Progressive partnerships, big deals and pressing industry challenges were just some of the topics covered by speakers at MCA’s Tenanted Pub Company Summit last week. Here are some of the key take outs…

With the development of HS1 and mass regeneration in the south east area, Jonathan Neame, Shepherd Neame CEO, discussed the pubco’s necessary transformation to meet its shifting consumer base.

“There’s been a change in our demographic, a fundamental shift in our heartland, and we needed to shift with it. We’ve had to change our strategy, our brand identity and our pub profile. We used to be in a property-owning mindset, in a manufacturing mindset. Now, we put the consumer and the experience economy at the heart of our mission. The mission is to give our customers a great, and memorable experience. To help create a better day.”

Despite the rising pressures of business rates, beer duties and VAT facing the sector, BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin spoke of her continued faith in the tenanted model.

“We’re championing the tenanted pub model to MP’s and stakeholders. If you have a dream to run a pub, this is an easy way to come into the industry if you don’t have heavy investment behind you. We need to make sure the tenanted model is still a viable option and encouraging people to keep choosing it. It’s a good model, it’s working and it’s improving.”

With its continued concern with upholding a “best practice” in its model, Chris Jowsey, CEO at Admiral Taverns, considered how the changing expectations of society would dictate the company’s “next practice.”

“Sustainability and all that it encompasses has become the watchword of today. This rising concern with sustainability will impact the chain of responsibility. The carbon footprint of a pub was previously the domain and responsibility of the licensee alone because the utility costs fell on the licensee rather than the landlord. The pub company provided advice and could signpost the way for more detailed information and support, but our responsibility essentially ended there. As the climate change crisis climbs the agenda, we’re going to many more of these obligations falling on us, the pub company, and meeting these obligations is the right and fair thing to do.”

Ed Hancock, Marston’s managing director of venture, great locals and estates, advised delegates on how to build better relationships with tenants, and how going above and beyond can benefit both sides of the partnership.

“Always be a critical partner. We’re not there to tell tenants what to do, but there’s always something that you can look at and say, have you thought about x or y? If people are going to give you that trust, if we can see an opportunity to add value beyond what might be in the agreement, we should do it. If you start to build a two-way trust, you’ll have stronger conversations moving forward on critical parts of their operation.”

“It’s quite a cheesy line – Never leave a pub without making a difference but if we make sure that business development managers go in with that view, then hopefully when they leave, they will have done.”

Reflecting on his experience working with Punch on a recent project, Daniel Davies, CEO at Rockpoint Leisure, had some feedback for pub companies on how to improve cost efficiency.

“My first point of feedback is on fixtures and fittings. You all buy from the same people, and it’s a load of crap. And, you don’t negotiate well enough. When you look at what the fixtures and fittings are costing you realise that perspective on price is being lost through scale. For example, you’re being sold light fittings for about £70, when you could get them for about £1.99 off Alibaba, and it’s the sort of stuff that then breaks. If you’re a single operator, your job is to run your pub, it’s not to be changing all the crap. And at the end of the day it’s you guys, the pub companies, that are paying for it!”