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Maximising Every Inch: Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 17

In the challenging world of running pubs, space is not just about aesthetics – it is about sweating an asset to maximise profits.  With every square foot at a premium, understanding and implementing strategies to use space productively becomes not just advantageous, but essential.  Yet I often go into venues where space has not really been thought through, where old comfy sofas could be a thriving table of 5, or the flow is wrong, forcing customers to walk an awkward way round to get to their table and staff to weave in and out to serve customers.  Here's why and how every bit of space in your public house can and should be optimised for maximum benefit.


The layout and utilisation of space in a pub play a crucial role in shaping the customer experience. Thoughtfully arranging seating, entertainment areas, and service stations creates an ambiance that feels both welcoming and vibrant. This ambiance encourages longer stays and repeat visits - key components of customer loyalty and business growth. In a village where I once lived, the locals called their local pub – ‘the pub on the moon’ – because it had no atmosphere. That type of reputation is definitely one to be avoided.


I quickly learnt that using space wisely directly impacts your ability to increase covers and, consequently, precious revenue. Optimising the layout of tables and seating areas, without cramming guests in, significantly increased the number of guests I could accommodate at any given time.  I used booth seating to make an awkward corridor a popular place to sit and reduced the number of sofas I had inherited.


In my journey of maximising space, a pivotal moment came from an unexpected suggestion by my son. Initially, I was hesitant about his idea to rent a house locally to accommodate our staff, thereby converting our on-site staff house into additional lettings rooms. My resistance was rooted in the investment it would take in turning the staff rooms into high standard letting rooms. However, after much deliberation, a suitable house came up for rent and we made the leap. My concerns were unfounded.  By adding four more letting rooms, selling at an average of £80 a night, we quickly recouped our investment, increased our turnover and saw a significant uplift in profit. This move underscored a valuable lesson: sometimes, the path to significant growth requires stepping out of our comfort zones and reimagining the use of our resources and making a tough choice to invest when cashflow was tight. It was a change that deepened my appreciation for the potential of every square foot!


Furthermore, expanding into outdoor spaces not only added more covers but also appealed to guests looking for al fresco dining, British weather permitting! Outdoor setting needs to be given attention to ensure it is appealing and so I spent precious time gardening and improved outdoor lighting to make our side garden a lovely place to sit.  There is nothing worse than sitting on a wobbly garden bench, with cigarette butts scattered about and flower beds overgrown with weeds. With the right layout, decor, and lighting, these areas can become your pub's most sought-after seats, significantly increasing your capacity and offering guests a great dining experience.


Then my son came up with a further suggestion I was hesitant about – it was pulling up the hedges so that the garden could be seen from the main road.  I was concerned that this would make traffic noise seem louder and reduce the customer experience.  But in the end we replaced the hedge with a picket fence, and it did not seem to put the customers off and improved our kerb appeal.


Another ‘problem’ we had was what to do with our very large function room with a 1930’s skittle alley.  A few locals would have been outraged if we had taken it out, and yet it was under-utilised most of the year, although it was a godsend for attracting Christmas parties. It needed money spent on it to modernise and make the room more appealing.  In my view, having a function room that is totally flexible, whether you're hosting private events, community meetings, or live entertainment, is essential to make it a valuable asset for driving revenue outside of regular dining hours. However, it needs to be attractive, with accessible sockets for laptops, adequate lighting and be warm and inviting.  We had lots of plans, however, in the end opted for a low budget makeover and kept the skittle alley, a historical piece of the pub, focusing on marketing it as a USP rather than taking it out.


In conclusion, the strategic use of space is a critical factor in the success of a public house. It influences everything from customer satisfaction and operational efficiency to revenue generation and adaptability. By thoughtfully maximizing every inch of space—through increased covers, the use of outdoor areas, and the flexibility of function rooms—public houses can create inviting, dynamic environments that cater to diverse customer needs, foster loyalty, and drive business growth. Remember, in the competitive landscape of the hospitality industry, it's not just about having space—it's about making every bit of it work hard for you.

When was the last time you walked around your venue and thought about the strategic use of space? If you haven't done that recently, perhaps you should take a few moments to do so today. If you want to read other reflections and lessons I learnt as a landlady, you can find them at www.catalystcoaches.org/blog.



A blueprint/floor plan of a put.

 

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