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Taking on Pub No 2 – A Leap of Faith: Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 17

Two years into our journey with our first pub, the exciting opportunity arose for us to expand our hospitality business. Our initial venue was stable and we had already diversified into outside bars and catering which had set a strong foundation. Eager for new challenges and growth opportunities, my son and I eyed a second venue, which promised untapped potential.

Located near the iconic Stonehenge, just a 10-minute drive from our first inn, this venue beckoned with possibilities. Its proximity to historic sites like Wood Henge, Durrington Walls, and the expanse of Salisbury Plain added to its appeal. We felt that this wasn't just another pub; it was a gateway to a region steeped in history, a magnet for tourists and history enthusiasts alike.

Negotiating for this inn was an exercise in strategy and stubbornness and we achieved much more favorable terms than our first venue: a hard bargain on the annual rent, necessary pre-move-in renovations, and a stepped-rent plan to ease our initial months. This venue, having been closed for 18 months, needed a fresh start, and we were determined to provide it.

Our vision led us to introduce a carvery concept, tapping into the local market needs. Situated on the edge of a super-garrison and surrounded by residential areas, it was perfectly poised to attract a diverse clientele. The inn's potential was further amplified by its accommodation offerings - six letting rooms with possibilities for expansion, a charming paved beer garden, and a family-friendly space complete with a kids' play area and a herb garden.

There was a lot of positive noise on social media ahead of the re-opening, but I had found some old adverts that showed the upstairs had been traded as a brothel at some point. Again, we had a bad reputation to turn around and it was a bit nerve-wracking as we were after the family/tourism market primarily.

Opening our doors on Good Friday 2014, we were overwhelmed by the response. Our seven-day-a-week carvery became an instant hit, especially for Sunday lunch. This success wasn't just anecdotal; within a year, we proudly received the South West Region Best Turnaround accolade at the Great British Pub Awards.

However, the journey wasn't without its learning curves. Expanding our pub business taught us valuable lessons:

  • The art of aggressive rent negotiation.

  • The cost-effectiveness of employing our own tradespeople for refurbishments. – the pub-co preferred us to use theirs, and their costs were eye-wateringly high.

  • The importance of understanding local demographics - a strategy that works in one location might not replicate just a short drive away.

  • Financial preparedness for unexpected expenses – it costs more than you think, and I had to invest more of my savings in the first year.

  • The necessity of a thorough building survey before taking on a new venue, including pictures and videos – we had not done this with our first inn and we realised we were vulnerable when it came to dilapidation and rent reviews.

Our journey in expanding our pub business near Stonehenge was a blend of challenges and triumphs. From understanding the importance of local demographics to learning the nuances of effective negotiation and refurbishment, each step had been a valuable lesson in hospitality management. These experiences not only strengthened our business acumen but also prepared us for future endeavours.

A picture of a woman jumping across a chasm between two cliffs.  Behind her is a pub and in front of her is a sign saying Grand Opening.


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