Thursday, 18 August 2011

Nobody biting

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read that food is going to be the saviour of the wet-led pub. But it isn’t always quite as simple as that. Not too far from me, there’s a big Victorian pub in a prominent suburban main-road location tied to one of the local family brewers. It used to do a cheap and cheerful lunchtime menu of toasties, bacon barms, ham, egg & chips, pensioners’ specials and the like, which seemed to bring in a reasonable amount of custom.

However, the brewery clearly thought the food trade had more potential, so they gave it a makeover – nothing structural, just new upholstery and chairs and a general spring-clean, put the bar staff in uniforms and introduced a new and more ambitious menu with most main courses in the £7+ bracket. However, all this seems to have done is to drive away the old food trade but not bring in any new, more upmarket customers. I’ve been in at lunchtimes both during the week and at weekends, and have always been able to count the number of diners on the fingers of one hand. Sometimes there have been none at all.

Possibly the fact that the pub, both outside and in, still looks like a classic urban local doesn’t help matters. If the same food offer was transplanted into a cottage-style establishment ten miles further south, it might prosper. But it looks as though, in this pub, in this location, the owning company have made a wrong call on the potential food trade. You wouldn’t blame them too much if they decided to cut their losses and, as many other pubs have done, drop the food entirely and not even bother opening at lunchtimes during the week.

4 comments:

  1. Its happened near me, closed during the afternoon weekdays.
    More disturbing is, it looks like a classic pub that pulls people in from the main road who then either find its shut or there's precious little space to sit inside just for a pint or three .
    I still use it during the summer as its just up the road and I can sit outside but time after time its empty.
    Its days are numbered as Guinness has now been taken off due to small sales.
    Once a thriving busy pub, now the beer garden has tumble weed. I wonder what happened?

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  2. So many pub companies and landlords seem to think that serving six - eight quid meals is the answer to all their woes. This sort of thing only works in the right location, and suburbia is not the right place to be selling lunchtime meals at that price. I don't know what sort of meals this establishment is doing, but if you are trying to sell frozen chips, finger salad and a pre-cooked lasagna for seven quid to people who only live ten minutes away, it usually only works in the evening. People who are at home will be at home for a reason, and they are not likely to have an excessive amount of money to spare. I would say that these people are much more likely to occasionally go out for a guilty fry up than spend three quid more on something that they could prepare themselves at home without much hassle.
    I have never even visited this pub and have not seen their menu, but I can see a massive hole in their plan from here. These pub area managers really need a kick up the backsides sometimes. Putting your staff in cheap polo shirts and getting a contract with Brake Bros is not the solution to everything. Not every minute that a pub opens will make you a pot of money, sometimes afternoons just help towards paying for the rent and electricity for that day. I used to work in a pub that was literally 97% wet and 3% dry, and still our area manager constantly hassled us to make 65% GP on that 3% dry. Idiot.

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  3. I don't think this pub does much more food trade in the evenings - this isn't really an area where there's a lot of evening pub dining. It does have a healthy wet trade in the later evenings and for screenings of footy matches, so isn't in any sense under threat.

    If you have ambitions to be anything more than a local, closing during the day can be a bad idea as it gets you a reputation for not being open. "I went there once and it was shut."

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  4. What is really appaling is not the
    number of mutants who dine in
    pubs ,its the dwindling number
    of total ale sipping dipsticks who still frequent such numpty sheds.
    Best thing to do is to boycott the
    Judas Inns untill they get us back to normal ie the past 30 or 40 generations.Why patronise venues
    which treat their long standing regulars like lepers.


    Thirsty but defiant.

    ReplyDelete

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