Friday, 30 May 2008

Fancy being a Pub Spy?

When I lived in Scotland almost thirty years ago the weekly Sunday Mail ran a column called "Pub Spy". Basically a journalist visited pubs anonymously and then wrote about them. He left beer mats which let the fortunate or unfortunate landlord know he could expect to read the worst in the next edition. They even awarded mirrors to the best pub each year. I think there may still be one in the Horseshoe Bar in Drury St, Glasgow. It was new and novel then, this early attempt at mystery shopping.

If you live in the Everards catchment area of Leicester, you can be a pub spy for them. Potential pub spies can sign themselves up on Everards' website where they will then be assigned a local pub to visit. They will rate its food, drink and overall service and receive Everards goods in return. The undercover ratings will go towards the pub’s ranking in the Everards tenants reward scheme, as well as providing valuable feedback to licensees.

I think this is a very good thing. I have campaigned in my own CAMRA branch magazine (see website link for details) for pubs to improve their offering in these troubled times. This can only help and is a bit of fun for those taking part. Let's see others copy it.

10 comments:

young camra collectiv said...

Tandleman,

A couple of us do live within the Everards catchment and would be interested in giving this a go but we can't find any details on the website. Do you have any further info on how to sign up?

The PubSpy is alive and well in London in the local free rag the News Shopper, although his or her drinking habits aren't exactly adventurous.

Tandleman said...

It will appear, so you can get in first. Email them mail@everards.co.uk
I suggest. Let them know who sent you!

Stan - Young Camra Collectiv said...

I have signed up, but they keep offering me pubs too far away. Its only a matter of time until I get sent to the Maltings in Loughborough.....the one 100 yards from my front door!!

Great idea though, I agree more breweries should follow suit

Andy Holmes said...

I also notice, on their website, that they're offering a £3000 bounty for anyone who can nominate potential licencees for them. In the current climate is this a desparate attempt to find people to do a job that nobody wants?

Rednev said...

Mystery shopping leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as it is often a way of trying to achieve quality on the cheap, and is used instead of a proper investment in training and support for employees, or in this case, licensees. I think drinkers should confine themselves to drinking and enjoying themselves, instead of policing licensees, who I suspect may be less than welcoming of customers snooping on them behind their backs ~ and I wouldn't blame them. If you've got a problem in a pub, just politely have a quiet word. We know that many licensees struggle to operate with exorbitant rents and expensive ties, so why are drinkers even thinking of lining up with the people responsible for these problems?

Tandleman said...

I think you are confusing training with outcomes here rednev. I agree training is paramount, but feedback is not far behind in my opinion, especially if it is then used to fine tune training given, or identify where training is needed.

Rednev said...

I'm not convinced. Why not give feedback direct to the licensee, rather than snooping behind his or her back to the very people who are making the job of many hard-working licensees so difficult? I know from trade union experience that people on the receiving end of mystery shopping often find it demoralising and demotivating. You snoop if you want to; this drinker is not for snooping...

Tandleman said...

Simply put, it doesn't work. I'm not saying a complaint won't be dealt with, but when you look across the board, it needs more than a quiet word in someone's shell like. Are you really going to give a licensee a critique of his entire operation on an ad hoc basis and is he really going to take that on board? Mystery shopping is one way of doing so and it needn't be demoralising if used correctly. It is different to complaining and is more than feedback.

Rednev said...

If licensee was so dire that s/he needed a critique of their entire operation, I really doubt I would be in that pub in the first place, seeing that I'm not a business consultant being paid to tell people how to do their job: I'm a paying customer out for sociable reasons. Besides, the pub companies and pub-owning breweries are not the customer-oriented bodies waiting to spring into action as this Everards pub spy initiative suggests. Many of them don't seem very good at running a sustainable business, especially when viewed at pub level. In my opinion, a lot of the damage done to our pubs has been caused by the pub owners, not the licensees, and I just cannot see how a snoopers charter set up by those self-same owners will make them mend their ways. Perhaps a bit of Titanic deck chair arranging, but little more.

Tandleman said...

The point is that this way good as well as bad is identified. On your other point, I think in the case of Family Brewers like Everards, there is a lot less to complain about than Pubcos where you have more of a case.

We'll have to agree to differ.