Thursday 2 March 2023

An inspector calls

Alex Polizzi has presented The Hotel Inspector on Channel 5 since 2008. In the show, she looks at a variety of struggling hotels and guest houses and comes up with suggestions as to how they could improve their business. As the granddaughter of famous hotelier Lord Charles Forte it’s a reasonable assumption she knows what she’s talking about. I’ve watched the occasional episode and found it mildly interesting but not really essential viewing.

However, the thought has often occurred to me, and others, that there could be room for a similar show specifically looking at pubs. Many pubs do seriously ill-considered or neglectful things that surely deserve to be pointed out to them. To some extent this brief was covered by Tom Kerridge’s Saving the Great British Pub which aired in 2020, but sadly that became overtaken by Covid and ended up with a distinctly different theme.

However, Ms Polizzi is now branching out with a new programme covering a wider range of hospitality operations, including restaurants, wedding venues, tourist attractions – and pubs – and is asking for businesses to put themselves forward. It’s easy to imagine that she’ll just tell them all to go down the gastropub route, but she’s more savvy than that, and I would imagine most of those that volunteer will already be food-led pubs rather than back-street boozers.

I have to say in my experience pubs of all kinds commit a myriad of sins that are likely to be offputting to customers. Setting aside my own personal prejudices, some of the most obvious ones are:

  • Failing to publicise your opening hours and changing them on a whim
  • Not displaying menus on your website or, in urban locations, outside the door. It also baffles me why pubs don’t put menus out on tables and expect you to ask for one at the bar
  • Ill-mannered, inattentive staff. Yes, I know recruitment is hard at present, but a lot of this comes from the management approach
  • Poor hygiene standards, especially unpleasant toilets
More than other types of venues, pubs are dependent on repeat business, and so it’s important not to give customers any reason not to want to return. On the other hand, I sometimes come across pubs that seem to be ticking a lot of the right boxes but still aren’t attracting customers, and so obviously are missing out on some magic ingredient. In these days of multiple online guides and social media channels, it can be difficult to know how best to promote your pub, but one thing that is certain that, if you do create a website or Facebook page, you need to keep it updated.

It has to be said that independent pub businesses are often some of the worst offenders. At their best, they include some of the highest-quality pubs around, but in the absence of an area manager to give them a prod they can all too easily lose interest and let standards slip. They also have much more scope to apply idiosyncratic and offputting policies. And I would expect in general that most of those who apply will be independent businesses

I’m pretty sure it will be a certain type of pub that predominantly features, but even so no doubt it will make interesting viewing and I’ll definitely make a point of tuning in.


  1. I'm sure she's a nice lady, but what does she know about pubs?
    This needs the firm hand and direction of a CAMRA Man. Someone what knows pubs.
    They should get that nice retired martin to do it. He knows pubs.

    1. While I'm no fan of his, Pete Brown might be a suitable candidate as someone who combines knowledge of pubs with an understanding of business and marketing.

    2. Professor Pie-Tin4 March 2023 at 15:34

      Knowing about pubs and how to run them successfully all depends on which side of the counter you usually stand.
      Blogging and ticking are fine endeavours in themselves but confer no greater hospitality business skills on their practitioners than say a job as a road-sweeper or the general secretary of the Matt Hancock Appreciation Society.
      The delightful Ms Polizzi, who grew up in a family of successful hoteliers, is also rather more pleasing on the eye than Retired Martin and Pete Brown, whatever their partners may coo in their ears...

    3. Well, I think a regular user of pubs has a good idea about what they find appealing and what they find offputting. You don't have to be a trained musician to tell a good song from a bad one.

  2. Having watched a few episodes of the Hotel Inspector, I too shall be tuning in when Ms Polizzi's new programme airs. I've also been meaning to take a trip down to Afriston, to see what the Star is like now, following the extensive renovation work carried out by Alex and her mother.

  3. The production company will be looking for some conflict between the proprietors and the presenter, this is a tried and tested format. The hapless business owners vs the savvy expert.

    Businesses that don't really understand the market they serve , the expert will look at their business model and tear it to shreds. The pub will need a makeover, offer what the local competition already offers, and slash prices and expenses to compete.

    Sadly after watching these type of programmes, some of the businesses end up better run , more contemporary but lack the warmth and idiosyncrasies that made them unique and attractive it the first place. Shabby chic, sometimes shabby is better.

  4. The best advice for hospitality venues, pub and resteraunts alike, is "open the front door". So many places don't open at times they don't think that they will get a lot of trade. But that leads to a vicious circle: "not worth going to the Dog and Duck because it is never open".

  5. The Stafford Mudgie4 March 2023 at 17:23

    Mrs Mudgie is prone to watching that programme and drew my attention to a February 2014 episode about Llandudno's Alexandra Hotel where we had stayed in April 1997.
    I didn't think was was anything wrong with the establishment but the proprietor got the likes of "Tips include lining the dining room walls with prints and photographs as talking points". I go to dining rooms to eat, not to look at pictures or talk. "Her team also thought the dining room was too white so it will be repainted in a cosier colour" probably like those ghastly pale shades seaside cottages are 'whitewashed' in nowadays.

  6. T'other Mudgie4 March 2023 at 21:54

    "Delightful" and from a family with seventy years in the hotel business but wouldn't we do better with a forthright Yorkshireman from a family with two hundred and seventy years in the pub and brewing business, good old Humphrey Smith ?
    That'd be a programme I'd watch.

    1. Professor Pie-Tin5 March 2023 at 14:24

      Actually we already have an expert on running pubs very successfully and making a lot of money from them.
      His name is Tim Martin.
      He could also throw in some of his excellent homespun Brexit wisdom.
      Trouble is he's male, pale and stale without any disabilities and speaking in a West Country rather than West Indian patois so unless he wears an inflatable nappy like Sam Smith you'd never get him past the commissioning editor.

    2. Timbo is good at running one style of pub, but I'm not sure how good he'd be on very different types.

    3. Yorkshire Poodle6 March 2023 at 10:16

      Each episode should show a different eminent pubman trying to reopen one of the closed Sammy Smiths pubs.

  7. I'm fairly sure Simon Everitt has this job in the bag. It would help fund his pub-going, too.


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