Monthly Archives: December 2009

Is the good ship EI Titanic about to hit another Ice Berg???

IMG_1743Dear old EI have really got the Christmas Spirit, levying a charge of £100.00 + Vat per month on all poor lessees who are on cash with order.

How many fall within that category 4,000, 5,000, I am sure it is not in the hundreds, these are the most vulnerable of any Pub Co’s estate.

Possibly legally they may be able to levy a charge, if it specifically states that the only method of payment is by DD.

As my learned colleague David Morgan form CookseysDMP says, BT won a court case for payments to be made by DD and that a reasonable charge could be made for the inconvenience, it was £4 and has supposedly risen to £10.

The option with BT is that you can quicly kick them into touch and find another source, with EI there is no other option, this I find obscene and an abuse of power.

The BBPA promised Peter Luff that they would put their Pub Co house in order within a year, with this sort of abuse how can they realistically expect to be taken even vaguely seriously as an instrument of influence when one of their biggest benefactors acts like this.

The effect on a vast number of struggling lessees will be catastrophic, is it a subtle or not so subtle ploy to get their grubby mits on the hapless tenants deposits and relet the properties at a £1 per week, which appears to be the going rate as long as the new tenants have enough to buy the F&F, SAV, a bank account that will accommodate a DD and the Deposit.

This whole scenario is getting worse in stead of better, it sounds like a Christmas Wind Up if it wasn’t confirmed.

Is Bridget Jones of Diary fame going to bend Ebenezer T’s ear to think again?

It is Christmas after all.

Sadly I think the whole of the BBPA may have gone for an extended Christmas Lunch.

When you get back try and talk some sense into EI.

I trust that common sense will prevail, but I fear as always the only real alternative is cast iron legislation.

Pub Co’s have a year to change????

DSC00643The rhetoric is there but not the actions.

I have just viewed two pubs where the lessees are under pressure yet again, both Pub Co’s demanding rent increases of twenty and thirty three and a third percents yet again, do these companies not read the press, do they not realise that the writing is on the wall in very large letters.

In the latter case the BDM is allegedly intimidating the tenants, having thoroughly inspected the premises, the business has fallen substantially through local business closures and local large amenity closures through the recession.

The nearest pub is on a £1 per week rent and that is surrounded by some chimney pots and struggling, in a small neighbouring village.

The pub is neglected and has been for years, the site is large and would be far better converted to housing apart from 21 years remaining of a 30 year lease with a limited tie.

It would be a destination pub in buoyant times, but the particular area is going to struggle for at least five years economically in my opinion.

The rent is already 26% of the existing turnover and totally non viable, the BDM has demanded that the pub should be converted to fine dining, there is no market and the kitchen has limited access to the eating area and is 11ftx7ft with the kitchen equipment inside and space for one person to work.

The tenants have no experience of fine dining, if a Pub Co wants to change the nature of a pub they should instigate free Gourmet Cooking Courses and guidance and research the areas as to the suitability of drastic changes to the business, they knew when they accepted them as tenants that they had only done a one day course.

It reminds me of a story ten years ago in a Marstons managed house.

The Manager was a good operator running a very popular community pub in Bracknell.

He had a new Area Manager appear, looked round and went away, some months later he returned with a hand full of papers.

After looking at various sheetshe told the Manager that he was not making his quota on food, he was doing over £10K  a week on booze, what was he going to do about it, which he replied “Nothing”.

The Area Manager shuffled his papers and twiddled with his calculator and demanded “Why not?”

The wise old Manager looked at him and shook his head and said “I don’t have a kitchen.”

Surely these Pub Co’s should get BDM’s, Area Managers etc that understand the business, that can help people.

A Ghostly Pub Tale for Christmas.

Christmas Tahoe Viv 04 084“A Pub Co Christmas Carol”

It was 11.30 pm Christmas Eve 2009, a foul night, freezing with sleet and snow,  gale force winds roaring across the West Country.

The M5 was blocked and a few diversions were in place, the North Coast Road was the only one open to Cornwall and that was blocked on Countisbury Hill.

Two cars were pushing along, one following the other and the one in front kept going because the other was behind.

The diversion from the M5 had taken them through Minehead from Taunton, not an easy drive, Porlock Hill was just manageable with loads of salt and grit.

Just before Culbone Stables another diversion to the left, down into the Doone Valley where there was very little snow and some icy roads, by- passing Countisbury Hill.

The two cars picked their way carefully down the narrow lane, one a dark grey Aston Martin and the other a silver Mercedes.

It had taken ten hours to get this far from the Midlands, both drivers hoping to get to Cornwall for Christmas.

Both cars were slipping on patchy ice along the lanes, their speeds far slower than the speeds that they were built for, stupid driving was not on the agenda. They passed through a hamlet and up an incline beside the East Lyn River, which was in full flood and not a place to skid into on a dark night.

The incline flattened and then descended down, both cars slowed to a crawl and inched down the hill to a pub with a car park beside the river.

The road immediately started to rise on the other side of the pub and they realised that neither would be going anywhere with the ice on the road and gently reversed into the pub car park overlooking the river.

The lights were on and it looked like a haven in the wilderness with a big fire flickering through the windows.

There were no cars in either car park.

Both drivers climbed out of their cars with hats pulled down and collars up and dashed for the pub door, they stepped in and shut the door quickly.

A large jovial man dressed as Father Christmas, behind the bar chortled “Happy Christmas”, both drivers grunted about how foul the weather was and made a beeline for the seats on either side of the fire, removing their coats as they sat down.

The bar was decorated with holly and festive decorations, carols were playing quietly in the background, the subtleties of Christmas celebration were wasted on the two exhausted drivers.

The jovial Father Christmas brought over two large glasses of mulled wine and several mince pies and said that they were on the house, since all his usual customers were long gone.

The two drivers looked at each other and one said “You’re Ebenezer Tuppense from Titanic Inns”, the other said “You’re Silas Morley fron Judy Taverns, we haven’t talked since that disaster at the Select Committee.”

Ebenezer said “I think we will drink the mulled wine and forget that episode”.

They both drank the warming wine and lapsed into a near totally relaxed state, in fact any movement was an effort.

Both men felt a gentle squeeze on their shoulders and came to.

The large jovial Father Christmas said to them “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past, come and join me.”

The door opened, the wind had stopped blowing and all three stepped outside.

They were both bemused but in a fuddled state and the jovial giant picked them up and they all three zoomed upwards and Eastwards.

Neither felt cold or terrified as they sped back across Exmoor, Taunton with the lights flickering, the M5 snaking Northwards covered in snow with lines of stationary cars with twinkling lights.

Swinging West along the A303, over Andover, Basingstoke, the River Thames was shimmering in the moonlight meandering through the white countryside.

They finally floated down on to the car park of a pub in a small village called Laleham on Thames.

The pub was called “The Ash Tree”, it didn’t look inspiring, there were some very old cars parked outside, all covered in snow and not a place that either would frequent.

All three walked into the pub, nobody even noticed them, the pub was packed, everyone was singing carols and having a fabulous time, the staff were all working like mad, the landlord Frank was everywhere, the two had never seen a pub as busy as this for years.

The Ghost of Christmas Past eased them out of the door for a short walk towards the centre of the village and the “Saracens Head”, this was a much smaller pub, but again, this was packed with people enjoying themselves and celebrating Christmas Eve, they were all local people, the same as those in “The Ash Tree”.

The Ghost eased them once again out of the door, they appeared to be invisible, nobody noticed.

They walked round the corner by the village church and a hundred yards further on was the “Five Horse Shoes”, there were some wonderful old sports cars parked outside, again covered in snow.

