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?
Beerintheevening.com 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.