Wednesday 26 October 2011

Cat wins mouse welfare award shock

I was amazed to read that JD Wetherspoon has been named as Britain’s best pub operator for customer satisfaction. Now, my usual experience of Spoons has been that you put up with service that varies from just about adequate through to execrable in return for the low prices, wide choice and consistent offer. It’s a trade-off between one and the other. The same has been reported by many friends and other bloggers – there never seem to be enough staff, and unless it’s virtually deserted it’ll take you a long time. See here, for example.

Earlier this year, when I was out at lunchtime with work colleagues, so time was limited, but going elsewhere wasn’t really an option, I had to wait about fifteen minutes before even attracting the attention of a barperson. And a Spoons was the last pub I walked out of after despairing of ever getting served, when there only seemed to be one member of staff on duty, and a long, complicated drinks order from another customer was then followed by what seemed like it was going to be an even more time-consuming food order.

The only explanation I can think of is that amongst nationally recognisable pub chains there isn’t much competition – the best service is likely to be found in independently-run pubs.


  1. Martin, Cambridge26 October 2011 at 17:56

    You can only judge on what you see, PC, but I'd judge service as very good in at least 80% of the 'Spoons I visit (which must be 300+). My local Tivoli in Cambridge has some of the best service I've had anywhere.

    The view may be more positive if you're eating during the day rather than trying to get a pint at busier times. Diners probably respond well to consistent, if dull, food served quickly.

    Beer quality is consistently good too.

  2. Funny - I'm a regular pubgoer but I've never once been asked to rate a pub - any pub - for satisfaction in nearly 40 years. So who are these people who are sueveyed?

    I went for a drink on Monday with a friend in Spoons in Liverpool and saw there were 5 or 6 people in front of me waiting to be served by the solitary barmaid. As my mate had to catch a train for London in an hour, we left & went to the Crown by Lime Street station. Instant service in the similarly busy pub, and at JDW prices too.

    Industry gongs don't usually mean much.

  3. Time and time again I've walked out of a spoons without a pint after waiting. I can now judge within milliseconds my chances of getting served.
    Amount of staff, customers waiting, food being ordered, coffee's being ordered etc.

  4. I went into a brand new Wetherspoons in Gateshead today and had to wait a few minutes as the chap in front of me was being allowed tasters of three ales before he decided which one to buy. For service like that I can wait. I was tempted but I already knew what I wanted. My experiences in other Wetherspoons pubs has always been positive too although I could hardly say I was a frequent visitor.

  5. There'a a Spoons in Bristol where there are usually three people serving but the punters form an orderly queue at one end of the bar only and consequently get served by only one barperson. If you go and stand at the other end of the bar, you get served immediately. I have no idea why the punters do this and not much inclination to stay and do any research as the place is devoid of character and the beer is served too cold. Odd though.

  6. Of course it is possible to get good service in Wetherspoons but it is pot luck. I totally agree that there are never enough staff. The ones in Wirral are prime examples. There may be three or four staff visible but they all seem to be busy doing anything but serve customers. I go to Weymouth a couple of times a year and have to walk past two 'spoons to get from my hotel to the the other pubs selling decent cask beer. I invariably walk in, weigh up the queue and walk out again. How much trade do they lose by understaffing?

  7. Not sure spoons have an exclusive on bad service there are plenty of examples of independent pubs where the service is appalling. There are two enterprise pubs near here where service only happens in the public bar, in one the barman's smoke break takes priority, both have tenants who are never seen. There is a managed Marstons food barn, it has plenty of staff but they always have something more important to do (Talking,cleaning,bottling up) than serve. This again has an invisible licensee. The only place you can be guaranteed service is in the local brewery pub where the manager is always present.

  8. Service in my local independent pub is excellent. If quiet, the drinks are on the bar before I've finished parking my car. If busy the landlord gives us a rude comment when we walk through the door - just to acknowledge our arrival and that he has seen us. The nearest Weatherspoons is 15 miles away so I won't be calling in soon


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