An interview with Maria Pillans, Director of Recruitment – Publicans & Operators at Stonegate Group

16 Jan 2023

16 Jan 2023

This month, we caught up with Maria Pillans, Director of Recruitment – Publicans & Operators at Stonegate Group. Maria shares her experience in the industry and gives her advice for budding publicans. Plus, she discusses why you should choose to partner with Stonegate Group if you are considering taking on a pub.

Tell us about your first job in hospitality?

My very first job in hospitality was in a pub working back of house – washing up! I think it was called the Hollybush and was in a neighbouring village to where I lived. I worked every Sunday as it was carvery day and the pub was always very busy. My dad used to drop me off and pick me up, although sometimes they ended up having Sunday dinner there to save the journey back and forth. I must have done a decent enough job in the sink as I was then promoted to a waitress – the tips were good.

Why did you choose to work with your current company?

I’ve been in the recruitment industry for 17 years, predominately in hospitality and retail, and have specifically been in pub recruitment for 13 years. I’ve recently joined Stonegate Group as Director of Recruitment – Publicans and Operators. I chose Stonegate Group to progress my career. They are extremely passionate about learning & development and I felt ready for my next challenge working for the largest pub company in the UK.

How many pubs do you have and how many pub managers do you look after?

Stonegate Group have an estate of over 4,600 pubs. We have over 3,300 in leased & tenancy and Operator led models. I have 2 teams in recruitment, a specialist leased & tenancy team, a leased & tenancy marketing team and a specialist team that look after our Operator led models, so 11 pub recruitment superstars in total.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of running a pub?

A very topical question right now... rising costs are affecting the industry massively. It’s a difficult challenge for our publicans that our Regional Managers are helping to steer them through.

What advice would you give to someone looking to invest in and run a pub?

Investing in running a pub is a big decision so make sure you do your homework – it’s not for the faint hearted. Research – look at all the options out there, from the different models/agreements, to the type/style of pub you’d like. Don’t rush into it, make sure you know what you’re looking for and if you don’t, we can help steer you in the right direction. Ask questions, lots of them, to everyone in the process. Be thorough in your business planning, be prepared at your meetings and remember this is a partnership so your aligned Regional Manager will be supporting you through your journey.

What do you offer your Leased & Tenancy Publicans to help and support them to succeed in running their pub?

The support starts at the very onset of someone enquiring to us through our recruitment teams, we make sure that the candidates understand the models and the differences and are fully aware of the costs that they will incur to take on a pub with us. Before they go into their pub we have the Big Bang induction programme that covers all the main topics you need to know for running a pub, for example recruiting the right talent, developing talent, marketing & social media to name only a few. There are lots of free tools also included like BII membership, subscription to an online training platform etc. Once they are in the pub they have a dedicated & experienced Regional Manager who is on hand to support with help & guidance as well as a large office support team including Property, Licensing and Customer Contact Centre. We are just about to launch our Pub Hub which has been built to support our Pub Partners with growing sales, reducing overheads and protecting their pubs. It is a bespoke platform that has been created with a social media structure so that it feels familiars to our Partners, with a central feed leading to short magazine articles and featured topics. The topics will be sourced from across the industry, across Stonegate Group and Publican Partners.

What type of person do you try and attract to run a pub?

We are happy to talk to anyone that may be interested in running a pub with Stonegate Pub Partners or within our Operator led model. There are some core skills that would be beneficial like great people skills, financial knowledge, bar skills, marketing skills and organisation & planning skills, however having a genuine passion for the industry and people will set you in good stead.

Why should someone choose your business to partner with?

We are proud to invest and support our pub partners estate with our goal to raise the bar on the Great British pub for our people, guests and communities. We work with our partners & operators to grow & develop their business. We work with a huge range of drinks suppliers which means we can offer an unrivalled selection of leading international, national and local brands. We share best practice from our managed estates with our partners including market and guest insight, marketing & digital expertise, offers and solutions to help our partners give their guests a great experience. As we offer all models from managed to Leased & Tenancy we really do have an option for everyone, why not do that with the backing of the largest pub company in the UK!

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

We have lots of exciting plans for this year, we launched our new website in October 2022 which marked the first step of evolution on how we attract people to our pubs. We have a brand-new Operator led recruitment team which specialise solely on that model and are in the current process of redesigning our recruitment & letting processes so just a few things to keep us busy.

Browse the latest opportunities to run a pub with Stonegate Group here.

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