Aren’t you that bird off the telly………

Posted on December 28, 2009

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……sadly no, but for a moment this morning I very nearly became famous with an invite to appear on The Big Questions, a series of moral, ethical and religious debates hosted by Nicky Campbell. It turns out it wasn’t a mistake, they really did want me (I was shocked too) to debate whether the pub is more important to the local community than the church alongside a Vicar, an ex-alcoholic and someone from  Pub is the Hub*

Unfortunately I can’t make the show on Sunday but it did get me thinking about what my point of view might be and I can’t help thinking that pubs and churches are suffering similar problems at the moment – falling visitor numbers and mass closures – both as a result of the lack of community spirit that exists today.

What sets them apart though is that the pub trade is upping its game to do something about this whilst the church is still sitting on the old Field of Dreams myth “build it and they will come”. The wet led community pub is fast becoming a thing of the past and pubs that have a reputation for great service and a strong food offer (with beer menus…..a girl can dream) will be the majority in the very near future. A welcoming pub with a wide range of services has a much bigger opportunity to be the hub of a community than the church in my book. This isn’t an argument for drinking versus praying, it’s about being in a warm environment with like minded people, that welcomes all comers and can provide a range of great food and drinks – doesn’t sound much like any church I’ve ever been in.

I don’t have a local pub. There was one The Walnut Tree which is currently being turned into a Tesco Metro. There was a petition to save it which I didn’t sign because in my view it was one of the old school of pubs that didn’t feel worth saving and actually a Tesco on my doorstep makes my life a whole lot easier.
Might sound cold and I know there were plenty of people that fought hard to save it but the message for pubs and churches from me is this – the world is a changing and if you want more people in your doors you need to work hard to get them and make it worth their while for being there.
The Pub Curmudgeon has posed the question about a potential revival in the pub trade in 2010 and I think there could be, not from new openings but from pubs upping their game to set themselves ahead of the rest of the pack and that could see more people, like me get back down their local. Here’s a few simple changes that I’d love to see………………

1. Good service: I do find that most people behind the bar are friendly and professional – just how it should be. But, we’ve all encountered service that’s surly, uninterested, and intimidating: not really appealing for women, particularly if you’re the first one there out of your friends. And why is table service not the norm here, it’s great as a customer and great as a retailer as it increases spend and dwell time – I’d love to see this everywhere.
2. Free Wifi: As I mentioned, being the first one to arrive when you’re meeting up can be intimidating, that’s why you always see people alone playing on their mobiles – so why not make the waiting experience better by enabling those with smartphones to check their emails why they wait? (You can always switch it off on quiz night!)
3. Clean tables: If we’ve made an effort to look nice, we don’t want to ruin our outfit by getting a drink stain on it.
4. Better bar snacks: If you were to play a game of alcohol & food word association with most people, it might go: wine = gourmet dinners, beer = crisps. This does the vast majority of beers a huge disservice – every beer fan will agree that great beer has more subtle flavours than wine so pair it with junk food?
5. Clean, nice toilets: There are many pubs where the toilets have wet floors, don’t smell great and never have any loo roll. I don’t need to explain why this is bad!
6. A safe journey home: pubs with the foresight to carry details of reputable taxi firms and a payphone (in case we find ourselves without our mobiles), get a big stamp of approval from me.
*I had never heard of Pub is The Hub until today (obviously didn’t admit that to the TV researcher) but it seems like a very interesting initiative that supports local pubs in providing shared community services (post offices, meat counter etc) to keep the pub going and the services that small communities need.
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Posted in: Pubs, Service