There’s no shortage of reality TV shows nowadays such as The Hotel Inspector taking failing businesses and bringing in some so-called “expert” to tell the owners how to do things better. There was a suggestion in the comments that a similar thing could be done for pubs, to which someone replied that it already had been in the form of Save our Boozer. I’ve never seen this, as the genteel poverty of Curmudgeon Towers does not stretch to pay-TV, but my understanding is that this is basically about getting communities to club together rather than looking in a broader sense at the marketing and general offer of pubs.
There are few pubs you go in where you don’t see something that could be improved and might attract more customers – failing to display a menu outside is one of the most common and obvious examples. You also come across pubs that clearly aren’t making the most of the potential of the site. So there must be considerable mileage in a show of this kind.
On the other hand, more than most other hospitality businesses, the success of pubs is linked to their local geography and demography. Unless you’re in the centre of a large town or city, in a busy tourist hot-spot, or a dining pub seeking to attract car-borne customers from a wide catchment area, you are very much dependent on trade from either local residents or people who are in the area anyway. Yes, it is possible to squander a good opportunity, but it is hard to see how many of the “beached whale” estate pubs could ever be made successful again.
While individual pubs such as the Magnet in Stockport may make a success of a multi-beer alehouse format that draws customers in from the surrounding suburbs, the overall market for this type of pub is finite and it is certainly not a panacea for every failing pub in the town.
The question must also be asked as to what degree improving the attractiveness of one pub simply draws trade from others rather than growing the market as a whole.