Pub is The Hub, Chief Executive, John Longden

Diversification of services could be the answer for the future of pubs

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John Longden, chief executive of Pub is The Hub, talks about the importance of diversification and social value. 

It has been a challenging year for everyone with the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most positive things to come out of this is how pubs and publicans rose to the challenge to help people in their local areas. As the pandemic hit pubs and publicans were at the forefront offering food essentials, takeaway meals, delivering food to the vulnerable and shielding, as well as raising money to help the NHS and emergency services.

Despite the challenges of lockdowns Pub is The Hub has been able to continue to help with its Community Services Fund, which offers small grants to support pubs to diversify. Our highly experience team of regional advisors throughout the UK continued to support publicans remotely. They have over the years have been responsible for helping over 500 pubs diversify with over 160 of those now being through the Community Services Fund.

During the first lockdown between March and July 2020 we saw 25 pub projects completed or initiated including village stores, community cafes and takeaways, food delivery services, allotments and community gardens.

We recognised that these pubs may also have a social value as well as their economic asset value which itself is based on actual trade and business viability unlike other commercial properties.

Whilst a social value may be “intangible” and spread across a variety of activities we were encouraged and supported by the Building Opportunities Fund of the National Lottery Fund and Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to follow the example of The Treasury’s Green Book on appraisal and evaluation to see if this perceived value could be quantified for pubs.

We were also fortunate to have the advisory support of Cornwall Rural Community Charity to help coordinate the appropriate evaluation and use of the Social Value Engine to analyse results.

Social value looks at the broad effects that an organisation or project is achieving with its work and takes into account the wider social, economic and environmental wellbeing benefits that a service or project can bring to an area.

The collective result was our new evaluation called ‘The Social Value of Pubs and Publicans providing Services in their Communities’ which has measured the social value impact of pub services. This is the first time that a social value has been attributed to pub diversification projects and it has proved how vital these services have been especially during the pandemic.

It found that for every £1 invested in a pub with the Community Services Fund between £8.98 and £9.24 of additional social value was created from the range of services or activities created.

This illustrates that one suitable pub diversification project with a grant of £3,000 from the Community Services Fund could potentially create over £27,000 in social value to a local area.  

With the reopening of inside hospitality this month pubs are going to be crucial in helping their local areas rebuild and can aid a variety of Government priorities for economic recovery.

Local and national policy makers should understand that social and enterprise policies can be very closely related particularly in remoter rural community areas and projects are often reliant on the involvement of an inspired publican to make it happen.

And a good publican and pub together can offer a powerful collective resource to tackle many of the most pressing societal priorities. This can include local jobs, supporting an ageing population, overcoming the reduction in essential local services and helping with social isolation and loneliness issues.

A local services diversification grant funding over a longer term such as three years would give time to inspire more publicans and pubs to embrace reopening. It would also help plan the permanent repositioning of rural services and local isolation issues, particularly in deprived areas, potentially helping over 1,000 pubs.                                            

This may have been one of the most difficult years that many have lived through, but pubs and publicans can be at the centre of helping to drive social value growth and help economic recovery in the future.

If you would like to apply to get a copy of the full report please email or