Sunday 8 February 2009

The giant of the pub world

There’s an interesting interview with Tim Martin, head of J. D. Wetherspoon, in today’s Sunday Times. While I'm not a great lover of Wetherspoon’s pubs, you have to admire Tim Martin for defying the conventional wisdom of the industry, and it cannot be denied that the company has been very successful within an overall declining market. It is apparently poised to become Britain’s biggest pub chain in terms of sales value, if not number of outlets.

Also good to see him cocking a snook at the ludicrous official guidelines on safe drinking levels, rather than meekly going along with them like his counterparts in other companies:

How much? Probably about 40 alcoholic units a week, he says. He finishes most days with “a couple of pints of Abbot, a couple of glasses of wine”. He rails against the government’s 21-units-a-week dictum. “The doctor who came up with it said there’s no medical foundation to it; 70 to 80 units a week.” As a limit, or a recommendation? He laughs.


  1. I like the JD idea of selling cheap beer - 99p a pint I think, although the anti alcohol lot have criticised it.

    Fact is the cheap beer is weak beer - 3.5% or thereabouts - although there's nothing wrong with it and you can sink a fair few of them and still walk.

    The problem drinkers are those who sit at home necking cans of Stella or (worse) special brew. People should be encouraged to go out to drink IMO and to do that we need cheap beer in pubs.

  2. Hello Derek - it's surprising who you bump into on here ;-)

    Your comments echo the points I made in this post.

  3. You do have to admire Tim Martin. He often talks sense and is happy to put his head above the firing line. I do wonder what JDW will do when he leaves though.

  4. It's too early to judge whether Martin's price war has worked for him. I suspect in this climate he'll easily be able to claim victory, though, whatever happens.

    I expect he'll drop the 99p pints once he's driven "community" (which, let's face it, means predominantly working class) pubs out of business. Those are his competitors.

  5. Are "community" pubs really Wetherspoons rivals? As they are mostly based in dense urban centres, I see their rivals as being other chains, such as Yates.

  6. Nice spot TPC. I pinched it and linked here, hope you don't mind :-)

  7. Lest we forget, in very many working-class (North west London, parts of South-East London and Scotland, JDW provides the only decent ale, and certainly the only pub with acceptable standards. I've never seen drunken behaviour in a Spoons, either.

  8. Another point in Tim Martin's favour is that he spoke out against the age limit in pubs being enforced too strictly.

    I learned how to behave in pubs by being a slightly furtive 16- and 17-year-old drinker, conscious of the need not to annoy the established older customers, but nowadays kids find that much harder to do.


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