Admiral Taverns CEO, Chris Jowsey is pleased to see community, wet-led businesses return to favour, and reports more applications to run a pub than ever before.

“I think it’s fantastic to be in the right place at the right time, for a change. Community pubs are in definitely in the ascendancy, and wet-led in particular,” Jowsey told MCA’s Pub Conference, in a panel alongside Punch Pubs CEO Clive Chesser, and Shepherd Neame managing director Jonathan Swaine. 

The business sees the tenanted model as a major focus, but believes it can grow its community operator division, Proper Pubs, to 20% of the total estate - the model currently makes up 200 of Admiral’s 1,600 pubs, which could grow to 300 in the future. 

Jowsey believes that in the current climate, running a pub has become more and more attractive. He explained, “I was looking at the average cost of a rental nowadays, and in the UK, on average, it is £1200 a month.

“And even in the North West, where we have many pubs, it’s £850 a month. Now, if you’re living above the pub, not only are you committed to the pub and understand that community, but you have some fantastic benefits. You’re not paying a rent, and your energy costs are picked up by the pub.”

Discussing the evolving landscape of pub partnerships, Jowsey adds, “There’s been a complete mind shift, in terms of the relationship with tenanted pubs. The pandemic, in a funny way, changed the dynamic, and it got people to understand better the risks on both sides of running a tenanted pub,” he added.

On the other hand, “being able to run your own pub with a very low cost of entry, having a lot of freedom to be entrepreneurial, but within a framework of Proper Pubs,” is a key driver for new applicants in this division.

“The profile is younger, which is interesting, versus the people who come forward currently. Also, there are a lot more women coming forward for Proper Pubs and that brings a different dynamic to a community pub as well - women make them more inclusive and therefore more successful in many communities.”

Being able to attract a broad demographic is becoming more and more important for the modern day pub.

“Pubs are evolving very, very quickly. Even in less affluent communities where we tend to operate, the pub has to evolve. It has to offer a wider range of things and actually be more inclusive to the whole community.

“Gone are the days when all you had to do was get blokes in to watch the football, you’ve got to be much bigger than that. You’ve got to be able to attract the whole of the community for different occasions at different times.”

Additionally, a shift to working from home means that there are more occasions for pubs to tap into, Jowsey says. 

Keeping pricing in perspective is also key. “I looked when England played last, and the average price of a drink in our Proper Pubs across the UK was £3.19.

“Sometimes we get a little bit skewed by what goes on in London and the South East. So I think pricing has to be local, and that clearly it has keep in regard what is an affordable treat, and what isn’t.

“A post-£5 pint in some of our pubs would kill the trade entirely. So we’ve just got to balance it and understand the consumers and what they’re willing to pay. 

Similarly, Jonathan Swaine added that at Shepherd Neame, the pub company was being “very careful”, with price. 

”We’re trying to introduce at an offer level, different styles of drinks and we’re trying to bring different products onto bars that only our licensees can offer. Additionally, we’re looking at trying to grow footfall, working on marketing plans and digital connectivity, and then we’re looking at profitability as well.”