BBC home
BBC home

Landlords or Managers?

The difference between a Landlord and a Manager is fundamental to the difference between a pub and a retail beverage outlet. If you don't understand this, you and your multinational plc shouldn't be allowed anywhere near pubs.

A pub is, by definition, a "public house" licensed for the consumption of alcohol. The license is held by the licensee who is responsible for everything - or should be. It's his - or her - house and drinkers are guests. The landlord is the host who welcomes guests whether regular or passing, who organises the refreshments, decor and ambience to suit the customers he has and the customers he wants to attract.

It's like a rolling house party: you know you'll be well fed and watered in good company with good conversation. You'll see old friends and make new ones; and you never leave without looking forward to your next visit. Whether it's dropping in for a swift half on the way home or settling in for a good session at the weekend, the greeting from the bar as you walk in is crucial - and that's ordained by the landlord and how they run their house.

Managers, on the other hand, have to live by the rules of the management company. They may be competent but they are, largely, impotent. What the management company gain by being in control, they lose by leaching the individuality out of their houses. People don't go to their local because it's the same as the one up the road or on the other side of the country - they go because it's their local. And that's not easy to find if your pub is run by a management company dedicated to the cult of the brand.

Now to be fair, there are many breweries which run excellent managed estates with excellent managers who are better at running pubs than mediocre tenants. I guess this soapbox would be better titled "Who makes a better Landlord: a Tenant or a Manager?".

The overall point is that a good Landlord is essential to a good pub: whether he or she is a Tenant or a Manager. Drinking in a pub run by a good Landlord is always a pleasure.