Give Your Pub a Makeover

Victorian beer engines.

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 pubyou 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.

18 thoughts on “Give Your Pub a Makeover”

  1. Does the Roy­al Oak have net cur­tains? If so, I can’t say it’s an essen­tial part of the appeal.

  2. Anoth­er one is, if you serve food and are in a loca­tion where there are poten­tial cus­tomers walk­ing past the door, to dis­play your menu out­side the door. It’s no good just say­ing “wide selec­tion of fresh­ly-pre­pared food”.

    We don’t tend to get net cur­tains up here too much, but per­son­al­ly I pre­fer frost­ed glass to clear win­dows, for urban pubs at least. Some­times you feel like you’re sit­ting in a gold­fish bowl with peo­ple gaw­ping in from the street.

    Too many black­boards give the impres­sion of hav­ing been writ­ten by some­one who’s been on a black­board-writ­ing course, and it’s a bad sign if they don’t change for weeks on end.

    1. Net cur­tains NO; frost­ed win­dows (espe­cial­ly vin­tage etched ones), YES!
      I don’t like drink­ing in a gold­fish bowl either.

  3. Num­ber 9. Coat hooks. I agree 100%. Absolute­ly the cheap­est and best-val­ue upgrade a pub can have. Put them all along the front of the bar, under every table, and on any avail­able ver­ti­cal flat sur­face.

    After spend­ing much time in Czech pubs, I am utter­ly gob­s­macked back here in the UK that there’s so often nowhere to hang a coat/handbag, for the sake of a 50p coat hook, and my girl­friend just loves find­ing that her bag was sit­ting in a lake of beer (see beer mats!) because she couldn’t hang it under the table.

    1. Ah, yes, I think we might have seen you Tweet­ing about this and agreed strong­ly. Part of the prob­lem here, of course, is the fear that someone’s hor­ri­ble anorak will get stolen and they’ll sue the pub.

    1. We had sticky tables in our first draft, as it hap­pens. Decid­ed that real­ly was a bit obvi­ous, though it is a prob­lem in lots of pubs.

      1. The only actu­al thing I can thing of to dis­agree with the post is that I wouldn’t say “do what you can with the bogs” I’d say “actu­al­ly make sure they are are nice even if it costs mon­ey” because that I think is a big dif­fer­ence between a nice booz­er and a dump. If I wouldn’t stop for a shit, I wouldn’t stop for any­thing else.

        Clean­li­ness in gen­er­al is more impor­tant than decor for me. I real­ly don’t want to drink or eat some­where dirty.

        You are right that it obvi­ous, but a pity that it so often doesn’t appear that way.

        1. Point of fact.
          Hav­ing cleaned up in my pub every night for three years I can hon­est­ly say the women’s bogs were just as bad as the gents.
          Okay, some of the bints were dog rough but they spent big mon­ey on long necks and alcopops so I had to for­give them.
          I’m rather sur­prised you don’t men­tion pubs with TV’s per­ma­nent­ly on Sky News and/or The Rac­ing Chan­nel.

  4. TV’s per­ma­nent­ly on Sky News and/or The Rac­ing Chan­nel.” That is anoth­er good one. How about deaf­en­ing music that only the bar staff seem inter­est­ed in?

    1. I was once dri­ven out of a pub in Stock­port – the Armoury, for those who know it – by the music, which was pret­ty much Father Fin­ton Stack’s kind of thing. None of the pun­ters looked keen (I was one of the younger peo­ple there) and the bar staff were obvi­ous­ly try­ing to ignore it as well. Very odd.

    2. Deaf­en­ing music that only the bar staff seem inter­est­ed in,” All too com­mon in many pubs, and sad­ly it’s more often the female bar staff that are at a fault here.

  5. I quite like pubs with Eas­t­en­ders on qui­et­ly in the back­ground. That’s a prop­er com­mu­ni­ty pub in its own way.

    My favourite is when a group are qui­et­ly watch­ing the crick­et world cup or some­thing and the man­ag­er insists on chang­ing it to span­ish foot­ball or some oth­er such drea­ry non­sense despite the fact that no-one in the entire pub is inter­est­ed..

  6. I like it when a pub has a rack of news­pa­pers to read. Some­times a well placed selec­tion of news­pa­pers can help turn a ‘just pass­ing-through’ pint into a lazy after­noon ses­sion.

Comments are closed.