They walked in, again the pub was packed with young people and a few older ones all enjoying themselves celebrating Christmas, it was a beautiful pub with genuine beams, polished brass and a big fire.

Stanley the licensee was dispensing hospitality to everyone.

The two looked at each other, their thoughts were the same what incredible businesses.

The Ghost once again eased them out of the door again and said that they must get back because time was limited, they flew West to Exmoor and back to their seats in front of the pub fire.

They both immediately started to doze, the door flew open and a lady in a long white cloak with fur trimming came in clutching a book, in fact she looked just like Bridget Jones with her Diary from the Beer and Pub Association.

She looked at our two weary travellers and said, “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, come and join me.”

She took them both up and over Exmoor, in exactly the same way as the Ghost of Christmas Past, finally landing in “The Ash Tree” car park, there was one car in the car park and a fairly old one at that.

All three walked into the pub it was looking tired, there were three customers and a manager from the Management Company running the place.

They were discussing how many people had failed in the pub, because the rent was too high, the discounts were non existent and people couldn’t make a fair living.

All three moved out very quickly the whole thing was totally depressing, the “Saracens Head” further down the road towards the village centre was boarded up, with a tired business agents sign hanging off the wall saying business opportunity, and looked as though it had been there for a long time.

Once again they walked round the church and could see the illuminated sign of the “Five Horse Shoes”.

Three cars were in the car park, the door opened and a scruffily dressed man walked past them.

They entered the bar that had been so vibrant and fun, the air was subdued, piped pop music was blaring out with about six customers and a tired barman.

The conversation once again was about greedy landlords or Pub Co’s, the difference was the same, nothing had been invested in the pub, a succession of inexperienced people who had all failed miserably because the landlords draconian demands had been too much for any to survive.

All the time the Ghost of Christmas Present was scribbling in her Diary, she finally took them outside much to their relief and transported them back to the West and the comfortable chair by the fire side in the Exmoor pub.

They sank into the chairs almost exhausted, she gently opened the door and departed.

It seemed no time at all when the pub door opened a large man in Prison Warders Garb came in, he looked familiar and could easily have been mistaken for the Chairman of the Select Committee who both our weary travellers had managed to incur some scathing comments from.

He approached our two very weary travellers and said, “I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, please come and join me”.

They both pleaded that they had driven miles and been transported miles and their systems had reached breaking point and they had no desire to see the final ignominy of what had been three brilliant pubs.

He said, “You won’t, you are going into the future in another direction and have no option.”

They staggered to their feet and walked outside the Ghost whisked them upwards and Westwards, across Barnstaple, Okehampton.

Tavistock was away to the right, they were crossing the centre of Dartmoor, the prison loomed up, with Princetown beside it.

They floated down through the prison wall on to a walkway with rows of old cells in front of them.

Two grey haired and bearded figures were peering out of the cell, the doors were open, they looked familiar, their hands were gnarled and callused, they appeared to stoop with premature old age.

The terrible premonition that these two sub normal beings might be them, sent shivers down both their spines, the Ghost looked at them both and nodded having read their minds.

Their legs and hands were shackled, they shuffled out of the cell and joined a queue of other convicts, who were then chained into gangs.

All the gangs moved through the security gates and doors eventually getting on a flat top behind an engine on the narrow gauge rail track heading for the Prison Quarry.

Having arrived at the quarry the tools were handed out and they all started breaking rocks in their respective gangs.

Only one did not and he drove the engine, they realised that it was Sid Mayell the Chief Rent Negotiator for Titanic Inns, he always loved trains.

They both looked at the ghost dressed in his Prison Warders outfit and mentally asked the same question, “What happened?”

“It’s a long story, the Select Committee were furious that nothing was done and got the new Government to bring in legislation to outlaw increasing rents and over valuing the freehold without considering true business viability and declared it a Ponzi Scheme, since so many people had lost billions of pounds buying leases that were not viable. Every Pub Owning company that followed that method, at least one director, accountant or valuer whose idea to follow suit was held liable. The Government directed that all people with a justifiable claim against the company even retrospectively could do so, this caused the total collapse of the majority of large Pub Co’s, the directors were held personally liable because it was deemed a criminal act, consequently you both lost everything and were sentenced to fifty years hard labour without reprieve.”

They both said, “What happened to our families?”

“They are living in high rise Council Flats in the Midlands on Social Security with many other prisoners families.”

Silas said, “What happened to my house in the Caribbean?”

“That got flattened in a hurricane and your insurance had not been paid.”

The Ghost said, “ Have a look at some of your fellow convicts and the guards”

Again the terrible realization that there were loads of corporate Pub Co Directors breaking rocks and the guards were all ex licensees, they actually made more money as guards than running pubs.

They were both in total shock, much to their relief the Ghost whisked them away from that awful scene and dropped them back in their chairs in front of the fire on Exmoor.

They were woken by the jovial Father Christmas saying the gritter had been through, the weather had warmed up and they could continue their journey.

They both looked at each other and said that they had had the most dreadful dreams and realised that they were both exactly the same, both were in a state of shock.

They put their coats on and walked out of the door thanking the licensee for his generosity and walked to the railings around the car park over looking the river.

They both said, “Were we really that bad?” and sadly they agreed, “What can we do to make amends?”

“We can do an awful lot if we really try, we need some people that really understand the industry and licensees, we also need to listen to licensees.”

“Let’s see if we can put the clock back, I would prefer to have pubs like those in the past and make honest money for everyone. My shareholders wouldn’t have blocked all our perks if we’d focussed on profitablity in stead of false property values, hindsight and a prod from the unexplainable might just get our integrity back, if it’s not too late.”

The lights had been turned out on the pub and it was very dark as they climbed into their cars.

They started their engines and the lights came on, showing a boarded up pub with a sagging sign with a faded Titanic Inns Freehouse sign and a sagging banner acquired by Judy Taverns, closed until further notice.

They both felt a cold shiver run through their bodies as though someone had just walked over their graves.

It must have happened they still had the after taste of the mulled wine in their mouths.

Looking at the dashboard clocks in their cars it said 11.30 pm????

———–o———–

 

Please email this to anyone that may appreciate the story and every BDM and Pub Co Director that might benefit, it would be nice if it happened but I think it unlikely and a very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

Submitted by B.Jones, extracts from her Diary

Rent and Rating Tips

Morgan  Clarke Logos copy

Rent and Rating Tips

I have just had a lengthy meeting with a lessee who wants to take his rent review to the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS) which came into force in October 09. It is well worth referring to this article for guidance if you are considering taking your review to PIRRS.

The basis of licensed property rent review is the profits test.

There are a few exceptions, generally concerning High Street restaurants where the rental is often assessed on a square footage basis.   This is as a result of the opportunity to turn standard High Street restaurants into shops and vice versa.   This situation does not readily exist with pubs.

This section of the website deals with the technical issues involved in the compilation of a profits test valuation and practical solutions as to how you can best navigate through the full detail to your best advantage.   The first thing to understand is that you will NEVER be given the information that you need in respect of background from either your Pubco or brewery representative who is sitting opposite you negotiating one of the most essential overheads that you will ever encounter, i.e. the rent. MORE

 

 

 

Steak, Guinness and Mushroom Pie.

IMG_0965Steak, Guinness and Mushroom Pie.

 

A very traditional commercial dish for the Winter with some lucrative variations.

Guinness goes well with the name, but any good stout is totally acceptable and you obviously can’t use the Guinness name if you are using Murphy’s.

Using a Pressure Cooker or a large Oven Cooking Pan with a lid.

