The 5 steps to extending or refurbishing your pub or bar


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 Don’t apply for a loan or mortgage without knowing exactly what you need.  Whilst in many cases someone with my experience might be able to give you options of what is available in the marketplace, if you only approach your own bank (like 60% of other UK business owners do) then they may turn you down because they don’t understand what you need.

Work out a basic projection based on the new space.  How many more rooms, covers or drinkers will you accommodate, how much would they spend typically? Will you need more staff front of house? Will the kitchen be able to cope or will improvements be needed there too? Cash-flow templates are available on the internet and you should be able to complete one by yourself.  Your broker will always clean it up if there are mistakes in it, better that way than the bank rejecting your application!

Now you understand the costs and benefits, we can look at how much you’re going to need to borrow to get the job done.  If you have some savings you can contribute that will potentially improve your chances of getting funding and lower the overall costs by letting you borrow less. 

If you are having building work done always have a contingency budget beyond the quotes you have, I’d recommend 10% extra.  There are always extras that you decide would enhance the space or things you might have forgotten.  There are often unforeseen difficulties which can push costs up.

Before I ever approach a bank or other lender on behalf of a customer I get a full understanding of their plan and their circumstances.  That can mean collecting a lot of paperwork from them but it’s what the lender is going to need anyway so it’s better to have it all ready up front. 

The basics are accounts, management figures and VAT returns. 

Many lenders will also want to see bank statements for the last six months and these days, to combat money laundering we’ll always need to confirm your identity and your address. 

Beyond that I always recommend clients undertake their own credit check.  It can be done for free with any of the three main providers (Experian, Equifax and Noddle) and if you do your own it doesn’t impact your credit score.  If you have had any issues in the past we can then discuss them and depending on the circumstances and the severity we might be able to persuade a mainstream lender to be flexible or we’d go to a specialist lender.  There are lenders in the market for almost any situation – so even if you think it’s impossible it’s worth talking to a specialist licensed trade broker like to discuss your options.  Your initial assessment will always be free.

Our experience of 20 years making purchases happen

Our award-winning approach to business and property finance

Our 5* customer service

We understand your problem, then help the lender to understand.

Don’t just take our word for it is an award winning finance broker, here are a few testimonials from our clients;

Commercial Broker of the Year – 2017. (Corporate LiveWire)

UK Commercial Mortgage Broker of the Year – 2016, 2015 & 2014. (M&I International)

Commercial Mortgage Broker of the Year – 2013 (Business Moneyfacts)

Shortlisted – Commercial Mortgage Broker of the Year – 2014 & 2015 (Business Moneyfacts)

Acorn Commercial Finance ( is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – #660207

We are also full members of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers.

Although most of the commercial mortgages, business loans, buy to let mortgages, bridging finance and property development loans arrange are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority we take our responsibilities as a professional broker very seriously and apply the highest standards of customer service and advice to every case, regulated or not.

As members of the NACFB since 1997, our ethos has always been to adhere to their Code of Practice in every aspect of our business.

The NACFB has operated an industry recognised Code of Practice since 1992 which endorses best practice in the industry. All NACFB brokers agree to abide by the Code of Practice which ensures that you have the guarantee that will always operate professionally and in your best interest.


Founded in 1997 by father and son team Tom and Paul Thompson, Acorn Finance have long been one of the leading finance brokers in the small business and property sectors.
We’re a multi-award winning team with 7 “best UK broker” awards in the last 6 years and have been featured on the BBC Inside Out programme to show best practice in the commercial lending sector.

Acorn’s specialist knowledge of small businesses marked us out as the “go to” broker for any trading business but especially those in the hospitality sector which resulted in Acorn Commercial Finance becoming the only finance provider asked to join the BIIAB (British Institute of Innkeeping Advisory Board).

We work harder to find the funding you need to thrive

Acorn.Finance (Acorn Commercial Finance previously) have been funding commercial and investment property since 1997.

As a small business just like you, the team understands the needs and time pressures of the buy to let property investor, developer or business owner.

