What’s your proudest achievement working at Robinsons?
It is hard to pick one. I’ve had a long and varied career at Robinsons and there have been many positives. However, if I have to pick a favourite, it would be the setting up of our tenancy support packages, which are aimed at supporting and educating new landlords both before and after they walk through the pub door for the first time. It includes induction courses that help landlords get a full understanding of running a pub. No stone is left unturned. Running a pub for the first time is a huge undertaking and we want to ensure we give new landlords every help along the way. From the feedback we’ve had along the way, the induction has a big impact.
What changes have you seen to the hospitality trade during your time at Robinsons?
Changes to the Licensing Laws have ushered in huge changes to the pub trade. These days we see more pubs that are family orientated and offering improved menus. The days of the traditional spit and sawdust pub have gone. You can find old-fashioned boozers, but they are diminishing in numbers. I think the smoking ban was the final straw. Now pubs are clean and tidy, offering food and coffees. Personally, and now that I am older, I prefer the change, although my younger self might have disagreed!
What do you consider the ideal pub?
I like a community style operation with a mixture of locals and good food.
You give a lot of advice to landlords and tenants. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Look after your money. It seems simple advice but we all too easily forget it. I’ve seen too many businesses go under because the proprietor has not looked after the money side of things.
I’m on the eve of retirement, which I am fortunate to take when I’m relatively young. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I hadn’t looked after my finances properly.
What are the common mistakes made by landlords and tenants?
Complacency is the biggest mistake made by landlords. Running a pub is a difficult job requiring long work hours and lots of preparation. Unfortunately a number of people don’t fully understand what is needed when they enter into running a pub. They think it is about the social side and keeping punters happy. Yet that is only a small part of it. Running a pub is not just a job you can dip into and out; it is a lifestyle that can consume you if you are not careful. I’ve seen a number of marriages break up because of the demands of running a pub. It will find you out and expose your weaknesses if you don’t take it seriously. That is why we make sure all new landlords appreciate what they are taking on before they even pull their first pint.
How important is it that landlords familiarise themselves with good HR practices, including contracts and policies?
It is very important, yet very few actually do. Too many don’t realise the importance of good HR practice until they actually need it, at which point it is often too late. The pub trade has traditionally run on casual labour, where landlords recruit friends or friends of friends. Yet we’ve seen too many good relationships go sour, at too great a cost to the landlord. Ideally landlords will take their HR obligations seriously.
What makes you optimistic?
I’ve seen lots of changes, including lots of interference from outside organisations. Yet pubs remain alive and well. They’ve evolved but have not disappeared as some doomsayers have predicted. Adaption is part and parcel of running a pub, and all new landlords are taught this during their induction. Knowing that pubs will go on makes me optimistic.