Take one large onion, one large carrot and a good stick of celery, chop them into small pieces and fry them in the bottom half of the pressure cooker or cooking pan until soft.

Add 5 lbs of stewing steak and seal by gently turning over in the heated pan.

Add a generous pinch of mixed herbs, 1 bay leaf, a large spoon of tomato puree.

Add half a pint of Guinness or another stout.

Add I desert spoon of vinegar and a quarter of a pint of water.

Add a tea spoon of ground pepper or a good twist from a pepper mill and a touch of salt to flavour.

Stir well and put the lids on.

A very useful general additive used by the Swiss in my catering days is Knorr Arromat, we still use it as an excellent flavour enhancer.

Using the Pressure Cooker, bring to pressure for 20 minutes, release pressure and add quarter of a pound of chopped mushrooms, not finely chopped, otherwise they vanish and simmer for 15 minutes and thicken to suit with cornflour.

Using an Oven Cooking Pan, pre heated to Gas Mark 2, 300 F, (150 C), place in oven for two and a half hours allowing the stout to turn into a delicious sauce.

Remove the pan from the oven, add the mushrooms and simmer for 15 minutes and thicken.

Commercially we would allow this to cool and keep in a fridge until needed.

There are several ways of serving, you can place the mix in a shallow roasting tray and put a puff pastry or short crust pastry on the top, brushed with egg and cook in the oven at a high temperature until the pastry is golden brown and serve in portions.

My preferences, which are more flexible

  1. Pre cook a number of oval puff pastry lids, brushed with egg or milk and ensure that they are well risen and leave to cool. When needed put a portion Steak, Guinness Pie mix in a microwave until up to serving temperature, partially slice horizontally through a puff pastry lid and place in a hot oven for four minutes. Remove and place on a plate, ease the top of the pastry lid up without detaching it from the bottom half and spoon the hot Steak and Guinnes mix into the middle of the pastry, easing the lid down to the mix, make a small incision with a knife in the centre of the lid and insert a sprig of parsley for decoration.
  2. Take an small oval bowl the same size as the puff patry lids, fill with Steak and Guinness mix, place in a microwave for two minutes, remove and place a puff pastry or short crust pastry lid on the bowl, suitably painted with egg or milk and place in a very hot oven for eight minutes. In ten minutes you have a tailor made pie, the only drawback compared with the first method is cleaning the bowls, they have baked pastry stuck to them and it can slow the washing up process down on busy nights.
  3. There are two lucrative variations to this last method, having cooked your Steak Guinness and Mushroom Pie mix. If you get a packet of frozen mussel meat, add 6 mussels to your mix before it goes into the microwave and then place in the oven and you have Steak and Mussel Pie. The other variation is to buy a tin of smoked oysters and put two and no more than three oysters in the mix and you have Steak and Oyster Pie. I used to charge £6.95 for Steak and Guinness, £8.95 for Steak and Mussel and £10.95 for Steak and Oyster.
  4. If you want to use the slit lid method I would suggest that the mix after leaving the microwave is placed in a hot oven for five minutes for meats and juices to infuse.

Fair Maintainable Trade

DSC00643Fair Maintainable Trade.

I was asked this week to view a pub and assess the Fair Maintainable Trade for a possible Rent Review.

I have banged the drum constantly that the business is finite and not infinite and that creating new business under normal circumstances is very difficult, taking business from another pub is creating new business for the developing pub, but actually getting new business from people who do not normally use a pub is almost impossible, certainly on a regular basis and even more so at this present time.

In a recession such as we have now, which the effects will run for years because of the pay back time, any serious growth to the overall industry will be a miracle.

We know that many pubs, especially community pubs business has dropped by as much as 30% with the added burden of the smoking ban added to the recession.

The closure of many pubs, through over renting across the board is disillusioning regular customers and making it easier and cheaper for them to drink at home and visit a local if they still have one, possibly once or twice a week.

The closure does push a certain amount of additional business to the surviving pubs, the only growth for the foreseeable future is negative growth or limiting your loss of business to the least amount.

Which all sounds incredibly negative and critics will say I should be talking the business up and I agree.

The point of these comments is that across the board we have surveyors, BDM’s, Pub Co’s assessing the Fair Maintainable Trade on highly questionable and speculative figures that bear no relation to the existing turnover way in excess of a pubs ability to do that level of  business.

These people using the highly flawed Comparables system, where rents are cherry picked frequently over rented and the whole industries rents are ratcheted up at every review.

To the surveyor or whatever acting for the Pub Co his job is to get the highest rent possible, he walks away and thinks that he has increased the rent by 16% for example, he does not consider the overall effect of his actions, the predicted beer consumption for that particular pub is probably 240 barrels, in reality it is 105 barrels.

The same can apply to food and other commodities, if this is applied collectively across the industry we have an estimated over capacity of anything up to 100%, calculated by people that never think outside their one pub project and have never run pubs.

We have in reality a vast over valuation of rents, which we are well aware of , this has had a serious knock on to rateable values since the same method is used for rating valuation and we have vast over rating across the board as a consequence.

The frightening thing is looking at the overall picture, the brewing capacity taking the worst case scenario, would possibly have to double along with the food supply and the overall business is not there, it is a valuers fiction.

The sad thing about all this is that every company has been infected with this policy, the thinking brewers might like to check the FMT calculations for all their pubs, link it to the brewing capacity and actual beer produced and sold to those pubs, they may be nearer the mark, but the major Pub Co’s I am sure are way adrift.

I stand to be corrected, but certain industry professionals feel the same way, the total of FMT’s calculated bear no relation to the products supplied, this issue needs to be addressed in depth, the exposure of the real facts will not be appreciated by many companies but I feel it is essential for the industry to move forward.

Barfly

Brulines the on going Saga

I have a modicum of sympathy for Brulines as a Company and these are purely my thoughts and views.

They have a system which was designed as a monitoring service, re my previous comments.

To be an accurate system it would appear to need to be operated within very strict parameters, which is a near impossibility in the licensed industry because of the inherrent problems with the product being monitored, the people using it and a host of other issues that can affect the result.

It is patently obvious that the system cannot in it’s present form differentiate between beer, water and gas, two have a very similar densities, one does not and could set the flow meter recording at a vastly different rate to the other two.

Giles Thorley told the Select Committee that the system could differentiate between the liquids etc and then wrote to the Chairman that it did not do this, this was confirmed at last Tuesdays Committee .

This is Corporate irresponsibility, that Punch have proceeded to use Brulines data to instigate any sort of action against tenants when they were well aware that the system would not stand up to serious scrutiny, which may cause serious legal questions to be asked for any tenant who has been fined or whatever penalties may have been imposed.

The same may well apply to any other Company using Brulines, where Brulines data has been the sole basis for enforcing penalties and threats of breaching the lease agreement and forfeiture of the lease.

If my thoughts are correct and my solicitor colleague is looking into it, any fine imposed by a Company in respect of Brulines data may well be in very serious question.

I would suggest that a number of Companies look through their files at how flimsy the Brulines information was, with hindsight and make some very rapid financial apologies, I am sure that a number of solicitors will be looking at this.

You may wonder why I have a modicum of sympathy for Brulines, they set up a system that has been hijacked by a number of companies as a means of raising revenue and in reality intimidating the tenants that had no knowledge of how suspect the Brulines system is, when not run within very tight parameters, with my extensive experience of cellar management a near impossiblity, which leaves it wide open to misuse by unscrupulous companies or companies management that have no understanding how fallible the system could be when even vaguely used outside the operating parameters.

