Not quite sure what prompted it, but during the past week I’ve been running a poll on people’s opinions of Wetherspoons. And it turns out you don’t think much of them at all! There were 43 responses, broken down as follows:
Love them: 2 (5%)
Quite like them: 6 (14%)
They’re OK: 15 (35%)
Not keen: 7 (16%)
Loathe them: 13 (30%)
The excess of “loathers” above “lovers” is very marked.
I have to say I am in two minds here. Wetherspoons have certainly revolutionised the urban pub trade and exposed the poor service and limited offer that once were par for the course. They are a well-run and highly profitable company. And Tim Martin is one of the few industry leaders who is willing to question the prevailing anti-drink orthodoxy.
But, on the other hand, on a personal level I seldom have much enthusiasm about visiting one of their outlets. They tend to be characterless, barn-like establishments with a shortage of both natural light and comfortable bench-type seating. Their regular beers are dull, and whether you find anything interesting on the guest list can be very hit and miss. They seem to have a knack of extracting the character from even apparently well-kept brews. Their food is unimaginative, mass-market, microwaved stuff done down to a price, and on a few recent experiences hasn’t even been decently presented (for example, I had a distinctly lukewarm meal last month). Their change of policy to admit children when dining has led to many of their pubs being dominated by the wails of infants at lunchtimes – they have become the chav mothers’ canteen.
And, as I posted earlier this year, while obviously they are fully entitled only to select the sites they believe will suit their formula, they refuse to venture out of their town-centre comfort zone and expose themselves to wider competition.
So it was a “not keen” from me. I’ll use them, especially if staying away from home, but if a Wetherspoon’s really is the best pub in a town, or even worthy of inclusion in the Good Beer Guide, then choice is pretty thin in that part of the world.