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The Pilgrim

Karl Tisch has over twelve years of experience in the hospitality industry. Here, he explains some of the discoveries he made in opening his first pub, The Pilgrim and gives some pointers for aspiring pub owners and managers.

When we started out we knew that we wanted to take over a pub, so we put in for a few different ones. When the decision came through, we only had two weeks to get everything ready for the re-opening.

We opened in the winter, which meant there was less pressure but also fewer customers, at least initially. Even so, opening is very hard work and new owners can expect to work fifteen to sixteen hours a day for the first six or seven months.

karl's tip

Getting Help
If your pub is tied to a particular brewery, they can be a great free resource for training events and marketing packs. Another good resource are the local councils. Be sure to take advantage of their training and advice.

the pilgrim kennington

Local Pub: The Pilgrim
Address: 247 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5QU [Map]
Phone: 0207 582 7585

Getting Started

When you take over a pub, there is usually lots of cleaning involved. We ended up buying a lot of cleaning products from Tesco, which we could have got cheaper somewhere else like Klaremont.

Another early step is re-arranging the layout of the pub to suit your focus. We feel that pubs should be about socialising, not just drinking so we brought in large couches. We also cut down the number of barstools to create a more welcoming environment for potential customers. When a new customer walks in the door, a bar area crowded with customers sitting on stools can actually create an obstacle between them and you!

Televisions are important, and because there is so much competition, 50 inch screens can be bought very cheaply and will pay for themselves. To create a more social atmosphere we also added a pool table and a Wii. These changes encourage our local customers to think of our pub as their living room.

karl's tip

Hire a Cleaner
Hiring a cleaner through a company to come in for an hour every day is very convenient. In London, services are about £9 per hour, and if your regular cleaner can’t make it, the service will automatically send someone else.

couple on couch

Couches and televisions will help customers feel at home.

a cleaner in the kitchen

Hiring a cleaner can save time and cut down on stress.

Stocking Up

If you have more time for planning before you begin, one of the things I wish we had done was to research our suppliers more carefully. For food, drinks, and other perishables which need to be ordered every week, price is important but so is convenience. We try to have everything delivered on the same day, when we know there will be staff to receive it. In the UK suppliers can be less accommodating, but you should definitely push to make sure they can do this.

It can take more time than expected to get in touch with suppliers. We take stock on Sunday night so that we can place an order on Monday morning and have it delivered on Tuesday.

Other supplies to think about are glasses and crockery. By law, you can't serve food on chipped plates or drinks in chipped glasses. While it might be tempting to get the cheapest product, especially when you are starting out, they won't last nearly as long in the dishwasher without chipping. In the end, it's more cost effective to buy slightly better quality products. It can be hard to get a sense of the quality of a plate from a picture, so try and find a supplier with a showroom where you can see the products in person.

Pubs need different glasses for beer, wine, and other drinks. For beer, you will need stamped pint and half-pint glasses- and in the future, you may need a 2/3 pint glasses! Branded glasses are usually provided by the brewery, but in very busy pubs they are not really workable. Legally, you must serve wine in 175ml and 250ml volumes, so you will need large and small wine glasses. You may need thimble measures as well. Although pubs tend to break fewer glasses than nightclubs, expect to make regular repeat orders.

karl's tip

For pubs that are tied to breweries, beer prices can be expensive, so it is a good idea to sell cocktails and mixed drinks as well. Having cocktails which are more popular among women on the menu can make the pub a more attractive destination. If you sell cocktails, you will need to stock other kinds of glassware, straws, and some specialist bar equipment.

Opening a pub is a lot of work, but its also very rewarding. When we took over The Pilgrim, we knew that if we could get the locals to come in once and see how things had changed, we could get them to return. That approach has worked well for us, and we are looking to open another location soon, so the experience is definitely worth it!

If you find yourself near Vauxhall, Kennington or the Oval, be sure to stop in at The Pilgrim on Kennington Lane.

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teardrop wineglass

You need to offer both 175ml and 250ml servings of wine. The Pilgrim switched to a Teardrop toughened wineglass to cut down on breakage and save money.

beer glasses

Stamped pint and half-pint glasses work best in busy, high volume pubs. The Pilgrim uses the Tulip model, which is also available in a half-pint size.

Inverness Highball

The Pilgrim offers a variety of cocktails. They use a mixture of cocktail glasses, including this Inverness Highball.