Fixtures and fittings – Valuer appointed – as with your stocks, so it is with the valuation of the fixtures and fittings (F&F) you’ll be buying from the vendor when you take the pub on. Both sides can appoint their own valuer and agree a valuation or an independent joint appointment can be made. Make sure you have an understanding of what is going to be purchased in advance, for instance any customers’ property which is habitually used in the pub, for instance customers might have brought their own beer jugs in to sup from or the owner may have hung their own pictures in the pub, which they’ll be taking with them). If you can, have a pre-sale inventory taken which the valuer can check against on the day; this is especially important if the F&F are included in the overall purchase price. The Association of Valuers of Licensed Property will help you find a valuer.
Staff paperwork Inland Revenue, hours etc – from the moment you take over the pub you will be legally responsible for all the staff who work in the pub, so make sure you have all the necessary paperwork from the outgoing publican (PAYE documents such as P45s, work permits, staff rosters etc).
Staff References – all the staff at your new pub are, in effect, new staff (to you and your business at least) so it behoves you to ensure their references are taken and followed up on as soon as practicable, especially if they are recent appointments.
Staff Redundancy (If applicable, details of possible redundancy commitment for existing staff under TUPE) – if you or the previous owner have made redundancies when you takeover the business (for instance the vendor employed a manager or chef and you or your partner are taking on those roles) then make sure your lawyer has copies of all the correspondence relating to any redundancies made. If you think you may be making staff redundant after you takeover the business then ensure you fully understand your liabilities under TUPE (Transfer of Undertaking Protection of Employee Rights) and have made financial provision for any redundancy or notice payments etc
Contracts of Employment – the vendor or outgoing tenant has a legal obligation to provide you with all relevant documents relating to the employment of any staff at the pub at least 14 days prior to handover. Make sure you have copies of all the pub staff’s contracts of employment, training logs, disciplinary records etc. Under TUPE you have to honour the existing terms and conditions of employment of the staff you inherit so ensure you fully understand what those terms and conditions are especially in relation to rates of pay, holiday entitlements, hours worked etc
Top Tip – a change in ownership of any business can be just as stressful for the staff as it is for the new owners, so be patient with and sympathetic to the needs of your staff. From the moment of completion they are on your payroll, not the previous owners, so make sure they have tasks assigned to them. There can be a lot of hanging around on changeover days for you and the staff, but you’ll find plenty of things for them to do (for instance a blitz clean behind the bar or in the kitchen will keep them busy and more importantly let them know what you expect of them as their employment continues).
Interview Staff (if applicable & available) – with the permission of the outgoing publican (and only with their permission) it may be judicious to introduce yourself to the staff you are going to be taking on and interview them to get an understanding of their roles and capabilities. It’s also a good way to discover if there are any ongoing grievances or concerns individual members of staff might have. Do not, under any circumstances, ask the staff about trading figures etc as you may inadvertently cause them to break the confidentiality clauses in their contracts of employment.
Staff Dress Code (if appropriate/uniforms supplied) – you need to make sure all the staff you inherit understand your dress code. If you are going to have them wear an existing or new uniform make sure they have sufficient sets of clothing that are of good repair and which fit. Scruffy staff are just as bad for business as dirty toilets, inferior food or sour beer.
Staff Job Descriptions / Standard Operating Procedures – you may choose to carry on with the same job descriptions and standard operating procedures or you may wish to implement your own. Whichever you choose make sure you understand what, when and where is expected of your staff according to these guidelines before you start laying down the law. If you are changing things make sure you explain the need for the change(s) and the benefit for the business and the member of staff the change(s) will bring. It’s much better to engage with your staff and get them on board than simply march in shouting orders on your first day.
Top Tip – If time permits on handover day, call a short staff meeting to explain any significant changes and reassure your staff that (if appropriate) it’s business as normal. Make sure you arrange one-on-one meetings with all your staff within the first few days of your ownership of the business to deal with these matters.