Saturday, 18 May 2013

Pub doctor

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.


  1. Certainly offering a better range and quality of beer is no guarantee of saving a struggling pub, but its not like it would ever hurt either, would it.

    Things like pool tables and Sky sports will attract some people whilst putting others off and the wisdom of providing such things therefore depends on a careful reading of the local market, but a better choice of beer will only ever improve trade.

  2. Actually I'd say that for most pubs changing the beer range would only make a marginal difference, and plenty - such as estate-type pubs and highly food-led pubs - where it would make no difference at all.

    And there's no point in putting an "interesting" cask beer on if hardly anyone drinks it and it goes off.

  3. I reckon we all put a proposal into the beeb for a pub doctor show then we go on the piss on expenses round all these grotty boozers as we "diagnose" them Mary Portas style with glib patronising suggestions to diversify and give the customer what they want.

    When they inevitably go tits up anyway we shrug our shoulders and say they didn't follow our advice

    If any do survive we attribute that to ourselves and not the graft of the people running it. We go back for a follow up show so they can thank us and we can get pissed up again gratis.

    When we go round, I'll be the sweary one that says "fuck" a lot, Mudge can bang on about fags, bench seating and pork pies in Ploughmans & Pyo can wear eccentric clobber. Anyone else in?

  4. @Cookie, this is the best idea I've heard in a long time. I'll be with Mudgie although I'm not as militant about pork pies...

  5. Apparently I'll just argue with whatever anyone else says and complain about the beer choice. Where's the mild? What do you mean no-one drinks it? I drink it.

    Sounds like a winning format.

  6. The point of a TV show is not to solve the problems of pubs, shops, hotels, school dinners or the unwise dining choices made by the public, Pyo. The point is to entertain the viewing public. That’s what gets the ratings, the pay cheques and the chicks.

    So long as you are sufficiently entertaining in your contrarian nature, Pyo, your presence on the show will be justified.

    I intend to adopt a laddish, blokeish, lager swilling yob personality as that appears popular when one considers the likes of Top Gear. I might also adopt some casual sexism and misogyny and ask ladies to “calm down dear” I would like to be popular among readers of the Sun and disdained by readers of the Guardian. I think we shall leave Mudge & Bill to appealing to the educated. Therefore I get to hang out with filthy Nuts models whilst Mudge debates the finer points of libertarianism with Polly Toynbee.

    This time next year we will be millionaires. Stinking rich, doing a version of the show in America, necking endless free grog and fighting the lasses off with a shitty stick.

  7. I've heard that Polly Toynbee can get quite dirty after a few brown ales...


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