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Saturday, 15 January 2011

Vote now please,your country pub needs you!

I have a dilemma ,dear folk of the interwebs, I need your assistance.
But first,please be patient whilst I fill you in with a little background information.
During the recent the festive week,we gave ourselves a bit of a break from the kitchen,with no food being served at the Inn from Christmas Eve right through until New Years Eve.
To be honest, this year December takings have been down so drastically due to the prolonged arctic conditions, we really shouldn't have afforded ourselves this luxury, but we did, its a chance for us to do the bar and get a feel for what the customers are thinking. 
On Christmas Day we open the bar at lunchtime from 12-1.30pm, put out some tasty edible treats and offer everyone who comes,local or not,a glass of Champagne.Actually the Champagne(and I'm talking Champagne here,not cheap Sparkling wine) is on tap;-nobody buys any other drinks.Most make an impressive effort at consuming their own bodyweight in chipolatas before rolling home late and with less appetite than they should for their Christmas dinner.
We enjoy it,its a nice thing to do.
There's a regular who comes into the pub daily..he partakes of a couple of pints lunchtime and evening.He's quite good for the craic,a bit of a character.On Christmas Day he appeared as usual but refused to participate in the Champagne swilling ritual saying he 'didn't drink it'.
I sensed immediately there was a problem. I mean who the heck doesn't like gratis Champagne???

The Saturday prior to Christmas this chap had booked in with his extended family(fourteen of them) for his constitutional once yearly meal at the pub.I wondered if therein lay the problem.I asked him if he'd enjoyed his meal the previous Saturday.Yes, he said the meal was 'fine'..Hmmm not exactly gushing..I probed a little deeper..The floodgates opened forthwith...His intention was to give Chef a 'bollicking' as he had not seen fit to grace the dining room with his presence in order to socialise with his guests.Bearing in mind that we served over 100 covers that day,the chance of an exit from the kitchen,brief or otherwise, to interact with the punters certainly wasn't on the cards.The fact that this hadn't happened had clearly been festering with Regular Drinker all week.He was quite forceful in his view, in fact he was full of hell,irate even.At this point Chef wisely walked away from the conversation in the interests of preserving his buoyant Christmas Day cheer..
Unfortunately I wasn't as clever,I pursued the debate.I enquired if he had been looked after well. Yes he said the girls were 'very good indeed' but not the same as 'the owner'..
The actual words he used were he was: 'lacking the personal attention a regular customer should command'..
With difficulty I managed to contain my anger which was bubbling up assisted in part by the glass of lunchtime fizz I'd already consumed on an otherwise empty stomach.
I cant remember my exact words, the gist was along the lines of people coming here because they like Chefs food, not because they want to have a bloody conversation with him..I cant be certain,but I may have called him(eek) a snob..
To be honest I don't mind admitting that he may have hit a bit of a raw nerve here. Our initial plan had been for Moi to look after Front of house with Chef obviously in charge of the kitchen, the perfect business combination.. Over time its proved easier to find decent Front of House Staff than it has to find suitable candidates for the kitchen.
So gradually, due to the business becoming busier, I've undertaken increasingly more cooking, eventually ending up in the kitchen permanently, through default.The problem is I'm actually now too good at it,I'm fast at the service side which is essential in a pub kitchen(you can get unexpectedly hammered at any time),so as a consequence I like to think I'm a hard act to follow...
I wonder if Regular Drinkers expectations are a reflection now of the state of the industry.Most experts when asked will tell you that its impossible to run a food business without a public profile.Chef has always avoided (like the plague) any press activity, preferring instead to concentrate on what he does best.Cooking.
We've still managed to achieve a successful business.There are a lot of Chefs who take the first opportunity for an early exit out of the kitchen, whilst still running their businesses,inevitably the standard of food isn't consistent.
But maybe diners expect to canoodle with the Chef and be seen to be HIS FRIEND.Maybe they expect that now because they think it gives them kudos..maybe it makes up for any shortfall in the food stakes.Whatever the reason,the fact is that at some point every business has to prioritise,right or wrong, we've chosen the food as ours.
End of.

