Thursday, 28 April 2011

Double Bubble


For those Wetherspoon haters out there - you know who you are - there is both bad news and very bad news. The bad news is that JDW has just opened its 800th pub and the very bad news? Tim Martin, the founder, aims to keep going until he has 1600 of them.

This was revealed last week, but in an excellent interview in the London Standard he talks about it in some detail and includes the following scathing words about the PubCos "Two extraordinary groups of fools conspired to make them possible. The brewers to give them the pubs in the first place and the banks to lend them the money." Exactly so and he could have gone on to say that the error was repeated and compounded, until a largely debt free pub trade became so debt laden that the present state of affairs occurs. When people bang on about prices and smoking bans, look to the PubCo model to see where things were made far worse, to the point of unsurvivability for many.

A word of caution emerges too.  JDW is a good employer, preferring to build growth and pay and treat staff remarkably well compared to much of the industry. The City and asset strippers don't like that and would possibly like the more short term strategy.  As the article says: "For a long time, the City couldn't get 'Spoons at all. Its way of doing things - invest for the long term, treat people well - is anathema to the Square Mile's whole way of being.Analysts still can't understand why Martin doesn't just cut staff benefits and shove up prices to take profits higher in the short term."

So back to the Wetherspoon haters. Be glad that Timbo is in charge or we'd have an entirely less diverse JDW on our High Streets and a lot less quality real ale available.  Be thankful for the choice that JDW offers and hang on to nurse at all costs. There is plenty worse out there slavering in the wings.

Tim, at least, is a Beer Man. And that counts. A lot.

14 comments:

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

well I thought the Mauldon’s Blackcurrant Porter and the Freeminders Deep Shaft Stout I had last night in Taunton’s Spoons was wonderful, the steak and kidney pudding confounded my expectations as well — I think it’s a case of you win some you lose some with them.

Curmudgeon said...

It is generally recognised in management theory that amongst the factors leading to business success are taking a long-term perspective, gaining the trust of customers and staff engagement, and that short-term profit maximisation is likely to militate against this. It isn't difficult to visualise Spoons' prospects being wrecked by short-termism – if they lost the reputation of being somewhere you were likely to get a good choice of cask ales they would lose a huge amount of goodwill.

I've said before that personally Spoons don't tend to float my boat in terms of what I regard as congenial places to drink, but there's no denying that they are a conspicuously well-run and customer-focused company in a sector where that is rare.

Jeff Pickthall said...

I like Tim Martin more than I like his pubs.

RedNev said...

Whether you like Wetherspoons or not, they haven't followed the standard PubCo 'model' of basing a business on as much debt you can get away with. The results (and prices) speak for themselves. In PubCo pubs - if you think about it - as well as paying excess beer tax on every pint, we are paying to service massive PubCo debts.

And to think some beer bloggers think we should pay more for our beer!

Birkonian said...

I don't object to Wetherspoons per se. I'm aware that some have an excellent range of cask beers and that the beer and food is fantastic value.
However they have faults. Their pubs in Wirral are and always have been pretty poor. The continual rotation of managers doesn't help. I don't like being told that I know nothing about beer as has happened and the pubs are usually understaffed. I've walked out of more than one of them after waiting in vain for service. It's also very irritating to find the range contract later in the evening because they don't want to put a new cask on. I'm not involved with my local CAMRA branch anymore but I fully suppport their actions in fending off a local Wetherspoons which is trying to ride roughshod over democratic selection procedures to gain a place in the GBG.
Of course they do contribute to pub closures. Many simply can't compete with their economies of scale.

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

I've actively asked for a Wetherspoon's in Morley and a year on still waiting. I hear the council aren't too pleased. Would they rather a dilapidated cinema/restaurant/multi-use-leisure-destination continues to erode on a major thoroughfare?

Tim Martin wants to save that building as much as I do.

Matt said...

I rate Wetherspoons more than I used to: the beer quality has improved massively since the early days, the food has always been pretty good and in the absence of other pubs selling cask beer they're a welcome and reliable standby. But to be honest, can anyone think of one that has any atmosphere? The ones around Manchester are all soulless barns filled by geriatic alcoholics.

Curmudgeon said...

"can anyone think of one that has any atmosphere?"

That's the problem - although on paper they tick plenty of boxes, in practice Spoons outlets never to my mind feel like proper pubs. In fact I believe that is a deliberate policy adopted by the company.

Erlangernick said...

IMO we need a new term to describe places like most Spoonses I've been in, since they're simply different to what a pub usually is.

Graham said...

The success of Spoons is analogous to supermarkets. They can undercut competitors with their purchase power. They try to cater for as many market sectors as possible (opening early, wi-fi, marketing teas/coffees, serving decent all day food). And let's face it the fact that they are not "traditional pubs" is an attraction to many people who want the convenience and safety of a reliable brand name, particularly if they are in an unfamiliar town. And like supermarkets, you want to hate them and their soulless warehouses, but can't help but accept they often offer the best choice, the cheapest prices and the greatest consistency. The continued growth of Spoons' market share seems inevitable at the moment and as long as they continue to improve the quality and diversity of ale offerings, they should be supported. Most JDW's promote real ale to a wide audience and offer the widest choice of beers in many towns. That said, despite my CAMRA vouchers I would still prefer to drink elsewhere. But then I also avoid Tesco's and read beer blogs.

geordiemanc said...

"The success of Spoons is analogous to supermarkets. They can undercut competitors with their purchase power. "


You say that, but JDW have 800 managed pubs. Punch have 900 managed houses & 5500 tenanted ones - yet JDW are accussed of using their puchasing power to undercut the "traditional" pubs - most of which are owned by Punch & Enterprise.

A few years ago JDW had 400 while punch had 9000 and still Punch couldn't use that "purchasing power" to compete with JDW.

Tandleman said...

That comes under the banner of an inconvenient truth as does the fact that Timbo started 20 odd years ago with just one pub.

Graham said...

Certainly Spoons business model of attracting the widest range of customers while still retaining the essential elements of a drinking venue is successful. And they are less debt-ridden then most pubcos. This, their passion and their efficient organisation allows them source and sell beer cheaply. In this sense they are the pub for modern times.

Anonymous said...

APPARNtly ther is guna b one in morley where going places was and bingo hall above it