Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Uncommonly serious post

The Good Pub Guide came out recently.

Last year,for the first time in its 28 year history,the guide introduced a charge for featured pubs.
At the time we hummed and hahed over whether we should stay in the guide,then a twitter friend commented that  if we thought it was good PR for the pub we should just stump up the cash and stay in.
So we did.
This year we didn't really give it much thought,the invitation to be included arrived  and we sent off the payment.
This weekend I saw a copy of the 2013 guide for the first time.
I was surprised to see last years County Dining Pub of the Year demoted to a 'worth a visit' entry.
 'worth a visit' pubs are:
' pubs that have been recommended by readers in the year before the guide goes to print and that we feel are worthy of inclusion-many of them,indeed as good in their way as the featured pubs'
There has to be a reason why last years County Dining pub of the year is given only a worth a visit entry at the end of the county chapter.
Is it under new ownership?
Has the Chef changed?
Has its entry in other notable guides lapsed?

Could it be perhaps that they decided against forking out the dosh?thus warranting only a minor mention?
I see also that the guide reports a record number of new entries(a bumper crop of 252-the most ever) this in a time when we are told 12 pubs a week continue to close.Call me a cynic but Id like to see this figure offset by the number of pubs which have disappeared from the guide.

Fast forward a couple of years.
Lets imagine that a significant number of the pubs that would previously have achieved a full entry status decide against paying the annual fee.(I think it was around £200 this year).
Its unlikely that all of these pubs would be included as 'worth a visit' pubs otherwise valuable space for paying entries might be lost(lets not be so naive as to think they don't have a financial target).
Therefore its probable to assume that good pubs might disappear from the guide,whilst less notable pubs that may previously have achieved only a worth a visit mention might have featured status.
Not really a Guide any more is it?More a guide to the best of those willing to pay.

Everyone knows there are guides which charge for inclusion,the problem with the Good Pub Guide is its reputation as being one of the independent guides(eg Michelin and Good Food Guide) .
Whilst a pub cant approach the guide and ask to pay to be included(they invite you),there is no denying that the introduction of charges for main entries totally alters the dynamic of the book as witnessed above.

Of course all of the above is supposition.

What do you think?Shall we pay for inclusion next year?(Assuming of course we're invited..)

Chow for now.

Mrs Marples.

NB The Good Beer Guide also published recently and compiled by Camra remains impartial,there is no charge for inclusion in this guide.


Unknown said...

I say fuck 'em!... it smacks of the dreadful PR 'Awards' I used to attend, where you pay for a table and pay to enter and only those who pay to enter are legible for a prize... bunch of self-congratulatory wankers slapping each other on the back... and paying for it!...

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

I think you are correct. Those who pay get "higher" ratings, and vice versa.

I wouldn't worry too much. When we lived in the UK we never used those guides, just the CAMRA book.

UrsulaFletcher said...

Yes I think you have hit the nail on the head, its a guide to who is prepared to pay to go in !!! BOLLOCKS TO THAT, treat yourself to something nice with the 200 quid, instead of being sucked in by their BULLSHIT :O)

Iota said...

That's not really fair, is it? People will buy the Guide, trusting it to be an independent assessment, and not realising that pubs can buy their way in.

Do you have much evidence that business comes your way as a result of being in the Guide?

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fattmatt said...

I would have thought that with the Good pub's guide being established, it works on the historical principle of replacing the same number of pubs it loses each year, this year they have over egged the pudding a bit (but the extra profits will not hurt) and added too many.
Also I'm sure that you would not need an invite to be included as long as you have evidence that the pub is a hit for good food and beer.
As for is it worth the money, with the new publication, now might be the time to ask any new customers how did they hear about your pub.

Alison Cross said...

I think that £200 for a year's advertising isn't bad going. But I don't know how many copies they sell in a year!

Advertising is a funny dog. Is there any way you can tell what your return is on investment?

Can you print onto your bills or include it on your napkin rings or beside the menus or something, a wee bit of paper with 'how did you hear about us' with a couple of tick boxes (one being the guide) to see what is delivery your traffic?

Ali x

TimM. said...

A major problem, and one that can only grow under this system, is that readers will simply not bother to submit their reviews when they see that their enthusiastic comments for top pubs lead only to a minimal entry in the guide's 'lucky dip section' when that otherwise excellent pub refuses to stump up.

Already in the 2012 edition, presumably seasoned reviewers are being lumped together as 'and others' or similar.

This isn't sustainable for a reviewer-led model.

Kavey said...

On a moral note, I want to shout, don't do it, don't support such a shim-sham process!

On a practical level, you are running a business. IF you have evidence/ reason to believe that a significant volume of your business comes from being included, then it may well be worth considering this just another form of paid advertising and assessing it on that basis.

That said, it may be that little of your business comes from the guide in any case...

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