It may however, have been very beneficial for these Companies to have ignored Brulines fallability untilIMG_1748 put under scrutiny.

Interestingly certain Companies do not use Brulines in their managed houses, where I would have though some monitoring service would have been essential and controllable.

Please contact us and I will pass your details on if you have been wrongly fined for buying out and my colleague will look at the legalities and the possibilities.

Pub Web Site Tips

Promoting all of your Pub profit areas on-line

 

   “The fundamental aim of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs and the pubic, not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe this is the biggest single problem today.” Richard Mercer – menublackboard.com

 

Some years ago, I delivered some independent marketing advice to three marketers from one of the major opposition political parties. In advance of the meeting, and knowing that their instinctive reaction would be to defend their current marketing methods, especially considering the funds they spent on consultancies, I told them that in order to move forwards, they first had to recognise where they were now, recognise and admit their marketing weaknesses, and only then could I advice them on what to do about it. Amazingly they listen, probably because they had nothing to loose and the polls were unfavourable. At the end of the meeting, they all said that they had never felt so positive about their political future – and personal future for that matter!  They implemented these ideas within their overall strategy, and indeed went on to win the following election.

 

Why is this relevant to publicans?

 

When I was given this opportunity to write an editorial about our views on on-line marketing, I faced a similar dilemma. Do I write about ‘what I think publicans want to hear’ or do I tell it ‘how it is’? The only way the pub trade can really move forwards in terms of on-line marketing is to recognise what’s going on at the moment, be honest with themselves about whether it really works or not from their own experience, and most importantly, see how other business sectors have really benefited from on-line marketing. Successful on-line marketing is no myth. The answer to making it really work for you is very simple, and incredibly cost effective, provided the whole pub trade do something about it themselves by participating, and most importantly, participating together. All a pub guide can do is provide you, the publican, with the right tools and platform to achieve this. The rest is up to you and requires your participation, mainly in the form of a small commitment of time, like other business sectors.

 

Running a pub or restaurant maybe a lifestyle choice to many, it’s certainly hard work, but first and foremost it’s a business, and all businesses need marketing. Mention a ‘new pub guide’ to a publican and the chances are, they will say one of the following; “We have our own website,” “We are already on loads of websites,” “We can’t afford it,” “I haven’t got time to update a website,” “We’re a managed house,” “We don’t have internet access,” and the big one, “We’ve tried pub guides before and gained nothing from it.”

 

The truth is I am not surprised by these responses, especially the last one. This might sound strange coming from someone who has developed an on-line pub guide, but I totally agree that in the main, and based on speaking to a complete cross section of pub owners, pub managers and group directors, pub guides generally do not work. If the trade is ready to listen, here is a solution and the tools are available.

 

The first step; recognising where we are now!

 

Websites: Most pubs nowadays have their own website, and so they should. Some of these are very basic, others professionally designed. Many pubs and restaurants have more than one site without even knowing it, because the previous owners or managers have not taken their site down. All the groups have their own websites, and so they should. Most local towns and city websites have a section on pubs & restaurants. All local newspapers will have some mention of pubs on-line. Now add to this all the regional on-line guides, plus all the ‘themed’ guides such as places to visit along a river walk etc, and then all the national guides, some for pubs, some for restaurants, some for hotels. Do a Google search for pubs in any city, town or region and you can get literally 100,000’s of returns. This can be very confusing for the public searching for something specific, and time consuming! I remember one successful publican saying to me, “There is too much information out there, little of it of any value.”

 

Pub Guides: As more and more people learn how to build websites, more and more ‘pub guides’ appear. Many ‘pub guides’ are listing based, where they purchase and import a database of all pubs and restaurants in a specific region or nationally, from suppliers such as yell.com or any number of data supply companies. These are the sites which have a blank photo area, suggesting that if this is your pub, you contact them and pay a fee so you can add a photo, more details and a description. By importing a database, they can then quite legitimately claim as their main selling point to you, the publicans, that they are one of the most comprehensive guide in the area or indeed nationally. However, and this is a big however, their real content, i.e., beyond that of just an address and contact details is limited. Those pubs paying for more content are often lost within the hundreds of search returns of pubs with no content. This is incredibly frustrating for visitors searching for real information, and of course, each time a visitor tries another search, to find a pub with more content on these sites, they add to the sites ‘hit’ count and ‘visitor’ count. This in turn gives these sites even more ‘credibility’ when selling to pubs. Many publicans we spoke to who had paid to try these sites out had found no value in them.

 

The fundamental rule of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs, the pubic, and not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe that this, combined with the shear number of websites, is the biggest single problem today.  

 

Ask yourself what you expect from a pub guide.

 

Apart from the obvious, i.e., attracting 100’s of new customers through your door, is it that you just want your pub to be ‘out there’ on the internet because everybody else is, or is your approach more professional, with specific areas of your business that you want to promote? Also, ask yourself if you are prepared to commit a little bit of time to promoting on-line. If you are not, then any money you spend on pub guides will most likely be wasted.

 

When we set out to develop menublackboard.com, we wanted to produce an on-line ‘marketing tool’ for the hospitality trade, rather than just a listing of pubs – despite the temptation to populate the site in one go. It was also important to us that menublackboard.com provided pubs without their own websites with all the features they would need.

 

We spent considerable time talking to publicans and restaurateurs to determine what was important to them. It was simple. They wanted to promote the different profit areas of their business; wet, food, accommodation, events & entertainment as well as their facilities.

 

The most logical and obvious step for them and us was to develop a site which had a main search for each of these profit areas. It makes sense that if a pub offers food, that they can promote their full menus, whether it’s a main menu, A la Carte, Sunday Lunch, Children’s menu, Vegetarian, Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, sample Buffet or Wedding and so on. It makes sense that a publican can change these menus as required. It makes sense that if a pub invests in and organises events & entertainment such as live music, karaoke, quiz nights, a summer barbecue, a raffle or meat draw and so on, that they can promote it on the same site, because it’s relevant and easier for the public. It makes sense that if a pub also has accommodation, that they can promote that as well. Another area which is key to your business is staffing. In addition to promoting the profit areas, it also makes sense to advertise these jobs in the same place.

 

A pub guide must have information

 

As a publican, if you took up an advert in the local paper, and paid for it, would you supply the paper with the advert content, or simply not get round to sending it, so your advert appears as a blank white space? You would provide the advert copy of course. It is exactly the same with an on-line pub guide. A guide which is just a listing is no more useful to the public than searching a directory. If all you want to do is find a pub, then there is no better site than yell.com. I am sure that every pub guide, however small or large, has individual pub success stories, but it is crucial that you find a guide which allows you to update your own information, and that the key information is searchable from the home-page of the pub guide.

 

I was speaking to a well respected restaurateur. He said he placed all his job vacancies on his own website. I agreed he should, but to think of it from a job seekers perspective. To find out about all the jobs in the area, someone looking for a job would have to visit every single pub and restaurant website in the area to find them, potentially 1000’s of websites! Isn’t it easier to use a jobs search, enter chef or bar job as an example, a location, click a search button and get a list of all available matching jobs in the area in seconds!  For this to work of course, there need to be a lot of establishments taking a few minutes to place their jobs within a site. 

