The A-Z of Pubs and Bars

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pubs Pub Beer Government

It might not be a comprehensive dictionary for publicans, but our A-Z of Pubs and Bars is a handy guide on some of the key terms and trends in the fast-moving industry
It might not be a comprehensive dictionary for publicans, but our A-Z of Pubs and Bars is a handy guide on some of the key terms and trends in the fast-moving industry
While publicans might not be faced with as baffling a list of acronyms as hoteliers or as driven by fashion as some restaurateurs, our handy A-Z glossary of key industry terms and trends is a must-read for those looking to make a few pounds from a few pints.

A: Ale ​- It would be rather remiss of us to kick of an A-Z guide to pubs without the drink which the pub industry was arguably founded on but there is another reason to begin with ale. The traditional beer, unlike lager, is fermented warm with a yeast which rises to the top of the brew. Sales of cask ales, or real ales, which contain live yeast and are generally fermented twice - at the brewery and the pub, are rising​ and back in growth for the first time in 20 years. 2.2 million barrels of cask, equivalent to 633 million pints, were sold in the UK in 2011.


B: Brewery ​- The relationship between a pub and the businesses which create beers and ales might not always be an easy one, (see the letter T), but it would follow from the letter A that brewers are also standing up to the recession and the impacts of tax pressures. The growth of microbreweries has also been significant and increasing numbers of pubs (see Craft Beer Co.​ and Bath Ales​ for a start) are now stocking craft beers or even turning their venues into microbreweries.

C: Community ​- So the local boozer might no longer be the heart of the local village as it once was but there are signs of a movement back towards this model. Operators like Amber Taverns​ and Wear Inns​ have eschewed the thinking that only pubs with a dry-led (food-driven sales) model can succeed. Both have opened wet-led venues popular with locals after a drink as much as visitors after a 'destination dining' pub. The Pub is the Hub​ organisation has also allowed local communities to save at-risk pubs and turn them into venues which offer the services of shops, tourist information offices and even polling stations.


D: Duty ​- In recent years, the Government has turned the phrase 'England expects that every man will do his duty' from a patriotic call to arms to a statement of the reality of life for publicans - ever-increasing levels of tax. The controversial so-called beer duty escalator​ was introduced in 2008 and has meant the tax on a pint has risen by 2 per cent above inflation every year since. Camra estimates the tax take on a £2.50 pint is as much as 38 per cent when VAT is also taken into account. Pubs also pay tax on a range of other elements of their businesses including gaming machines. 

E: Entertainment - ​From pub quizzes to sport on TV or from traditional pub games like bowls or darts to live bands, pubs have always been about a lot more than serving a cold pint or a hot meal. Recent legislation changes​ have, the Government has claimed, made it easier for pubs to stage live music - be it local musicians or battle of the band contests.​ Fancy something innovative? Why not try out Duelling Pianos - live music concept which sees two pianists facing off to play and sing famous songs.


F: F&F - ​Fixtures and fittings - a vital term to know if you are considering taking on a pub business. Buy a pub and the ingoing cost will include all furniture and equipment as valued by an independent valuer. If you choose to leave you can sell on the F&F. The design of a pub​ is also key to its success - just ask the team behind ever-expanding Loungers.​ We recently asked restaurant operators for some design tips - the ideas in the subsequent video​ also apply to pubs and bars. 

G: Gaming - ​The new Machine Gaming Duty comes into place on 1 February and pubs are being urged to register with HMRC for the new tax or face fines. It replaces the old Amusement Machine Licensing Duty and is either payable at 20 or 5 per cent depending on the stake and cash prize. Gaming machines are big revenue drivers for pubs - S&N Pub Company (formerly known as Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company) last year reported an eight per cent rise in income year-on-year.​ AWP are amusements with prizes like fruit machines and SWP are skills with prizes like quiz machines.


