Sunday, 20 October 2013

What pubs get wrong

The Guardian recently published an interesting article on Ten things that bad boozers get wrong. Some of them I agree with, some I’m not too bothered about. The comments also make enjoyable reading – a bit like all the comments on beer blogs distilled into one place. See if you can spot me! The issue of dogs seems to come up rather a lot.

I thought I should make my own list, but concluded that, rather than just regurgitating the familiar moans about children, TV football, bench seating and lack of beermats, I should concentrate on those areas that genuinely are within the control of those running pubs and make a real difference to the customer experience.

  • A poor impression when walking through the door, such as a group of regulars blocking the way to the bar
  • Failure to display a menu outside (and sometimes not displaying menus inside when food is being served)
  • Music played by default without regard to tastes of customers
  • Bar staff not committed to customer service (which covers a variety of sins, such as not serving people in the right order and messing around doing non-urgent tasks rather than actually serving)
  • A thoughtless approach to temperature and ventilation, such as doors flung open on cool days and heating on full blast on warm days
  • Uncollected glasses and plates piled up on tables
  • Poor use of the Internet – not every pub needs a website, but if you have one, keep it updated, display your current menu and, if you offer varying guest beers, your current beer selection
One that is less of a problem in these days of the knocked-through pub, but which in the past I often found an irritation, is failing to make it clear which door the casual customer should use – which isn’t by any means always the lounge.


  1. "when walking through the door, such as a group of regulars blocking the way" = smokers still hanging around outside instead of dispersing and going away.

  2. "when walking through the door, such as a group of regulars blocking the way" = smokers still hanging around outside instead of dispersing and going away.

    as the Guardian would like to see happen - never changes, at least they are consistent and forthright in their main hate.

  3. Many pubs have no choice in the matter, of course, as they can't provide any kind of smoking solution apart from standing outside the front door.

    I would say, within the confines of the current legislation, many pubs don't do as much as they could to accommodate smokers.

  4. For me the biggest thing that a pub can get wrong, yet one of the commonest, is not having anyone behind the bar to serve you. Walking into a pub and been told by one of the bar props that the Landlord has gone out for a bit does not encourage me to stay: especially when I am after a swift pint before my bus arrives

    I do appreciate that landlords have a myriad of other tasks to do but surely serving customers should be paramount. Other retail establishments have the same problem and usually solve it by having a bell on the door or the counter. Not something you see in pubs

  5. A lack of ambience caused by no visible landlord!! Pubs often seem to be run by 'school leavers' with little character or chat.
    Bring personality back behind the bar

  6. Sorry 'Mudge.
    New to this blog. (Though I have enjoyed your column in OT for several years)

  7. One bad impression you get on walking through the door, often in deserted pubs, is a smell of sour, vinegary beer, usually coming from soggy bar towels.

  8. Professor Pie-Tin21 October 2013 at 00:11

    There's a reverse spin on this one which I found in a pub in Brighton yesterday.
    I call it the Dyson Airblade effect.
    My theory, and I've yet to be proved wrong, is that if there's a Dyson Airblade hand-dryer in the bogs there will ALWAYS be a square sink.
    And the word reduction lurking somwhere on the pub grub menu.
    Trust me, Dyson Airblade, square sink, and reduction.
    And occasionally a jus finds its way in as well.

  9. All valid points - between you and The Grauniad I think you've nailed it. Everything from badged glasses to clean WCs; if the bog is a sh*thole (literally) and that' s where the staff (including chef/cook/waiting staff) are relieving themselves and washing their hands thereafter - we're all in trouble.

  10. I can't imagine there are many landlords or managers around who don't know these things. I can only conclude that for some reason they simply don't care if their pub goes bust.

    Other things people complain about are really a matter of taste. Pool tables, sky sports, children running round, loud music, a poncy food menu, all cater to someone.

  11. Given the way people who run pubs continue to do things that are either lackadaisical or blatantly wrong-headed I wouldn't necessarily attribute that amount of self-knowledge to them.

    Part of the issue is that people actually spend considerable chunks of time in pubs rather than just going there to buy stuff and thus are more likely to be irritated by niggly defects.

    But I think there is something in pub culture which tolerates a certain amount of crapness that wouldn't be acceptable in Tesco or Pizza Express.

  12. Maybe pubs attract a certain type of small business owner that is stuck in a service model of the past. Someone who has a take it or leave it approach to their offer rather than realise that you have no intrinsic right to the customers quid.

  13. It may also be something to do with the realisation that any attempt to improve turnover will only inevitably result in a corresponding increase in rent from Punch/Enterprise/etc, so why bother?

    The propensity for bad management certainly seems less prevalent in free houses.

  14. Indeed Cookie

    A lot of publicans still seem to have the attitude, which was almost universal 50 years ago, that they are doing you a great favour by allowing you to drink beer in their establishment and that if you don't like it you can go somewhere else.

  15. It’s an attitude or state of mind that is persistent in UK service culture. Compare how easy it is to order off the menu in a US restaurant or diner. You want an egg white only omelette for breakfast because you are on a weird faddy diet? Do that in a US diner and UK café then let me know what response you get?

    In the UK people start businesses because they want to do something and that’s what they do. You end up with pubs & restaurants where asking for ketchup is out of order because how dare you spoil the premium offering you are given. Ask in the US, they will ask you regular or lite? That’s because in the US the point of a business is to make a dollar. In the UK it is to let someone live their dream. Often that dream is to open when they want to and sell what they want to. UK service culture has always been the customer gets what they are given. You are supposed to like that, accept it and hand over your money. Get what you want, when you want it? Not the British way, you must hate Blighty more than a pinko commie labour leader to suggest such a thing.

  16. That, Cookie, is why I do a lot of drinking at home. Go to the 'fridge, get a drink and drink it just when you want? Or push your way through a crowd of resentful drinkers at the bar and then be ignored for five minutes by a pimply youth?


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