 

The same applies to entertainment. There are lots of social network sites and guides which cover live music. What about all the other entertainment you organise? We all know a few pubs who provide entertainment or themed food nights, either a few times a year, such as a barbecue in the summer and Valentines evening, or on a regular weekly basis providing live music, quiz nights, karaoke and so on.  To organise this entertainment costs time, and more importantly, money. Advertising individual events in the local papers is comparatively expensive compared to the returns, so pubs generally only promote these events in the pub, on a blackboard outside in the car park or on a myriad of social network websites, none of which cover all entertainment types. The solution for menublackboard.com was simple; to provide each member with their own updatable Diary, then to link all the Diaries together in a main Entertainment search. This allows visitors to search for what ever type of entertainment they’re looking for in everyone’s Diaries at the same time. From a publican’s point of view, this means that a pub who currently promotes to just their regular customers, and those who see the sign outside, can now reach everyone within travelling distance.

 

What could a pub guide achieve with your participation and support?

 

It is common within the industry that pubs still focus their on-line marketing on their own website and where they appear on ‘Google’, without recognising the real advantages of being together, thereby making it much easier and quicker for the pubic to find information. The number of times we and other guides we have spoken too have heard a pub say, “We’ve got our own website thanks,” verifies this.

 

To some extent, this is about educating publicans to the advantages of promoting together in the same place, like other business sectors, but also about pub guides providing the tools for this to happen.

 

Years ago, when the internet revolution took off, all business sectors were the same, focused on their individual website. However, most sectors have moved on. The best examples of this are within the property, financial and automotive sectors, with sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk and insurance comparison websites. They all work for one reason, the trade sector they provide a service for recognise the advantages of providing real content, and making searches easier and quicker for the public. As a direct result of this, the trade in these sectors benefit hugely. These sites don’t just work; they generate significant income for each of the relevant trade sectors and are a major part of their everyday marketing. All these businesses have to do is commit a little bit of time to update their information, such as their latest properties or new cars on the forecourt.

 

If you were looking for a house, the last thing you would do is carry out a search for estate agents, then search each site for what you want. Nowadays, you visit a site which is populated by details from across all estate agents. In your search criteria, you specify the location, how many bedrooms, price range and within seconds, have all the details of relevant properties. It is the same with cars, from an Aston Martin to a Vauxhall, all the manufacturer dealers are represented on one site, the dealers investing their time in updating their information, thereby making it incredibly quick and easy for the public to find exactly what you want. Reiterating the point I made earlier about updating, imagine what these sites would be like if all the estate agents and car dealers ‘didn’t have time’ to add their properties or cars? They make time because they get a return from it.

 

The hotel and restaurant sectors have moved on. Most hotels do benefit from membership of hotel booking sites. There are also a number of successful restaurant booking sites. However, these and pubs have much in common. Many pubs and hotels do food, many pubs, restaurants and hotels organise events & entertainment, many pubs have accommodation, and all have job vacancies. The ideal site would be one which provided searches for pubs, restaurants and hotels, for food, entertainment and jobs. A site like that, with the right support from across the hospitality industry, would provide the same benefits to the pub trade and the public alike as sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk have for their business sectors. 

 

Our approach at menublackboard.com is realistic. We are not going to promise the earth on day one. However, if enough pubs collectively promote their menus and regularly promote their entertainment and their jobs on one site, whether it is menublackboard.com or another on-line pub guide, then there will be invaluable content for the public, which in turn will prove invaluable to you, the publican.  

 

Membership offer: 84% off menublackboard.com

 

Our aim at menublackboard.com is to offer just this, an affordable, quick and easy to use everyday marketing tool, to promote all the different profit generating areas of your business, with quick and easy to use searches for the public. We are confident we have the right tool for the job, and are now keen to attract publicans from across the UK to populate the site, publicans who will invest just a little bit of their time to update their information, and promote their menus, events & entertainment, accommodation or jobs.

 

Whilst we are building up our pub memberships, we are offering a special discounted £55.00 annual membership to give pubs an opportunity to try out a site like ours, representing approximately 84% off our normal £280 a year. You can update as often as you like, when ever you like, without incurring additional costs. We do however strongly recommend that you get us to put your first menus on to get you started, so that when you go live, you already have real content on your pages. This is only £25.00. After this, we would encourage all members to update themselves.  We are also more than happy to take the time and show you how to update your information on menublackboard.com, without charging you. Included in your membership are a free exchange link to your own website and a map link so everyone can find you.

 

Offers are great, you say, but where is the catch? No catch. By way of saying ‘thanks’, if you join over the promotional period and provided you participate, we will retain the discounted membership for consecutive years. The offer is subject to members promoting their food and/or entertainment and jobs on the site, thereby guaranteeing real and useful information for the public. This offer is open to non-food pubs, provided they promote their entertainment and jobs.

 

If you would like to take us up on this offer, please contact Richard Mercer direct on 07903 075832 before registering on menublackboard.com, or email us on: offer@menublackboard.com

Full terms & conditions available on request.

 

 

 

 

 

Promoting all of your Pub profit areas on-line

   “The fundamental aim of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs and the pubic, not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe this is the biggest single problem today.” Richard Mercer – menublackboard.com

 

Some years ago, I delivered some independent marketing advice to three marketers from one of the major opposition political parties. In advance of the meeting, and knowing that their instinctive reaction would be to defend their current marketing methods, especially considering the funds they spent on consultancies, I told them that in order to move forwards, they first had to recognise where they were now, recognise and admit their marketing weaknesses, and only then could I advice them on what to do about it. Amazingly they listened, probably because they had nothing to loose and the polls were unfavourable. At the end of the meeting, they all said that they had never felt so positive about their political future – and personal future for that matter!  They implemented these ideas within their overall strategy, and indeed went on to win the following election.

 

Why is this relevant to publicans?

 

When I was given this opportunity to write an editorial about our views on on-line marketing, I faced a similar dilemma. Do I write about ‘what I think publicans want to hear’ or do I tell it ‘how it is’? The only way the pub trade can really move forwards in terms of on-line marketing is to recognise what’s going on at the moment, be honest with themselves about whether it really works or not from their own experience, and most importantly, see how other business sectors have really benefited from on-line marketing. Successful on-line marketing is no myth. The answer to making it really work for you is very simple, and incredibly cost effective, provided the whole pub trade do something about it themselves by participating, and most importantly, participating together. All a pub guide can do is provide you, the publican, with the right tools and platform to achieve this. The rest is up to you and requires your participation, mainly in the form of a small commitment of time, like other business sectors.

 

Running a pub or restaurant maybe a lifestyle choice to many, it’s certainly hard work, but first and foremost it’s a business, and all businesses need marketing. Mention a ‘new pub guide’ to a publican and the chances are, they will say one of the following; “We have our own website,” “We are already on loads of websites,” “We can’t afford it,” “I haven’t got time to update a website,” “We’re a managed house,” “We don’t have internet access,” and the big one, “We’ve tried pub guides before and gained nothing from it.”

 

The truth is I am not surprised by these responses, especially the last one. This might sound strange coming from someone who has developed an on-line pub guide, but I totally agree that in the main, and based on speaking to a complete cross section of pub owners, pub managers and group directors, pub guides generally do not work. If the trade is ready to listen, here is a solution and the tools are available.

 

The first step; recognising where we are now!

 

Websites: Most pubs nowadays have their own website, and so they should. Some of these are very basic, others professionally designed. Many pubs and restaurants have more than one site without even knowing it, because the previous owners or managers have not taken their site down. All the groups have their own websites, and so they should. Most local towns and city websites have a section on pubs & restaurants. All local newspapers will have some mention of pubs on-line. Now add to this all the regional on-line guides, plus all the ‘themed’ guides such as places to visit along a river walk etc, and then all the national guides, some for pubs, some for restaurants, some for hotels. Do a Google search for pubs in any city, town or region and you can get literally 100,000’s of returns. This can be very confusing for the public searching for something specific, and time consuming! I remember one successful publican saying to me, “There is too much information out there, little of it of any value.”

