Saturday, 18 September 2010

Hiding your light

There’s a thread on the CAMRA forum started by the indefatigable Richard English entitled “Some pubs don’t deserve to succeed”. And, regrettably, even in this marketing-savvy age, too many fall down on the basics of promoting themselves. I have written before about how pubs fail to advertise what is on offer within, which in locations where there is pedestrian footfall and a choice of venues, is crucial to bringing customers in.

I recently found myself in an attractive little Borders market town around lunchtime. It’s not a prime tourist trap, but clearly somewhere that does attract a fair number of visitors. There are six pubs on the main street, some remarkably attractive half-timbered buildings. One, although clearly still trading, wasn’t open at 12.15, another was closed and boarded and up for sale. Of the other four, two made no mention outside of offering food at all, one had a blackboard saying “see menu inside” and the fourth clearly had menus set out on the tables inside, although not displayed by the door.

From the general look of it, I chose the fourth, and went in and ordered a (somewhat lacklustre) pint. I picked up a menu and went to the bar to order, only to be told that, because of a flood in the kitchen, they weren’t serving food. The barmaid recommended a café-bar down the street, which as it turned out provided a perfectly decent light lunch, and also – surprisingly – had a handpump serving real ale, although that wasn’t very good either.

Surely it is basic common sense that if you are serving food, you display a menu outside and indicate the times during which food is served. And if you’re not serving food, how much effort does it take to write a notice saying “No food today” and stick it on the door?

Incidentally, the entry for the one Good Beer Guide pub in the town, which is just off the town centre, says bluntly “No food”. While I’m not naming names, the picture will give you a good clue as to where it was - looks wonderful, doesn’t it?


  1. Good points which I can't disagree with. A lot of pubs could do better with very little effort or cost to themselves. However, I was surprised to see the thread you allude to is over 18 months old!

  2. Also many pubs do have signs outside showing the menu but when a family with kids and grandparents struggle in and get themselves a seat they are told that the kitchens shut until x o'clock. Exit family.

  3. Yes, this idea of stopping serving food promptly at 2 o'clock really is a bit of an anachronism that doesn't reflect changing lifestyles - see this piece from ten years ago.

  4. Bet you wish you went to the Spoons.

  5. Not a big enough place to have a Spoons - but, yes, I would have known I would be able to get reasonable food there.


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