Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hard Times

I had a long chat with one of my local landladies last night. In the best pub in town, on a Saturday night about eight o'clock, there was perhaps fifteen customers, so she had plenty of time. She tells me her trade has slumped since July, though she had previously been doing well. Weather is one possibility, but she reckons even in our somewhat down market town, it's the recession. Those with money are paying off debt and those "working class" people that are still employed, are doing their sums and buying at the supermarket. As she said to me when we worked out my four pints and E's four halves would have bought a bottle of cheap vodka and four cans of cooking from the supermarket, "for a lot that's a no brainer."

She is a manager running a tied house, so all is well for her at least? Not really, as she, rather than go with the company's standard menu, opted to rent the kitchen and do her own food. She has tried all kinds of meals and deals, but for her, it isn't working. Her salary subsidises the food operation. My advice? Hand that back to the company before the losses become unsustainable. She wants to hang on until Christmas though and her latest wheeze is a carvery. Good luck there.

This is an optimistic lass that knows what she is doing. She is not new to this game and should know about food, as she ran a restaurant in Ayrshire for six years, but you can see she is worried. Tenants are even more worried. It is a world away from £6 thirds of Brewdog at the Rake and drinking fancy dan beers at home and pontificating about them on blogs. This to me is the reality of drinking these days and I don't like where we're at.

For me beer and pubs are synonymous and I know whose side I'm on. I'll keep going to the pub and do my bit, but as I said in my title, these are "Hard Times".

One of the good things about going to London is, despite the general (but improving) lack of good beer, is that there is still a significantly better pub going attitude. It's partly geographical, but it's mostly about money. Still makes for a better pub experience in some ways.

22 comments:

Bailey said...

It's also been very quiet on public transport and in the office since July. I'm putting it down to the summer holidays. It's starting to pick up again a bit now the kids are going back to school.

Woolpack Dave said...

The weather is a killer for us and possibly the biggest hit.

In my experience though, offering something different entices some to spend much more than what they might do on supermarket produce. Offering the same as can be got in the supermarket entices nobody.

Of course a happy licensee will produce good customer service which in turn helps keep customers happy. There are a lot of unhappy licensees about at the moment.

I sell some of the beers that are pontificated about on blogs. Their appeal is increasing, at least to my customer base.

Tandleman said...

I think your case is different from the one I described Dave. I doubt if your approach would work there. Your setting and your determination to do as you described in your blog sets you apart in a good way. Poncy beers are part of that.

What does the ordinary pub do?

Curmudgeon said...

Sadly, this state of affairs is all too common nowadays. I fear that we are witnessing the end of an era rather than a decline that can be rectified, and the ordinary, mainstream pub will become a thing of the past. And the idea that it can be reversed by making off-trade alcohol dearer is very misplaced.

You do have to ask, though, how many people were in the local Wetherspoon's at the time when there were 15 in your pub?

Tandleman said...

Funnily enough she said she'd heard JDW was dead too. Now there's a thing.

(Of course JDW are no longer as cheap as they once were)

Woolpack Dave said...

"What does the ordinary pub do?"

Point taken and is a good question that unfortunately I have no answer to. Although I do think Curmudgeon has a point. The ordinary pub may well be coming to an end. In my view being extraordinary seems to work better.

But that doesn't help the ordinary pub.

Cooking Lager said...

The only thing I'd comment on is "I'll keep going to the pub and do my bit" Has it come down to that? Going to the pub to do your bit. Reminds me of a neighbour I had growing up that always drove British Leyland cars to "do his bit" and spent most of his time waiting for the AA.

For pubs to survive, you have to make people want to go in them, not feel they have to.

Curmudgeon said...

For pubs to survive, you have to make people want to go in them, not feel they have to.

Spot on there - see this post of mine.

I go to pubs as I like them, as I'm sure does Tandleman, but the idea that going to pubs you really don't want to visit in an attempt to keep them going is ultimately self-defeating.

An exhortation to "use it or lose it" is generally an admission that you have already lost it.

Wurst/Whorst- Brewing Arts Instructor, CEO APRK said...

I have a British Leyland car and it's fucking ace.

Tandleman said...

Doing my bit in good pubs, never bad.

Jeffrey said...

Best pub in town - are you sure? Perhaps what's happened here is that the type of pub you like isn't necessarily popular with others?

I think that's what lies behind a lot of the doom and gloom peddled by CAMRA types about the pub trade. They see pubs they like doing badly, and instead of accepting that their own personal preference - while entirely valid - isn't in chime with where the trade is heading, they assume the whole industry is failing.

Jeffrey said...

PS. Bailey commented that London's been quiet. That's not been our experience. One of the effects of the recession seems to have been that fewer people have taken lengthy summer holidays, resulting in busier pubs. Trade here over August has far exceeded the same month in 2008.

Tandleman said...

Jeff. I can see where you are coming from, but it isn't the right place. The others are all doing pretty badly too and a two cask beer pub isn't stereotypically the CAMRA favoured gaff.

London is different as I acknowledge in my piece.

Captain Jack said...

You have to remember that Jeffo can't tell the difference between best and successful.You see pubs aren't really closing.Only the shit ones you and I go to.

Tandleman said...

Ouch!

Jeffrey said...

That's not really an "ouch" - if that's the best you folks have got, this is going to be very boring.

There are lots of pubs that are popular due to, for example, a fantastic location, despite being rather badly run in some ways. There are the chain bars on provincial high streets that rake it in despite being hellish places (I grew up in South Shields, somewhere with that kind of scene).

No, I don't equate popularity with quality. Popular places can be awful. On the other hand, I don't think somewhere that is truly quality will ever be unpopular. That's not a very elegant exposition of what I'm trying to say, but I don't think elegance is important here...

Tandleman said...

You are right in lots of ways there, but the second part of his comment gave me a laugh, which I need more today. I've just had an unsaveable tooth out.

Wurst/Whorst- Brewing Arts Instructor, CEO APRK said...

What the hell is going on with your teeth?? Are you brushing and flossing daily? Wasn't your mouth on fire a couple of months ago?

Tandleman said...

Same tooth that caused the root canal infection. Turns out their was a crack in it somewhere hidden and that caused the infection. Tooth beyond saving, but it's at the back. Apart fom the incredible pain, which I'm braving,er...bravely, I'm fine, thanks for asking.

Jeffrey said...

My gran had all her teeth taken out in her twenties and wore falsers for her entire adult life. Apparently that was normal in those days, for cosmetic reasons. Mental.

Tandleman said...

Indeed.

Tyson said...

Does this mean now that your bark is officially worse than your bite?!