Our mission is to give every business owner, property investor or developer access to the finance they need to thrive and grow.  In a broad and fragmented market with more lending sources than ever,  it is no longer an option to rely on the products of just one lender for the life of a business, lenders are many and varied.  Our role is to help you find the very best funding package to fill your needs, and to have the funding available to you, just when you need it.  To do that we work across the whole of the finance market, from the high street banks and challenger banks through to crowdfunding providers (including our own) and sometimes private equity and businesses angel investors.

Whether you are growing your business or investment portfolio or just starting out then finance is of vital importance and getting the best deal can easily be the difference between growing or not or even failure.  Our experts take time to understand your needs and aims in both the long and short term before recommending you a product which we believe is the best one to achieve your aims. By taking that time to understand your needs we also work more closely with our lenders than most brokers, that means we have a market leading level of success with more applications going through to a successful completion and more of our clients go on to long-term success.


Call your local office using our freephone number –

Or – to arrange a convenient time for an initial call – Click here – London.

344-354 Gray’s Inn Road



Serving London, the South-East of England and East Anglia.

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2 Wellington Place


West Yorkshire


Redwood House

Brotherswood Court

Almondsbury Business Park


BS32 4QW,

Conference House

152 Morrison Street

The Exchange



Peter House

Oxford Street


M1 5AN

Don’t panic – interest rates are rising but it’s not the end of the world

Rising interest rates?

Thanks to the Morning Advertiser for a great article explaining the impact of the recent interest rate hike on the licensed trade.

The main points being;

  • A £250,000 mortgage will increase by around £30 per month.
  • A £500,000 mortgage will increase by around £60 per month.

For the typical publican therefore, the impact of the hike on their mortgage payment will be negligible.  The greater effect is likely to be on those in leasehold pubs who have high levels of unsecured or personal debt, perhaps having used credit cards or personal loans to fund the purchase of the business.

Michelle Perrett explains why there is little to worry publicans (The Morning Advertiser).

The consensus is that the general effect will be minimal with mortgages and pub values not being greatly affected.

The main threat is from any loss in disposable income, or the perception of a loss in it.  This might have an impact on trade which could potentially have a much larger impact on the pub trade than the actual interest rate rise.

Take action now to ensure that your business trades through the rise successfully.

How to Start Up a Pub

How to Start Up a Pub

Dreaming of running a pub? Not sure which of a managed, tenancy, leased or freehold pub is right for you? When looking for pubs for sale there are a lot of decisions to make, but as commercial mortgage brokers, Acorn.Finance are able to help.

When an entrepreneur embarks on the venture of quitting their job, dropping out of the rat race and running a pub, their head is full of dreams and business ideas of how their dream pub will run and exactly how they aim to make their money. However, the harsh reality is that the road to becoming a successful business person is rife with challenges. These hurdles prevent many such businesses from even getting past the planning stage.

Business Plan

To begin with, a business plan is needed, as potential  lenders require a basic understanding of the business proposal. This is so they can assess whether they wish to become stakeholders given the risks. It can often be difficult to know where to start when writing a business plan, but a good one should outline all major aspects of how the owner organizes the pub and how they will make their money.
A typical format would start with an executive summary of the proposal, followed by a overall business description. Investors need outlines of how the owner will run sales and marketing too so they can see money making potential. Financial forecasts will be necessary and finally, plans for development in the future. A SWOT analysis can also prove very useful to help identify threats to the business. For example, local competitors or a non-ideal demographic.

Our Services

Acorn.Finance often provide support during this preliminary stage of business development. We also have years of experience with getting budding pub landlords the advice they need and property they want. Additionally, when it comes to getting a business plan off the ground accountants are often willing to help too. There are all sorts of places to go for those aiming to set out on their business venture. If the business idea is one that looks as though it will attract custom, then this stage can be quite straightforward.

Acquiring Finance

Perhaps the hardest part of starting up a business such as a pub is getting the necessary funding to do so. This is because investors need to have confidence that they will get back a good return on investment. It can often take a lot of searching to find a lender for a business idea, because investors need to see the 4 C’s of credit.


Banks need to know that they can get their money back should you default on your repayments. Therefore it is often necessary to have a house or other assets that the loan can be taken out against. Collateral also encourages hard work for the prosperity of the business, since if the business fails the owner will lose out.


