbyn would like to tax more. I am nowhere near the top 5% so I am calling you a liar right now" said no chef ever.

M3 you are wrong

“Never in the history of human endeavour was so much guffage written about matters of so little import”

Fanny Craddock

(Michelin Chefs in Gloucestershire 1200 - 1790 AD)

Anyone else notice the stunning regularity with which ebitda has close friends working in whatever field is under discussion - close friends who are happy to disclose all details of their financial circumstances to him? Not saying this isn’t true of course, just can’t imagine what an evening at the pub with them all must be like

chimp m8 we grew up in the same street together, went to the same school and uni. his parents and mine are very good friends.

It is little surprise that middle class , privately educated, RG Uni educated Londoners have friends who they have known since childhood have friends who are


Dentists, bankers, lawyers, accountants, chefs, teachers, builders, syrveyors, architechts, property developers, etc, etc

You are very fortuitous. I have to very quickly make a new friend every time I want to seem knowledgeable on the internet.

To Ebitda:

How is Mike Robinson going to bankrupt your cousin?

We used to love the Pot Kiln until the Times mentioned it was WillsnK8's favourite boozer. Then every braying half-witted Sloane in West London descended on the place and it took 6 weeks to get a table for Sunday lunch. That was years ago, and never really been the same since.  

To summarise:

- cousin will piss away his retirement fund

- ebitda is encouraging his cousin to pay approx 2x market rate for a chef 

- ebitda doesn't know what 'gross' means 

- ebitda knows doctors and dentists 


To give my tuppence worth. A friend of mine is married to a chap who is a 1 rosette chef and runs a pub. The money isn't that great, he is sick of the hours and the admin involved. Sick of the brewery the place is tied to. Sick of the locals who were not so keen to accept an outsider owning the place. Had to deal with unreliable staff who would vanish off to work somewhere else at inconvenient times or just not turn up for no reason. Sick of the lack of free weekends to do anything together and only getting one evening off a week. Their lifestyle is essentially funded by her work. He is giving up the pup and decided to contract chef it for a bit while figuring it out.

Ebit you regularly do this and seem to conflate pay in one part of the country in one part of an industry with pay across the industry and the country.  Yes there are a handful of chefs on very good money but they are big name players with multiple successful restaurants behind them and will generally have moved into management/ownership and the risks that come with it.  The vast majority do not earn very much and I know someone who switched from being a pastry chef in a Victoria hotel to working the tills in Sainsburys in Tunbridge Well as it's similar pay but less stress and fixed hours.


Also note that the big name chefs tend to make their money away from normal cheffing. It is in books, TV, owning multiple restaurants, putting their name to food ranges, being executive chef for restaurants and consulting for yet more restaurants etc in places like the ME. Actually turning up to cook day in day out is not how they made their money.

Add to this my brother used to manage a high turnover bar and left it because the hours were ruining his life and it wasn't paying that well.

are you suggesting that Marcus Wearing made all that cash from being on prime time TV about 3 times a week for 10 years and not from his salary as a chef!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?? 

how dare you. 


- ebitda knows doctors and dentists

It's finally clicked.  bullshitearnings is Graham Lister from Big Reeves Big Night Out c 1990.