Post-work pints: Transferrable skills for running a pub

Experience in the pub trade – or at least hospitality – is advisable for would-be publicans. Yet other careers do bestow some transferrable skills in this competitive sector, writes Melanie Luff of

Aspiring publicans often have very particular ideas about the ideal pub they would wish to run – perhaps a warm, welcoming hostelry where you pull pints and pass time with locals who are not just customers but friends too.

Or maybe you have your eye on a trendy city centre establishment with live music, a vibrant atmosphere and a young, affluent clientele.

Whatever your dream, the reality is that running a pub requires a broad skill set. Some aspiring publicans may not realise just how transferable their skills from previous careers might be. Would anything on your CV help you run a pub? Read on to find out.

Hospitality and events management

While working in a pub would obviously be the most beneficial preparation for running one, many other roles in the food and drink sector – in a café, restaurant or other catering enterprise – are of similar value.

The same applies to those who have worked in hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and other holiday accommodation. The events management sector also instils transferable skills.

All of the above share with pubs at least some of the following: long, unsociable hours; dealing with a constant stream of sometimes demanding members of the general public; dealing with catering suppliers; managing kitchens; and a highly competitive marketplace where substandard service is readily punished in the TripAdvisor age.

Retail and marketing

In this broad category, participants engage with the public in a variety of ways. Retail workers are constantly engaged with shoppers and will hopefully understand the customer’s journey towards making a purchase.

Marketing employees will share the same knowledge, but also bring a keen appreciation of customer groups, including their needs and tastes, and how best to satisfy them – an invaluable quality in an ultra-competitive market that long ago fragmented into gastropubs, craft-ale specialists for metropolitan sophisticates, ‘cheap and cheerful’ premises and more varieties besides.

Caring professions and public sector

Your patrons will only frequent your premises regularly if they feel welcomed and respected. So if being a ‘people person’ does a good publican make, then the caring professions – health and social care – in theory offers a good grounding.

This applies too to those in public service professions like teachers, civil servants and retired police officers, who will benefit from having interacted with some of the most demanding people in some of the most challenging circumstances.

Solicitors, accountants, business managers

Pubs might be primarily customer-facing enterprises that serve food and drink, but like any business there’s lots of prosaic paperwork behind the scenes. So long as they enter this trade with a business partner or manager with hospitality experience, accountants, solicitors, office managers and other white-collar professionals can really bring something useful to the table.

Their financial and administrative skills will give them an edge over the veteran bar manager turned pub landlord who lacks office experience – especially when a landlord’s ‘back office’ responsibilities are so diverse. Encompassing health and safety and licensing laws, the multifarious legal issues will benefit from the skills of a former solicitor, for instance.

Experienced, senior office managers, meanwhile, can offer skills in training and recruitment – important in this low wage, high-staff-turnover sector – and business development skills that secure long-term success and profitability – no small thing in a sector where so many premises go out of business. Skills acquired in the sober (in both senses of the word) office environment can bestow an invaluable advantage on any publican working long, unsocial hours, often in pressurised situations.

While some professions instil in their practitioners attributes that transfer well to the pub trade, they are rarely sufficient on their own. The pub trade is a tough business, so some hospitality experience – if not necessarily in pubs themselves – is arguably essential.

At the very least, get yourself a business partner, or hire a bar manager, who is experienced in the trade. Do that and the skills you’ve acquired elsewhere can really give you an edge.

Melanie Luff is online journalist for, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Melanie writes for all titles in the Dynamis Stable including and


Melanie Luff

Melanie Luff is staff writer for, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis.

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