 

Pub Guides: As more and more people learn how to build websites, more and more ‘pub guides’ appear. Many ‘pub guides’ are listing based, where they purchase and import a database of all pubs and restaurants in a specific region or nationally, from suppliers such as yell.com or any number of data supply companies. These are the sites which have a blank photo area, suggesting that if this is your pub, you contact them and pay a fee so you can add a photo, more details and a description. By importing a database, they can then quite legitimately claim as their main selling point to you, the publicans, that they are one of the most comprehensive guide in the area or indeed nationally. However, and this is a big however, their real content, i.e., beyond that of just an address and contact details is limited. Those pubs paying for more content are often lost within the hundreds of search returns of pubs with no content. This is incredibly frustrating for visitors searching for real information, and of course, each time a visitor tries another search, to find a pub with more content on these sites, they add to the sites ‘hit’ count and ‘visitor’ count. This in turn gives these sites even more ‘credibility’ when selling to pubs. Many publicans we spoke to who had paid to try these sites out had found no value in them.

 

The fundamental rule of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs, the pubic, and not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe that this, combined with the shear number of websites, is the biggest single problem today.

 

Ask yourself what you expect from a pub guide.

 

Apart from the obvious, i.e., attracting 100’s of new customers through your door, is it that you just want your pub to be ‘out there’ on the internet because everybody else is, or is your approach more professional, with specific areas of your business that you want to promote? Also, ask yourself if you are prepared to commit a little bit of time to promoting on-line. If you are not, then any money you spend on pub guides will most likely be wasted.

 

When we set out to develop menublackboard.com, we wanted to produce an on-line ‘marketing tool’ for the hospitality trade, rather than just a listing of pubs – despite the temptation to populate the site in one go. It was also important to us that menublackboard.com provided pubs without their own websites with all the features they would need.

 

We spent considerable time talking to publicans and restaurateurs to determine what was important to them. It was simple. They wanted to promote the different profit areas of their business; wet, food, accommodation, events & entertainment as well as their facilities.

 

The most logical and obvious step for them and us was to develop a site which had a main search for each of these profit areas. It makes sense that if a pub offers food, that they can promote their full menus, whether it’s a main menu, A la Carte, Sunday Lunch, Children’s menu, Vegetarian, Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, sample Buffet or Wedding and so on. It makes sense that a publican can change these menus as required. It makes sense that if a pub invests in and organises events & entertainment such as live music, karaoke, quiz nights, a summer barbecue, a raffle or meat draw and so on, that they can promote it on the same site, because it’s relevant and easier for the public. It makes sense that if a pub also has accommodation, that they can promote that as well. Another area which is key to your business is staffing. In addition to promoting the profit areas, it also makes sense to advertise these jobs in the same place.

 

A pub guide must have information

 

As a publican, if you took up an advert in the local paper, and paid for it, would you supply the paper with the advert content, or simply not get round to sending it, so your advert appears as a blank white space? You would provide the advert copy of course. It is exactly the same with an on-line pub guide. A guide which is just a listing is no more useful to the public than searching a directory. If all you want to do is find a pub, then there is no better site than yell.com. I am sure that every pub guide, however small or large, has individual pub success stories, but it is crucial that you find a guide which allows you to update your own information, and that the key information is searchable from the home-page of the pub guide.

 

I was speaking to a well respected restaurateur. He said he placed all his job vacancies on his own website. I agreed he should, but to think of it from a job seekers perspective. To find out about all the jobs in the area, someone looking for a job would have to visit every single pub and restaurant website in the area to find them, potentially 1000’s of websites! Isn’t it easier to use a jobs search, enter chef or bar job as an example, a location, click a search button and get a list of all available matching jobs in the area in seconds!  For this to work of course, there need to be a lot of establishments taking a few minutes to place their jobs within a site. 

 

The same applies to entertainment. There are lots of social network sites and guides which cover live music. What about all the other entertainment you organise? We all know a few pubs who provide entertainment or themed food nights, either a few times a year, such as a barbecue in the summer and Valentines evening, or on a regular weekly basis providing live music, quiz nights, karaoke and so on.  To organise this entertainment costs time, and more importantly, money. Advertising individual events in the local papers is comparatively expensive compared to the returns, so pubs generally only promote these events in the pub, on a blackboard outside in the car park or on a myriad of social network websites, none of which cover all entertainment types. The solution for menublackboard.com was simple; to provide each member with their own updatable Diary, then to link all the Diaries together in a main Entertainment search. This allows visitors to search for what ever type of entertainment they’re looking for in everyone’s Diaries at the same time. From a publican’s point of view, this means that a pub who currently promotes to just their regular customers, and those who see the sign outside, can now reach everyone within travelling distance.

 

What could a pub guide achieve with your participation and support?

 

It is common within the industry that pubs still focus their on-line marketing on their own website and where they appear on ‘Google’, without recognising the real advantages of being together, thereby making it much easier and quicker for the pubic to find information. The number of times we and other guides we have spoken too have heard a pub say, “We’ve got our own website thanks,” verifies this.

 

To some extent, this is about educating publicans to the advantages of promoting together in the same place, like other business sectors, but also about pub guides providing the tools for this to happen.

 

Years ago, when the internet revolution took off, all business sectors were the same, focused on their individual website. However, most sectors have moved on. The best examples of this are within the property, financial and automotive sectors, with sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk and insurance comparison websites. They all work for one reason, the trade sector they provide a service for recognise the advantages of providing real content, and making searches easier and quicker for the public. As a direct result of this, the trade in these sectors benefit hugely. These sites don’t just work; they generate significant income for each of the relevant trade sectors and are a major part of their everyday marketing. All these businesses have to do is commit a little bit of time to update their information, such as their latest properties or new cars on the forecourt.

 

If you were looking for a house, the last thing you would do is carry out a search for estate agents, then search each site for what you want. Nowadays, you visit a site which is populated by details from across all estate agents. In your search criteria, you specify the location, how many bedrooms, price range and within seconds, have all the details of relevant properties. It is the same with cars, from an Aston Martin to a Vauxhall, all the manufacturer dealers are represented on one site, the dealers investing their time in updating their information, thereby making it incredibly quick and easy for the public to find exactly what you want. Reiterating the point I made earlier about updating, imagine what these sites would be like if all the estate agents and car dealers ‘didn’t have time’ to add their properties or cars? They make time because they get a return from it.

 

The hotel and restaurant sectors have moved on. Most hotels do benefit from membership of hotel booking sites. There are also a number of successful restaurant booking sites. However, these and pubs have much in common. Many pubs and hotels do food, many pubs, restaurants and hotels organise events & entertainment, many pubs have accommodation, and all have job vacancies. The ideal site would be one which provided searches for pubs, restaurants and hotels, for food, entertainment and jobs. A site like that, with the right support from across the hospitality industry, would provide the same benefits to the pub trade and the public alike as sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk have for their business sectors. 

 

Our approach at menublackboard.com is realistic. We are not going to promise the earth on day one. However, if enough pubs collectively promote their menus and regularly promote their entertainment and their jobs on one site, whether it is menublackboard.com or another on-line pub guide, then there will be invaluable content for the public, which in turn will prove invaluable to you, the publican.  

 

Membership offer: 84% off menublackboard.com

 

Our aim at menublackboard.com is to offer just this, an affordable, quick and easy to use everyday marketing tool, to promote all the different profit generating areas of your business, with quick and easy to use searches for the public. We are confident we have the right tool for the job, and are now keen to attract publicans from across the UK to populate the site, publicans who will invest just a little bit of their time to update their information, and promote their menus, events & entertainment, accommodation or jobs.

