Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Good Innkeeping

Goodness knows I'm no expert in running pubs. My knowledge of the on-licence trade was garnered in a few evenings running the college bar, and the main requirement for that was still being able to remember where you lived by around 11.30. And it's a dreadful hard life these days. People think they can build their own pub substitutes around watching "8 Out of 10 Cats" while drinking Tesco Bitter. But it strikes me, as a punter in these places, that there are a few simple rules that will help.

So an innkeeper must be able to offer a listening ear, but strong enough to deal with trouble-makers.

Unless times are so hard that the innkeeper needs to do absolutely everything, the innkeeper will employ the right people to work behind the bar, wait tables or cook. The innkeeper is rarely the best DJ or quiz-setter, but needs to know where to find them.

All the publicity in the world won't help if the welcome is poor and the ale is off.

The good innkeeper knows that beer is, in its essence, good. The good innkeeper ensures it reaches its customers in the condition it is meant to be in - doesn't mess around with it.

The good innkeeper won't shirk from cleaning the loos - indeed will often have to.

Some people only come into a pub once or twice a year, often at Christmas. If they're treated like regulars, and not like amateurs who don't know what they're doing, they might come back during the year.

Although, clearly, the main job of a pub is to sell good ale - the good innkeeper will still have consideration and care for the lager drinkers, the wine-lovers, and the smokers. Especially as the smokers are often the ones who really want a good beer.

The innkeeper needs to ensure a good rest now and then. Even if it means not opening on Mondays.

The good innkeeper will rely on the support of the brewery or pub chain when it's useful. And hope they keep their noses out when it's not.

Though the innkeeper has influence over the decor, the atmosphere and the quality of the drink, it's the locals that actually make the place a local.

The good innkeeper will be aware that building a successful business can take many years of slow progress. But a bad innkeeper can lose all the customers in a fortnight.

The good inkeeper knows that it's good to keep the decor fresh, and a very good refurb now and then is a good thing. But replacing all the furniture and completely changing the theme every two years is silly.

The good innkeeper will know that the pub is part of a community, and quite often helps define it - whether it's a town-centre hellhole or a quaint 17th century village local. People are often  glad to know there's a pub, even if they never go in it.

The locals will still be there long after the innkeeper has retired or gone to work for Wetherspoons.  Whether the local is, is to a large degree down to the innkeeper.


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  2. When I was a student in Oxford (LMH 1976-79) a Local Preacher (also a lecturer at Luton Industrial College, gave a talk to the John Wesley Society in which he compared church with a pub. He was, as I remember, rather scathing of the welcome that newcomers could expect in church compared with that at his local, which also had more comfy seating and better central heating.


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