I believe Regular Drinker's issues stem from the way the pub has changed direction over the years,come inside and it still has the traditional pubby atmosphere,but without the food, in our rural location,it wouldn't be a viable business.For the previous owner the drinkers were the mainstay of his business,he had little food trade,as a result the business was deeply in debt.In fact we were asked to take over at very short notice prior to the sale being completed.So,contrary to being grateful that his local drinking hole has been preserved and indeed improved(we are now able to sustain six real ales on the bar instead of the previous three)whilst countless pubs up and down the country are closing faster than a camels ass in a sandstorm,Regular Drinker feels he's not as important as he was,he's no longer Top Dog.
I've been told that when I'm out of earshot,he'll often tell customers coming into the bar looking for food; 'Oh, the food's VERY expensive here'..
 On the plus side, he's stopped trying to call the shots by telling us what dishes we should be putting on the menu, that was becoming a tad tiring.

Over the three years we've been here, we've continued to stock a particular cask ale for Regular Drinker's benefit because he's been drinking it for fifty years.It costs us around £30-£40 per cask more than any of the other ales we stock partly due to the Progressive Beer Duty.We still charge the same price for this beer as we do for the others we sell,despite that fact that the other beers are in fact subsidising it.
Chef worked out that over the course of last year it had cost us over £5000 more to buy in this beer than one of the local ales.




(If that isn't personal attention I don't know what is...)

With the increase in VAT duty and also several other brewery increases which we've absorbed over the past year,we were well overdue an increase in prices.I knew Regular Drinker would kick up a fuss so made a point of letting him know *personally* today.He was predictably unreceptive,despite the fact that I reminded him that we were still cheaper than the majority of the pubs nearby.
His ungracious attitude has made me ponder what route we should take.
Shall we increase the price of his beer, charging proportionally more for it so that the other beers no longer subsidise it?Or maybe we should decline to stock it?

So, in the spirit of this Bulls Lug of a business model(which conjured up images of my youngest playing football as a five year old,when all 22 players would chase the ball around the pitch for 90 minutes like a swarm of bees, because they couldn't grasp the concept of tactics or playing positions),I'm interested to hear your feedback,so I've installed a couple of vote buttons at the top right of the blog.

Lines will close next Sunday at 7pm,votes cast after this time will not be counted etc etc...


Vote now please.Your feedback is important to us.




PS There wont be any profit share..

8 comments:

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Oh dear, what a dilemma! I'd put the price up probably. He sounds like a pain anyway!

Thanks for your comment. I have worn the Westwood corset for a while as I couldn't find it. I can still get into it. I'm supposed to be on a health kick at the moment so will wear it again definitely. I used to live in it. I have another one somewhere I'm sure that will turn up soon. I will post a pic at some point when I squeeze into it xx

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

ok, here's what i'd do... (and yes, I voted)

up the price but make a bespoke label for the pump to read his name...(maybe even a funny charicature) make him feel special and noticed but at the same increase the price... he'll get the message but still feel loved

Choclette said...

Much as I'd like to say, bar the humbug, he is at least a regular. Certainly you shouldn't be subsidising him - the price needs to go up. Front of house or kitchen is a real dilemma. I know I like to be able to talk, ask questions of owners when I'm eating out, but I also understand they are usually busy people and if they are not available so be it. Although good customer service is of course important, good food is soooo hard to come by, go for Good Food.

Gin and Crumpets said...

He sounds like a charmer - isn't working in the hospitality industry grand? I'd up the price so his beer is less subsidised. Can't keep chucking your good manners away on his sorry, graceless ass.

legend in his own lunchtime said...

You didn't have a button to tell the miserable bugger to lighten up or piss off, so I chose the increase in beer price. How about double.

Northern Snippet said...

Christina look forward to it!

Dom-Good plan he'd LOVE that

Choclette-Its getting the balance right I agree but at the end of the day its Food for me too.

Gin-I'm worried I'm giving an unbalanced view, the thing is the complainers make much more interesting stories than the people who are pleasant..

Legend-double? wonder if he'd swallow that!

Su-Lin said...

What was the result of this? What did you decide to do in the end?

Northern Snippet said...

Sorry I should have updated this earlier.We went with the vote which was to increase the price of the beer.The increase we decided on was 20p which makes it more expensive than the other beers but still under £3 per pint and cheaper than most other pubs in the area.
He's still coming in and buying it despite at first telling us we couldn't increase it by that amount...

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