 

Whilst we are building up our pub memberships, we are offering a special discounted £55.00 annual membership to give pubs an opportunity to try out a site like ours, representing approximately 84% off our normal £280 a year. You can update as often as you like, when ever you like, without incurring additional costs. We do however strongly recommend that you get us to put your first menus on to get you started, so that when you go live, you already have real content on your pages. This is only £25.00. After this, we would encourage all members to update themselves.  We are also more than happy to take the time and show you how to update your information on menublackboard.com, without charging you. Included in your membership are a free exchange link to your own website and a map link so everyone can find you.

 

Offers are great, you say, but where is the catch? No catch. By way of saying ‘thanks’, if you join over the promotional period and provided you participate, we will retain the discounted membership for consecutive years. The offer is subject to members promoting their food and/or entertainment and jobs on the site, thereby guaranteeing real and useful information for the public. This offer is open to non-food pubs, provided they promote their entertainment and jobs.

 

If you would like to take us up on this offer, please contact Richard Mercer direct on 07903 075832 before registering on menublackboard.com, or email us on: offer@menublackboard.com

Full terms & conditions available on request.

Pub Web Sites Tips

 

Promoting all of your Pub profit areas on-line

 

   “The fundamental aim of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs and the public, not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe this is the biggest single problem today.” Richard Mercer – menublackboard.com

 

Some years ago, I delivered some independent marketing advice to three marketers from one of the major opposition political parties. In advance of the meeting, and knowing that their instinctive reaction would be to defend their current marketing methods, especially considering the funds they spent on consultancies, I told them that in order to move forwards, they first had to recognise where they were now, recognise and admit their marketing weaknesses, and only then could I advice them on what to do about it. Amazingly they listen, probably because they had nothing to loose and the polls were unfavourable. At the end of the meeting, they all said that they had never felt so positive about their political future – and personal future for that matter!  They implemented these ideas within their overall strategy, and indeed went on to win the following election.

 

Why is this relevant to publicans?

 

When I was given this opportunity to write an editorial about our views on on-line marketing, I faced a similar dilemma. Do I write about ‘what I think publicans want to hear’ or do I tell it ‘how it is’? The only way the pub trade can really move forwards in terms of on-line marketing is to recognise what’s going on at the moment, be honest with themselves about whether it really works or not from their own experience, and most importantly, see how other business sectors have really benefited from on-line marketing. Successful on-line marketing is no myth. The answer to making it really work for you is very simple, and incredibly cost effective, provided the whole pub trade do something about it themselves by participating, and most importantly, participating together. All a pub guide can do is provide you, the publican, with the right tools and platform to achieve this. The rest is up to you and requires your participation, mainly in the form of a small commitment of time, like other business sectors.

 

Running a pub or restaurant maybe a lifestyle choice to many, it’s certainly hard work, but first and foremost it’s a business, and all businesses need marketing. Mention a ‘new pub guide’ to a publican and the chances are, they will say one of the following; “We have our own website,” “We are already on loads of websites,” “We can’t afford it,” “I haven’t got time to update a website,” “We’re a managed house,” “We don’t have internet access,” and the big one, “We’ve tried pub guides before and gained nothing from it.”

 

The truth is I am not surprised by these responses, especially the last one. This might sound strange coming from someone who has developed an on-line pub guide, but I totally agree that in the main, and based on speaking to a complete cross section of pub owners, pub managers and group directors, pub guides generally do not work. If the trade is ready to listen, here is a solution and the tools are available.

 

The first step; recognising where we are now!

 

Websites: Most pubs nowadays have their own website, and so they should. Some of these are very basic, others professionally designed. Many pubs and restaurants have more than one site without even knowing it, because the previous owners or managers have not taken their site down. All the groups have their own websites, and so they should. Most local towns and city websites have a section on pubs & restaurants. All local newspapers will have some mention of pubs on-line. Now add to this all the regional on-line guides, plus all the ‘themed’ guides such as places to visit along a river walk etc, and then all the national guides, some for pubs, some for restaurants, some for hotels. Do a Google search for pubs in any city, town or region and you can get literally 100,000’s of returns. This can be very confusing for the public searching for something specific, and time consuming! I remember one successful publican saying to me, “There is too much information out there, little of it of any value.”

 

Pub Guides: As more and more people learn how to build websites, more and more ‘pub guides’ appear. Many ‘pub guides’ are listing based, where they purchase and import a database of all pubs and restaurants in a specific region or nationally, from suppliers such as yell.com or any number of data supply companies. These are the sites which have a blank photo area, suggesting that if this is your pub, you contact them and pay a fee so you can add a photo, more details and a description. By importing a database, they can then quite legitimately claim as their main selling point to you, the publicans, that they are one of the most comprehensive guide in the area or indeed nationally. However, and this is a big however, their real content, i.e., beyond that of just an address and contact details is limited. Those pubs paying for more content are often lost within the hundreds of search returns of pubs with no content. This is incredibly frustrating for visitors searching for real information, and of course, each time a visitor tries another search, to find a pub with more content on these sites, they add to the sites ‘hit’ count and ‘visitor’ count. This in turn gives these sites even more ‘credibility’ when selling to pubs. Many publicans we spoke to who had paid to try these sites out had found no value in them.

 

The fundamental rule of a pub guide must be that it has to work for the pubs, the pubic, and not just the pub guide as a source of revenue for them. I believe that this, combined with the shear number of websites, is the biggest single problem today.  

 

Ask yourself what you expect from a pub guide.

 

Apart from the obvious, i.e., attracting 100’s of new customers through your door, is it that you just want your pub to be ‘out there’ on the internet because everybody else is, or is your approach more professional, with specific areas of your business that you want to promote? Also, ask yourself if you are prepared to commit a little bit of time to promoting on-line. If you are not, then any money you spend on pub guides will most likely be wasted.

 

When we set out to develop menublackboard.com, we wanted to produce an on-line ‘marketing tool’ for the hospitality trade, rather than just a listing of pubs – despite the temptation to populate the site in one go. It was also important to us that menublackboard.com provided pubs without their own websites with all the features they would need.

 

We spent considerable time talking to publicans and restaurateurs to determine what was important to them. It was simple. They wanted to promote the different profit areas of their business; wet, food, accommodation, events & entertainment as well as their facilities.

 

The most logical and obvious step for them and us was to develop a site which had a main search for each of these profit areas. It makes sense that if a pub offers food, that they can promote their full menus, whether it’s a main menu, A la Carte, Sunday Lunch, Children’s menu, Vegetarian, Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, sample Buffet or Wedding and so on. It makes sense that a publican can change these menus as required. It makes sense that if a pub invests in and organises events & entertainment such as live music, karaoke, quiz nights, a summer barbecue, a raffle or meat draw and so on, that they can promote it on the same site, because it’s relevant and easier for the public. It makes sense that if a pub also has accommodation, that they can promote that as well. Another area which is key to your business is staffing. In addition to promoting the profit areas, it also makes sense to advertise these jobs in the same place.

 

A pub guide must have information

 

As a publican, if you took up an advert in the local paper, and paid for it, would you supply the paper with the advert content, or simply not get round to sending it, so your advert appears as a blank white space? You would provide the advert copy of course. It is exactly the same with an on-line pub guide. A guide which is just a listing is no more useful to the public than searching a directory. If all you want to do is find a pub, then there is no better site than yell.com. I am sure that every pub guide, however small or large, has individual pub success stories, but it is crucial that you find a guide which allows you to update your own information, and that the key information is searchable from the home-page of the pub guide.

