Saturday, 11 February 2017

Money chasing customers

You may not be feeling it much yourself, but things aren’t too bad at the moment. The economy’s growing steadily, unemployment is at a ten-year low, and companies have plenty of money to invest. Scarcely a day goes by without reading of some pub reopening after a £250,000 refurbishment. Near to me, the owners are planning to invest a cool £1 million on doing up one pub.

But, looking at the industry as a whole, you have to wonder what is the benefit of all this spending. Is it actually generating new business overall, or is it just dragging the same customers around the stock of pubs in an increasingly desperate giant game of musical chairs?

From my point of view, all that even the tattiest pubs need is a deep clean, new upholstery and carpets, and maybe a bit of new loose furniture. The vast majority of refurbishments, when they involve any structural alterations, end up leaving pubs worse, not better. Maybe customers are attracted by novelty, but that soon wears off.

The best pubs, in my experience, are those that haven’t been knocked around for decades, and benefit from continuity and familiarity. But maybe, if you’ve already thoroughly wrecked a pub once, you’re fatally committed to wrecking it again every five years. It’s like a drug where you have to keep on increasing the dose to get the same effects.

22 comments:

  1. It does seem that some pub operators/owners have large sums of money to throw around on grandiose refurbishment schemes, and it would be interesting to know how much extra trade this translates into.

    I suspect the answer is, as the late Paul Daniels would have said, not a lot; not a lot!

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    1. Rather like TV football, I suspect it's a matter of waiting for the other guy to blink first.

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  2. There are two pubs in Whaley Bridge - the Shepherds and the Goyt - which are the same as they ere when I first moved to the village thirty plus years ago. Both are thriving on a combination of local trade and passing trade, selling a range of good beers.

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  3. I have to admit that when I used to go to pubs, I preferred pubs which still had those elements that they originally had. Pub 'refurbs' rarely improved the experience, and in most cases destroyed what was appealing about the pub in the first place. Even the 'spit'n'sawdust' pubs had their own charm. I tend to be of the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" persuasion.

    Back in the day, I saw too many pubs ruined through 'modernisation'.

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  4. An interesting point - I've been to a faire few pubs closed for refurbishment recently. The changes aren't obviously geared to increasing revenue by expanding food or music etc etc. Wonder how much Sam Smiths spend compared to Greene King/Spoons/Punch ?
    MT

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  5. The nearest pub to me (30 seconds walk, traffic permitting) had a £250K refurb about 3 years ago and trade is massively up. My preferred pub (about 10 minutes walk away) had a modest refurb some two years ago and trade has remained the same. (Busy) Make of this what you will.

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    1. If other things are changed at the same time, such as new licensee, new food/beer offer, bar all the scrotes, then it can be impossible to tell how much of the improvement in trade is down to the refurb.

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  6. I often drive through Whalley Bridge on way to Sheffield but have never had opportunity to try the pubs except the Drum & Monkey. Worth a trip over from Bollyland?

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  7. In my experience a "newly refurbished" pub nearly always fails to impress. The very words instil horror when come across in the GBG descriptions. To me it equates to - "steer clear" !

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  8. Many years ago, I was working at a beer festival (Wigan, I think) and was chatting to some customers from Preston. When they learnt I lived in Southport, they talked about a charming pub they knew there. I told them it had just been refurbished.
    "Oh my God!" was the instant reaction, which says a lot. I was able to reassure them that it hadn't been ruined.

    However, two further refurbishments down the line, it has.

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  9. It's difficult to engage with a view where any change not to your liking is "vandalism"

    However if I had a business with a £200k turnover and vandalising it altered the clientele away from tight old codgers to affluent diners and up'd my turnover to £400k, I'd vandalise the gaff and any other gaff I had.

    If you are of the view that your taste in pubs is commercially viable, buy a pub. You don't have to run it if you think your cheery demeanor would ruin the miserable atmosphere you wish to create. You can hire managers & staff.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The Pol Pot of beer blogging has spoken.

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    2. It is likewise difficult to engage with a person who just likes to stir shit up. Every post and you will be there with your contradictory comments ! I often wonder why you bother ?

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    3. I always look forward to Cookie's comments. I'm sure (hope) they're all pretty much tongue in cheek and people shouldn't take things so bloody seriously @Gabriel Oak!

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    4. Cookie's comments are often illuminating, but sometimes he oversteps the mark and descends into personal invective. On reflection, that was the case with his most recent comment, and so I have deleted it together with my response to it.

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  10. ^^ :)

    I was reminded by this post of a pub I used to go to regularly when I lived in Petersfield in the early '80s, and out of curiosity, I just now googled it. To my delight, it is still there, and appears not to have been vandalised. It even still has the 'hole in the wall' bar in the wonderfully named 'Smoking Room'.

    http://harrow-inn.co.uk/index.html

    And it would seem they still eschew pumps in favour of having the casks racked behind the bar with taps driven into them.

    How nice to see! The only thing it is lacking is the eternally grumpy owner, who always gave the impression that customers were a major inconvenience.

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  11. As an addendum to my previous post (which hasn't yet appeared), on looking at the photos on the website again, there seem to be ashtrays on the tables, so they were obviously taken pre-2006, which makes me wonder if it does still exist.

    Ah, just checked 'TripAdvisor', and there's a review from last week, so it's still there. Must just be old photos.

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    1. It's still there and still exactly the same (minus the ashtrays). It's now run by the two daughters of the the aforementioned "enterally grumpy owner". Plus the outside loos are still on the other side of the lane.

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    2. Was in the Harrow only a couple of weeks ago. Hadn't been in for years. Loved it so much, but one of our group was driving so a few of us are considering getting a train to Petersfield and walking up there just to spend the whole day in there.

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  12. Robbies' pubs started to go downhill after they changed the style of the lettering of the pub names affixed to the outside of the pub buildings, from chunky white letters to spindly gold letters. I wonder what happened to all the chunky white letters?

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    1. oh Robbies went down hill when they decided that bitter was not to be called bitter.

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  13. Our village local had a refurb about three years ago, all that you would expect -out with the public bar & bench seats and hello to one bar, loads of restaurant space, fine dining and the dreaded high tops. This January they refitted it again- the public bars back, as is the bench seating, meaning they now have happy drinkers in one part and happy diners in the other. It's the first time I've seen a pub I like refurbished and thought well done. Full credit to the owner who realised he made a mistake, changed his mind and put it back..

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