Wake up and smell the instore bakery, little guys. We weren’t stolen from you, we left of our own accord. One look at the average mini-mart, and it’s not hard to see why. Given the choice between a crappy corner shop with yellowing broccoli languishing next to tins of spaghetti hoops and a bright, dynamic supermarket with decent quality fresh produce and a choice of pasta, we took the better option.Much the same can be said of the pub industry, where it’s common to hear licensees bleating about Wetherspoons taking their trade away while not actually putting their own offer under the magnifying glass. Wetherspoons would not have succeeded if so many existing pubs had not been crap. There’s still little doubt that the actual choice and quality of food and drink available in Wetherspoons is streets ahead of the general run of pubs.
There is one significant difference, though. I don’t mind if Tesco is an echoing, soulless barn so long as it’s convenient for me to get to and they have what I want at a reasonable price. But, with a pub, I’m renting time in the place rather than just buying stuff, and I might be prepared to pay a bit more if I can get a comfortable bench seat in a cosy room and a good pint of a local brew rather than a national brand or an unpredictable, random choice of micro-brewery beer.
Realistically, pubs can’t simply compete on price against Wetherspoons, so they need to look carefully at what they can do that is distinctively different and better.