 

I was speaking to a well respected restaurateur. He said he placed all his job vacancies on his own website. I agreed he should, but to think of it from a job seekers perspective. To find out about all the jobs in the area, someone looking for a job would have to visit every single pub and restaurant website in the area to find them, potentially 1000’s of websites! Isn’t it easier to use a jobs search, enter chef or bar job as an example, a location, click a search button and get a list of all available matching jobs in the area in seconds!  For this to work of course, there need to be a lot of establishments taking a few minutes to place their jobs within a site. 

 

The same applies to entertainment. There are lots of social network sites and guides which cover live music. What about all the other entertainment you organise? We all know a few pubs who provide entertainment or themed food nights, either a few times a year, such as a barbecue in the summer and Valentines evening, or on a regular weekly basis providing live music, quiz nights, karaoke and so on.  To organise this entertainment costs time, and more importantly, money. Advertising individual events in the local papers is comparatively expensive compared to the returns, so pubs generally only promote these events in the pub, on a blackboard outside in the car park or on a myriad of social network websites, none of which cover all entertainment types. The solution for menublackboard.com was simple; to provide each member with their own updatable Diary, then to link all the Diaries together in a main Entertainment search. This allows visitors to search for what ever type of entertainment they’re looking for in everyone’s Diaries at the same time. From a publican’s point of view, this means that a pub who currently promotes to just their regular customers, and those who see the sign outside, can now reach everyone within travelling distance.

 

What could a pub guide achieve with your participation and support?

 

It is common within the industry that pubs still focus their on-line marketing on their own website and where they appear on ‘Google’, without recognising the real advantages of being together, thereby making it much easier and quicker for the pubic to find information. The number of times we and other guides we have spoken too have heard a pub say, “We’ve got our own website thanks,” verifies this.

 

To some extent, this is about educating publicans to the advantages of promoting together in the same place, like other business sectors, but also about pub guides providing the tools for this to happen.

 

Years ago, when the internet revolution took off, all business sectors were the same, focused on their individual website. However, most sectors have moved on. The best examples of this are within the property, financial and automotive sectors, with sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk and insurance comparison websites. They all work for one reason, the trade sector they provide a service for recognise the advantages of providing real content, and making searches easier and quicker for the public. As a direct result of this, the trade in these sectors benefit hugely. These sites don’t just work; they generate significant income for each of the relevant trade sectors and are a major part of their everyday marketing. All these businesses have to do is commit a little bit of time to update their information, such as their latest properties or new cars on the forecourt.

 

If you were looking for a house, the last thing you would do is carry out a search for estate agents, then search each site for what you want. Nowadays, you visit a site which is populated by details from across all estate agents. In your search criteria, you specify the location, how many bedrooms, price range and within seconds, have all the details of relevant properties. It is the same with cars, from an Aston Martin to a Vauxhall, all the manufacturer dealers are represented on one site, the dealers investing their time in updating their information, thereby making it incredibly quick and easy for the public to find exactly what you want. Reiterating the point I made earlier about updating, imagine what these sites would be like if all the estate agents and car dealers ‘didn’t have time’ to add their properties or cars? They make time because they get a return from it.

 

The hotel and restaurant sectors have moved on. Most hotels do benefit from membership of hotel booking sites. There are also a number of successful restaurant booking sites. However, these and pubs have much in common. Many pubs and hotels do food, many pubs, restaurants and hotels organise events & entertainment, many pubs have accommodation, and all have job vacancies. The ideal site would be one which provided searches for pubs, restaurants and hotels, for food, entertainment and jobs. A site like that, with the right support from across the hospitality industry, would provide the same benefits to the pub trade and the public alike as sites like rightmove.co.uk, primelocation.com, autotrader.co.uk have for their business sectors. 

 

Our approach at menublackboard.com is realistic. We are not going to promise the earth on day one. However, if enough pubs collectively promote their menus and regularly promote their entertainment and their jobs on one site, whether it is menublackboard.com or another on-line pub guide, then there will be invaluable content for the public, which in turn will prove invaluable to you, the publican.  

 

Membership offer: 84% off menublackboard.com

 

Our aim at menublackboard.com is to offer just this, an affordable, quick and easy to use everyday marketing tool, to promote all the different profit generating areas of your business, with quick and easy to use searches for the public. We are confident we have the right tool for the job, and are now keen to attract publicans from across the UK to populate the site, publicans who will invest just a little bit of their time to update their information, and promote their menus, events & entertainment, accommodation or jobs.

 

Whilst we are building up our pub memberships, we are offering a special discounted £55.00 annual membership to give pubs an opportunity to try out a site like ours, representing approximately 84% off our normal £280 a year. You can update as often as you like, when ever you like, without incurring additional costs. We do however strongly recommend that you get us to put your first menus on to get you started, so that when you go live, you already have real content on your pages. This is only £25.00. After this, we would encourage all members to update themselves.  We are also more than happy to take the time and show you how to update your information on menublackboard.com, without charging you. Included in your membership are a free exchange link to your own website and a map link so everyone can find you.

 

Offers are great, you say, but where is the catch? No catch. By way of saying ‘thanks’, if you join over the promotional period and provided you participate, we will retain the discounted membership for consecutive years. The offer is subject to members promoting their food and/or entertainment and jobs on the site, thereby guaranteeing real and useful information for the public. This offer is open to non-food pubs, provided they promote their entertainment and jobs.

 

If you would like to take us up on this offer, please contact Richard Mercer direct on 07903 075832 before registering on menublackboard.com, or email us on: offer@menublackboard.com

Full terms & conditions available on request.

Is the Ale in Steak and Ale subject to the tie?

IMG_1748I had a bizarre story passed to me by a concerned lessee.

The BDM of a major Pub Co had suggested that the lessee was possibly breaching his lease agreement by not using their Murphy’s in his Steak and Ale Pie, it sounds too outrageous to be true, but having talked to the lessee in question he confirmed that it was correct.

The BDM is demanding a 30% plus rent increase because the pub should be used as a food based operation, in his opinion.

In reality the lessee is convinced that they want him out to relet the pub as a food pub, this in normal circumstances is a ploy for getting rid of an underperformer.

The pub is a community pub, previous tenants have failed or quit at short notice, this lessee has done better than any over the last ten years.

The present lessee managed to get the turnover up to higher than it had done for years, the recession and smoking ban removed 30% of his gross take, being a community, village pub.

The BDM insists that the dart board, fruit machine etc should be kicked out, removing the local core business and the whole business converted to fine dining.

Beer Sales have fallen and suddenly food is the key with substantially higher rents.

There are a number of food based pubs in the area all fighting over a vanishing cake, another will do the same.

The area is in a technically depressed region of the country with a very sparse population and very dependent on tourism, another food based pub will struggle at the moment.

The serious question is that you have couple running a village pub, with the usual village activities, they do food and very nice food, they are not Gourmet Chefs to set the world alight.

The Pub Co Training gave the rudiments of running a pub and provided a lease with all the usual entailments and tie, they did not sign up to be a Michelin Starred Restaurant or even vaguely approaching that, are the Pub Co’s now going to provide Gourmet Cooking Courses because they have decided that the pub should become a restaurant or Gastro Pub????

The usual attitude prevails with the BDM, they fail to consider that business is finite and not infinite and any increase in business is at the expense of another or neighbouring pubs, as a colleague said to me yesterday if the so called FMT calculated by these Pub Co’s and the amount of beer involved, we would need double or even treble the brewing capacity.

Is there any chance of bringing sanity and cold logic into the industry to combat this recession, some companies are trying others are on another planet.