beer in fiction / tv pubs

Pub Nightmares

A giant singed teddy bear in a pub. Why?

When you’ve got a nice office job like us, you have feedback directed at you left, right and centre. But if you run a pub, who is there to give you frank and constructive advice? and other ratings sites offer some feedback from punters but, in most cases, it doesn’t look all that helpful: “the managers no help, he should get a job at pickfords, cos moving the furiture is all he’s good for”.

Gordon Ramsay’s TV series Kitchen Nightmares might look like yet another example of contrived, confrontational reality drama but, underneath all the shouting and would-be tense music, there is an experienced businessman reviewing his peers’ business practices. The changes he suggests are almost always small things and often common sense but they make a big difference and are exactly the kinds of change someone who’s too close to their own business would never dream of.

For example, Ramsay almost always tells restaurant owners to shrink and simplify the menu. Wouldn’t that same advice translate to a lot of pubs, too: you don’t need five boring lagers, just two. Or, that other classic: “Why are you buying fucking crab from Vietnam when your restaurant is on the seaside?” Pubs in London that only sell beer from Yorkshire (unless it’s a Yorkshire theme pub) are missing a trick, surely? Ditto pubs in the West Country whose only ale is London Pride.

Ramsay also redecorates the restaurants he visits. Invariably, they look tons better. The phrase “fresh pair of eyes” springs to mind. Lots of pubs could do with this: “You know what? You should lose the weird skeleton made of lacquered cigarette ends. It’s quite creepy. And that giant singed teddy bear by the fire…?”

So, who is out there to give the people who run pubs the same kind of guidance?

Just to be clear, we’re not volunteering for the job. We like pubs, but we’ve got no idea how you run one. We’re also not asking Channel 4 to make Ramsay’s Pub Nightmares or the BBC to give us Oz, James and Neil Morrissey Bicker with Landlords.

8 replies on “Pub Nightmares”

A great bit of writing and thinking, B & B! Having had some years experience of marketing and consulting, I would suggest that the ‘advice’ game is both simple and complicated. The best businesses are run by people with open minds – and ears and eyes. This means an ability to look critically at one’s self, not to employ sycophants and ‘yes-men’, and always to evaluate the evidence offered by the customer’s practices and attitudes. If you can’t do that for yourself, then all the advice in the world won’t change things around. Ramsay’s skill lies in simply distilling and interpreting what the customer wants – but when he fails to do that, and starts to believe his own story, he too will fail…..and indeed may be doing just that right now!

“…we’re not volunteering for the job…”

Why not? It amazes me that what with the collective smarts of the better and more venerable beer bloggers that we are not looked to as a cheap and cheery resource for any number of things in the trade. Sadly, the only thing appears to be an email address for soon to be deleted and never reposted press releases.

Nice piece.

I suppose any business worth it’s salt carries out market research on a continuing basis and I suppose that there are enterprise agencies and trade bodies that offer help and advise, but perhaps there is a need for an organisation that could carry out ‘pub audits’.

Don’t think I’d want to volunteer for such a job either. It would spoil pub visiting enjoyment for me.

Well Alan, I’ve been told by a senior bod at a middling-sized craft brewery that I and my ølhund ilk represent 0.001% of the beer drinking public. It seems I have very little to tell them about what beer drinkers want since it seems I barely count as one.

Beer Nut — sad isn’t it? Instead of seeing you as the most discerning, intelligent section of their target audience, which they should be benchmarking against, they see you as a statistical anomaly. Are you asking for something really unreasonable, or just, in the words of Tandleman, “for the specials to be special”?

Paul — I wouldn’t mind doing it for a couple of pubs we know and like, and it would be great to tell people what you do (“I’m a pub inspector”) but, yes, it would take the fun out of going to the pub after a while.

Joos said: “This means an ability to look critically at one’s self, not to employ sycophants and ‘yes-men’, and always to evaluate the evidence offered by the customer’s practices and attitudes.”

Spot on, and that’s the bit I think is missing. People employ consultants when they know something is wrong but can’t put their finger on it. In other words, they are open to the idea that there’s room for improvement. Sadly, too many struggling business people — not just landlords or brewers — seem to work on the assumption that they’ve got everything right and that, if people aren’t coming through the door, it’s because they’re too stupid to appreciate what’s on offer.

Alan — don’t get me started on press releases. If they were personalised, or offered something genuinely interesting (like the chance to talk to the brewers by email, or information about which pubs are stocking their seasonal specials) then these PRs would be on to something. As it is, it’s usually the same media pack they’ve sent the newspapers (we’re not a newspaper) with big glossy lifestyle photos (we don’t really rely on photo content) touting a boring new beer (we’re not very interested in boring beers).

Yeah, that wasn’t so good. He does a lot more pretend vomiting on the American version — sound effects and everything. A bit pathetic.

We are establishing good relations with pubs and breweries here in Norway – even with the dreaded governmental Wine Monopoly. We are not paid serious money, but we are taken seriously. We are asked which beers to order from small scale producsers. We are invited to sample test brews and comment on new ideas. And it seems other consumers are catching on, there is a market for good beer bars in all the major towns of the land.
The contrast is big when you look at Carlsberg and the other makros, who are weeping as the markets for their dreary lager are disappearing…

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