H: Housing - ​If it isn't tax, regulation or supermarkets, the enemy of many pubs is the local planning authority. Despite fights from campaigners​, and even Mary Portas,​ many pubs on the high street or in local villages are still closing. One former pub a week is becoming a convenience store,​ according to figures from Camra. But more and more venues are also being sold to property developers for residential use​ - so don't be surprised next time The White Horse becomes someone's right house.

I: Inns - ​Used more and more as a word simply to describe pubs in general, inn was originally a term to describe coaching houses or places which offered a drink, a meal and a bed for the night for a weary traveller. Just as fashion comes and goes so it seems the inn is making a resurgence - Beds & Bars, Brakspear,Bath Ales​ (we think it is just a coincidence they all begin with the letter B) are all operators with business models that benefit from accommodation income.


J: Jobs - ​The hospitality industry is one of the biggest employers in the UK. With thousands of venues up and down the country, pub operators recruit a big proportion of the staff in the sector. In fact, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) (Who they? See letter R) thinks beer tax hikes damage the job prospects for 300,000 young people. Looking for a new job in a pub or the perfect employee for a role? BigHospitality Jobs​ is a very good place to head - but we would say that! 

K: Keg - ​We can't write enough interesting things to justify an entry devoted to kegs we hear you say? Wrong! Well right actually - but it is a very good letter to explain a little about the confusing world of measurements which a publican must conquer to run the best boozer. A keg is a container for pasteurised and filtered beer - it tends to refer to something with a capacity less than 30 gallons. A cask is a generic term for a container holding real ale. A barrel is a unit of measure - 36 gallons. A kil or kilderkin is an 18 gallon cask. A pin or polypin is a four and a half gallon container. One gallon is eight pints. One pint is just over 568ml. A schooner is a two-third pint glass - popular in Germany apparently. Clear?

L: Lease - ​A pub landlord is, confusingly, often not a landlord at all but a leaseholder or tenant. If you own the freehold to a pub you are the outright owner of the business. Leaseholders only have the right to occupy the property for a fixed term - usually a longer form of rental agreement. The lease can also be sold on to someone else. Tenancies tend to be for one to three years and are often rolling agreements so can be cancelled at the end of each year - they cannot be sold on.


M: Michelin stars - ​Gastropub might not be the most popular phrase ever but the reality is pubs are now selling more meals than many restaurants​, lots of them to a higher quality too. Recently the Good Food Guide editor Elizabeth Carter told us we were in a 'golden age of eating out'.​ Two of the 16 venues gaining Michelin stars in the latest release of the influential guide​ were pubs - including Heston Blumenthal's Hind's Head in Bray. If your local doesn't have a star, the owner might well do - Claude Bosi this week opened his second pub.


N: Nitrogen - ​It might not be the first gas you think of when you think about pubs or bars but it is increasingly popular to infuse beer with nitrogen. However a recent problem with liquid nitrogen in a cocktail has limited the use of the controversial gas and a number of experts are predicting 2013 will bring in a trend away from fussy cocktails to something altogether simpler.

O: Olympics - ​OK - so it wasn't the all-round success the hospitality industry had been led to believe but the Olympics did deliver benefits to some pubs and bars. Sport on TV, especially football, continues to be an important part of a pub's business, despite problems some publicans have faced with Sky and the Premier League. Sixty per cent of pubs actually saw sales rise during the second week of the Games too​ proving pub-goers are keen on more sports than just the footie!


P: Pubco - ​Put simply, a pubco is a company which owns and operates a number of pubs. However the relationship between a pubco and its tenants or leaseholders is very rarely simple. So much so that earlier this year the Government announced it was planning to regulate the pubco-tenant relationship.​ Which means what, we hear you ask - it means an independent adjudicator will enforce a new statutory code to make sure pubcos are behaving. The law change will apply to six of the country's largest pub companies.

