Pub licensees should be turning a profit sooner, according to pub consultant and former M&B operations director

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Public house, Tavern

Alastair Scott, who founded Catton Hospitality and Malvern Inns and worked as operations director for Mitchells & Butlers, told BigHospitality pub licensees should be making a profit sooner than six months
Alastair Scott, who founded Catton Hospitality and Malvern Inns and worked as operations director for Mitchells & Butlers, told BigHospitality pub licensees should be making a profit sooner than six months
Pub licensees should not be content to see their pubs turning a profit in six months but aim to make money sooner, according to Alastair Scott, pub consultant and founder of Malvern Inns and former operations director at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B).

Speaking to BigHospitality after announcing Malvern Inns was looking at opening a second site, Scott said the first pub for the company started making money at the eight week stage.

The George, at Backwell, Bristol opened in June last year and, according to Scott, now makes £13k a week net, before VAT.

“I get a bit depressed when I meet people who say ‘well I am quite pleased because it is six months and I think I might be making a profit soon’. It should be earlier than that and I don’t think eight weeks is that special – that should be your maximum,” he said.

Wrong solutions

Any longer than six months and it could mean licensees are embedding wrong solutions into the heart of the business, Scott added. The publican, who also runs consultancy firm Catton Hospitality, said it was not a lack of ambition or ability on the part of licensees but they were not aware that six months was too late.

“I don’t think they are aware of that and I don’t think they are actually aware of what good looks like. One of the hard things about being a licensee is you are stuck on your own and you don’t know whether you are doing a good job sometimes,” he said.

Scott suggested a focus on operational efficiency could help licensees turn a profit sooner. His top tips were to market sensibly and effectively without just opening the doors and hoping for the best, focus on food gross profit and logically work out staffing costs.

Catton Hospitality has recently launched a staffing system, S4 Labour, that claims to explain how to allocate staff to deliver sales and avoid waste in an area which Scott said delivered the most waste for the industry.

Over-launch

Malvern Inns was founded by Scott and David Roffe. Roffe also worked for Mitchells & Butlers as well as Punch Taverns which invested in The George and is involved in the possible second site for the company.

Scott said the pair had experience of launching new pubs and although sales were crucial in the initial period there was a danger licensees could try too hard to keep pubs busy in the first few weeks.

“There is also an over-launch point; in other words never over-launch more than you can deliver operationally because you get one chance with your customers and don’t blow it. You can easily over-market your pub and make it too busy,” he said.

After being involved with many of the food-led pub developments at M&B, Scott said The George was planning an ambitious new summer menu and it was not possible any more to launch a community pub that didn’t have a strong food offering.

Discussing the future for Malvern Inns, Scott said a second site was being considered but the company was not ambitious in terms of openings, would be happy with one a year and was not concerned with location due to a more distant operational philosophy that handed control to on-site managers.

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