The type of person that the investors are potentially lending to. This usually relates to credit scores, debt, and the overall financial profile of the potential business owner.

Capital Assets

Usually refers to machinery or other equipment that the business may own that could be sold by the bank in the case of liquidation. For example, if a potential business owner already has equipment from a previously owned pub.

Capacity to Repay

In order for the business to recoup their original investment, they want a business opportunity where income exceeds expenditure. Here an investor wants to see realistic sales forecasts to show that your pub can and will make money.

There is help available in the form of start-up loans, which can be used in conjunction with other funding.

Finding Pubs for Sale

Finding the location that is just right for the type of pub you want to run can be difficult. This is because demographics, local wealth, immediate surrounding areas and local tastes all need to be considered. A prospective business owner needs to consider carefully where they will locate when running a pub. This could be close to home for a convenient commute or somewhere with a better demographic or infrastructure. When looking for pubs for sale, website such as Fleurets offer an extensive selection.

Buying the Property

When a suitable property does come along, going about purchasing it can be an arduous process. Large sums of money need spending, not just on the property itself but on the financing of the mortgage.
Acorn.Finance aim to streamline and improve this process, and as commercial mortgage brokers, they are able to find from their pool of 250 lenders a deal that will suit the client as best as possible.

Managed, Tenancy, Lease or Freehold Pub

These are the four main types of pub ownership arrangement, and a prospective owner needs to decide which will suit them best.


The company or brewery that owns such a pub employs and trains managers but owns the business. This is the cheapest option for running a pub, but you will be an employee of the company as opposed to your own boss.


With a tenancy arrangement the manager rents the premises from a landlord over a relatively short time frame, usually from 3-5 years. Tenancies often comes with a tie, such as the tenant having to purchase beer or related products from the landlord. This kind of business arrangement is non-assignable. This means that when the tenant withdraws from the arrangement they cannot take their capital goods/business with them.


This option involves renting the premises from a landlord, but running the pub as though it were your own. This is usually over a longer period than with a tenancy. The lessee keeps the profits, bears the losses and can also sell the business at any time. However, they are not permitted to sell the property itself. Leasing is more expensive than a managed pub, but gives the owner more freedom and better income prospects.


The most expensive method of running a pub, however there is the opportunity to reap much greater long-term rewards. Roughly a third of all pub landlords in the UK own their pubs outright. This means that they have freedom to choose suppliers and are able to lease the premises or put up their pub for sale if they choose. Entering into such an arrangement can cost anywhere upwards of £150,000. (July 2017)

Wider Economic Factors

Even if a prospective pub owner knows where they want to start their business, has secured a loan and knows what kind of management arrangement they would like, there is always the question of how much risk they are taking on, given that opening up a new business is a very risky endeavor. This is due to the fact that start-ups have less money to deal with cash flow shortages in the short run.


The Brexit Referendum in June 2016 caused the Pound to weaken greatly, to the extent that in October GBP to USD exchange rates reached a 168 year low, at £1 = $1.217, and has more recently climbed back up to $1.30. This economic volatility with ongoing Brexit negotiations begs the question; is this a sensible time to start a business? This weak pound is good for exporters but is a detriment to importers, therefore holidays to Britain are comparatively cheap. As a result, pub owners may even see an increase in tourist revenue, despite how many are worried about the economic climate.

Business Confidence

Additionally, a survey of 416 businesses carried out by eBay revealed that British small business confidence was on the rebound as of April 2017. This is despite small businesses having tended towards pessimism in December of the preceding year. However, the business owners interviewed did voice their concern for rising inflation increasing supplier costs and forcing their prices higher.

Therefore given the current performance of the economy, consistently low interest rates, increased tourism into the UK and higher business confidence, it could very well be a profitable time for those running a pub.

Words by Jack Ferguson

How to renovate

Whether you’re flipping or growing a buy to let portfolio, buying a property project to renovate can bring in a healthy profit.

Our guide will help you avoid the property renovation pitfalls and help you profit every time.

As the house market has picked up over the last few years so has the opportunity to profit by buying a property to renovate.

Read moreHow to renovate