There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the financial problems of pub companies such as Enterprise Inns and Punch, but is it possible that one of the reasons why they are struggling is that, very often, their pubs are not actually run very well?
I’m not sure whether this involves managed pubs, or tenanted ones run with “guidance” from the pubco, but there does seem to be a consistent pattern. Typically it’s a pretty prominent pub, once one of the more prized possessions of the former Big Six or Greenall’s. Outside there will be a plethora of posters and chalkboards advertising a variety of features and attractions.
Inside, the interior will have been much knocked through over the years and, while it may still ramble a bit and have some distinct areas, it retains little vestige of its former character. There will be a big flat screen in every area, so when the footie is on it is impossible to escape from it.
Food will be advertised on pre-printed, glossy menus with pictures of some of the dishes on offer, and will often follow a particular theme which may not be appropriate to the pub’s clientele. “Ooh, let’s have a pie menu. Or maybe a burger menu!”
There will also probably be cask beer alongside the rows of gleaming keg dispensers, but it will typically be chosen from the well-known big sellers such as Deuchars IPA, Bombardier, Wainwright and Doom Bar, and there won’t be any evidence of the staff actually taking any interest in beer. If you’re lucky, you may get a reasonable pint rather than a glass of warm soup, but you’re unlikely to get an outstanding one.
There’s also a general sense of impermanence, with regular changes in managers or tenants, and the frequent introduction of new brands and formats. Overall, the pub seems to have little idea of who it is aiming to appeal to, or what its USP is. I can think of quite a few pubs around my local area that, to a greater or lesser extent, fit into this stereotype. I’d be surprised if you don’t have some near you too.
With very few exceptions, you are likely to find a better all-round offer, and a much clearer sense of purpose, in an independent brewery tied pub, a free house or even the local branch of Wetherspoons.