When we’re sitting in a pub, we spend quite a lot of time talking about what what works, and what could be improved. We know, however, that many publicans have little cash at hand and that their options are often limited by the terms of their lease. Nonetheless, we think there a few things that more pubs could be doing which are free, or at least very cheap.
1. Ditch the net curtains — we want to see into a pub before we enter it. Unless there really is something illicit going on, they block the light and our view, and gather dust.
2. Tear down tatty posters — whether they’re your own or put up on behalf of local community groups or clubs, posters quickly curl, rip and fade. Take down old ones regularly, even if they are confined to a noticeboard. (2b — political posters of any description will probably alienate 50 per cent of your potential customers.)
3. Sweep up outside — crisp packets, pasty wrappers, leaves and fag ends on the pavement outside and in the doorway give an impression of abandonment and decay.
4. Smile and say hello as a matter of policy — other than great beer, the thing that makes us feel warmest towards a pub is a friendly greeting from the person behind the bar when we walk through the door.
5. Identify a ‘unique selling point’ — which pub doesn’t offer a ‘friendly welcome, real ale, good food’? You can’t rely on those to help potential customers decide between your pub and the nearby King’s Legs. So, be specific: name the real ale you are selling; mention that your famously wonderful chicken and leek pie is made to your grandmother’s recipe; big up your collection of comics, vintage photographs of the town, sports memorabilia or board games.
6. Control the crowd — you can’t make your regulars smile at people, but be prepared to have a quiet word if they’re downright rude. Regulars are already regulars; newcomers are potential regulars, and need looking after.
7. Get a fresh pair of, er, nostrils — we have been in some very smelly pubs that would benefit from a shake’n’vac, but you’re in the pub all the time and might be immune to its ‘perfume’. Get someone you trust to check the place out and let you know if it needs airing and/or a squirt of deodorant.
8. Get online — Twitter and Facebook are great ways to promote not only your latest offers but also your ‘brand’. If you’re resilient enough to take it, online is also a good place to find frank feedback from bloggers, Tweeters and reviewers, perhaps highlighting easy-to-fix problems you didn’t know your pub had. (See nostrils, above.)
9. Details make a difference — we notice little things like beer mats and coat hooks. They don’t cost much, but they’re extremely convenient.
10. No such thing as too much product information — some pubs have small glasses of each beer in front of the pump so you can see what colour it is before your order. Others have ‘point of sale’ material from the brewery at hand so you can read about the beer. Chalkboards, inside and outside the pub, are great ways of explaining and selling what’s on offer. Having said that…
11. Tidy signage, tidy pub — you don’t have to design your own font, but take a little time to make sure your chalkboards are neat, consistent and fresh-looking. At the same time…
12. Avoid corporate — unless a pubco or brewery insists otherwise, try to minimise the amount of branded or off-the-shelf bumph on display. Menus printed at home on A4 usually look ten times better than wipe-clean, glossy ones, covered in stock photography.
13. Do what you can with the bogs — you might not have the cash to completely renovate and, yes, customers, especially blokes, can behave like animals, but, as a bare minimum, have soap and water.
If your reaction to this is a bitterly sarcastic ‘Aw yeah, I hadn’t fought of dat!’, then we might well quite like your pub.