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5 Tips on How to Make a Failing Pub Successful

Kris is a successful pub owner from England and is also a web developer, photographer, and marketing expert.

Learn how to save your failing business!

Learn how to save your failing business!

Who I Am and How I Can Help You

As all good articles start with the phrase "My name is," I guess it would be wrong to try any other tactic, and thus, my name is Kris Goddard. I am a pub landlord and have been in the industry for almost six years. Throughout my time I have had leases, worked for holding companies, and managed bars for larger chains. In my time I have picked up many tips and tricks of the trade and now use all the resources I can in order to run a very successful pub in Buckinghamshire.

The pub industry has taken a turn for the worst over the past few years. As we see rising prices for almost everything in day-to-day life, many bars have been hit hard as it has become considerably cheaper to buy alcohol from a supermarket. So do your few loyal customers still come to your pub? Put simply, it's for the atmosphere and social networking.

In this how-to, I'm going to suggest some excellent ideas that I have seen work in many of the bars I have managed. With that said, you have to employ the age-old saying that you need to "speculate to accumulate."

Presentation is key and your staff needs to appear happy even if they're not. Encourage them to converse with customers and make friends with them.

Presentation is key and your staff needs to appear happy even if they're not. Encourage them to converse with customers and make friends with them.

Step 1: Finding the Man for the Job

As a boss, it's very hard to find a happy medium between being a slave driver and a friend. I've always thought that you should enjoy going to work because if you don't, you won't perform to the best of your ability.


When I interview for staff, I ask all the foolproof questions you would expect to hear in a standard interview and from that, I create my shortlist. I tend to look for people that are confident, well-presented, and aspire to run their own pub in the future. You have to be a little careful as you want somebody that wants the job rather than your job, otherwise, they'll often prove to be a know-it-all and be quite lazy.

When to Do a Test-Run

I then call everybody on my shortlist back to have a trial shift in the bar. You don't want them to run an empty shift because you'll learn nothing about them, but chucking them in on a Friday or Saturday night on an unfamiliar bar will also teach you nothing. I find that pool or darts league nights are often good nights to use as they'll have teams buying big rounds, giving them a small amount of pressure. You'll also have a small band of locals who can "interrogate" your potential employee.

Get the Locals Involved in the Hiring Process

On this kind of night, I would expect them to get involved with the locals and play a part in their conversations. This shows me that they will fit in and are confident. At the same time, however, I would expect the potential employee to actively watch the teams and ensure that when they come to the bar to order a round, they don't have to shout for attention or wait for conversations to end. Always ask your locals who they prefer. You need to keep them sweet and ensure they are happy with the person pouring their pints or they'll soon disappear.

Dress to your customers and don't try to be something you're not. It's all about your intended audience.

Dress to your customers and don't try to be something you're not. It's all about your intended audience.

Step 2: Who Are Your Customers?

All landlords need to gauge exactly who their customers are. Is your bar in a wealthy area, the middle of a council estate, or the middle of town? Wherever your pub is, you need to ensure that you are putting across the right image.

My pub is a country pub surrounded by a small village filled with wealthy people. There is a good base of local businesses, so I insist that my staff wear proper clothes: a nice dress for the girls, and a shirt and trousers for the boys. I am often asked why I do this because most of my customers come in wearing casual clothes. My answer is simple: I serve reasonably expensive food and my beer isn't exactly cheap. I ensure that my pub is always spotless and that my staff always looks their best or they go home. I clean my lines every time I change a barrel to ensure that the beer always tastes as good as it can, and it keeps my customers happy. They walk in to find a well-presented and cheerful member of staff serving great tasting beer and food in a clean environment, and for that taste of luxury, they pay the extra few pence rather than going down the road to have a beer that isn't as nice and miss out on the friendliness of my staff.

Step 3: Throw an Event or Host an Activity

What are you doing to get customers in? I try to accommodate all customers by having something on every night except Thursdays which I use to sort out any issues and occasionally throw a ladies' night, host Avon or Ann Summers parties, etc. Below is the format I use:

Bar/ Pub Activities Schedule

Day of the WeekActivity


darts or pool league


poker night


darts or pool league






live music


meat raffle with other games such as "Play Your Cards Right" in the day and Quiz for the evening

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I find this to be very successful and it is topped up by football and rugby matches. I also try to push the Formula 1 on a Sunday, which drags in a few extra punters that often wind up getting involved with the meat raffle.

Pool and Darts

The pool and darts run winter and summer leagues in all areas across the UK and choosing which day to host this depends on your area. You'll often have to serve some food, and I find a good curry or chili dish goes down well and is cheap to make. Try not to make it too hot; you want it to be edible. Get it right and you may get a few extra drinks purchased.


On poker night, it's straight Texas hold' em. ₤5 buys in with the winner taking 90% and second place taking the other 10%. You make no money from the games, but you get the money from beer and bar snacks on a good night. I get anywhere between 60–70 people coming in to play, and it makes a huge difference to the 10–20 you'd normally have in.


Friday night discos can be hit and miss. You need to find out the types of music your customers like and brief your DJ on this. Remember that pricing isn't everything. A good DJ will involve your customers and make the evening, whereas a cheap DJ will often set a playlist on his laptop and remain quiet for the entire evening.