Q: Qualifications - ​Any building which is to operate legally as a restaurant, hotel, pub or bar needs a license but a potential publican wanting to serve alcohol, which we guess is most, will also require a personal license. Getting, and keeping, one involves jumping through a number of hoops including obtaining a qualification like the Award or National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (APLH or NCPLH) There are other training opportunities​ and qualifications up for grabs for pub landlords, including from the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and its awarding body the BIIAB.


R: Representation - ​The BII helps lead us rather nicely onto the letter R - representation. We are not talking lawyers at extortionate costs here, although the Pubs Independent Conciliation and Arbitration Service (PICA-Service) does offer resolution advice, but we are talking about trade bodies. From the BBPA to the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) or your local Pubwatch or Best Bar None body to tenant groups or the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association (FLVA), there are lots of groups of people out there to help publicans. They are well worth knowing.

S: Smoking - ​The famous show tune warned us all that Smoke Gets in Your Eyes ​and in 2007 the Government blinked and banned smoking in enclosed workplaces.​ The ban has had an impact on pubs. For some it has made them cleaner, more family friendly, more attractive and better places to eat, while for others it has been one of the proverbial nails in the proverbial coffin carrying the industry - listen to our podcast and you decide.​ Incidentally BigHospitality's sister publication, The Publican's Morning Advertiser, recognises one pub a year for its smoking area in one of the categories in the Great British Pub Awards.


T: Tied house - ​Surely the most contentious of our letters and still the issue most likely to cause debate among publicans - the beer tie. Essentially around half of all pubs are leased or tenanted by pubcos and breweries and, as part of most contracts, licensees must buy their beer from the pubco itself. A tied house is a pub which operates under the beer tie and a free house is one which, you guessed it, is free from the tie. Why is that contentious? Because many licensees argue the pubcos charge high prices to customers unable to access the rest of the market. 

U: Ullage - ​This can either refer to the unfilled space at the top of a cask of ale or a bottle of wine but also waste beer left at the bottom of a cask or poured into a drip tray. It might seem a little but as someone once said - Every Little Helps. It is also important as it impacts cellar management, stock taking and GP - all-important gross profit.


V: Virgin - ​Careful! Not that kind - here virgin refers to a drink which is 0 per cent ABV or alcohol by volume -e.g. a virgin piña colada - we are sure it is lovely. We are not just talking mocktails either, two recent surveys have revealed the importance of coffee sales to pubs​ and soft drinks can be used to boost your margins.

W: Women - ​Now we know you are all aware of what the word women means - but are you thinking about how to attract them into your pub? They account for more than half of the UK population and it is worth having a thought about a female-friendly strategy. However beware - a leading beer sommelier (yes they exist and some of them are women​) has warned so-called 'girly' beers are not the answer​. Talk to women, not down to them, he says. Good advice, we say. 


X: Xmas - ​We all want time off but that is what January is for right? Maybe it should be if you want to run a successful pub - figures out from a number of pubcos this month show pubs actually outperformed restaurants over the festive period​. It is never too early to start planning for Christmas either.

Y: Young people - ​We won't sing but we heard once that children are the future. They might not all be able to drink but young people over 18 can and recent figures from Camra show just 16 per cent of 18-24-year-olds go to their local once a week or more.​ That is down from 38 per cent when the same question was asked seven years ago. Turning around that figure will be vital for the pubs of the future.


Z: Zinger - ​Which leads us nicely onto Z. It is always good to end with a good zinger or one-liner so we thought we would feature them, and other forms of marketing, in our final glossary entry. In a crowded market place, good marketing is the key to achieving your aims and bad marketing can otherwise kill a good boozer. Our advice? Check out these top tips on photo and video marketing​ and managing your online reputation​ and keep reading BigHospitality!

So how did we do? Are there any glaring mistakes or omissions and what would you have included in your A-Z list for pubs and bars? To take a look at the corresponding guides for hotels and restaurants, check out our special 'A-Z of...' feature here.

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Hospitality Guides

View more