Right, my good man Phil over at Beersay has written a blogpost about the role of the landlord/landlady/gatekeeper of drinking establishments and comments are encouraged but when commenting, I kind of went off on one so instead of clogging up Phil’s blog with a 50 billion word comment I decided to write my own post which I’m sure is appreciated.
There are quite a few pubs I visit frequently and all are completely different in the types of pubs/bar they are and the attitudes of bar staff and landlords. I'm gonna run through a couple (nameless of course as I do actually like these pubs a lot and I wouldn’t want what I say to put people off visiting them if you ever manage to make it to Norwich).
Pub 1: What I'd call my local, despite not being the closest pub to me. The Bar Staff seem to have been the same since I really started drinking there properly a couple of years ago. All will exchange pleasantries but the real star of the show is the landlord. You rarely see him behind the bar, he's always around the pub mingling with customers and I always manage to get a decent chat with him about beer, which I think is important. Lovely chap.
Pub 2: Great pub, great beer, amazing beer garden and we go there a lot yet every time we go in there, it's as if the bar staff have never seen us before and it's really frustrating. I don't think I've even had a conversation with them or the landlord other than "Pint please" "That's £3.30".
Pub 3: Used to go there a few years ago then it closed and reopened just over a year ago. Found out about this so I linked up on Facebook and got talking through their page with their manager and the moment I walked into that pub for the first time he said "Ah, you must be Nate" and because of that, I've not stopped drinking there. The bar staff they had from that moment were all awesome and I can actually call them friends but sadly they're all starting to go their separate ways and the new bar staff whenever I've been in there haven't seemed to be as conversational. Lord knows I've tried but I find that it's a completely different pub now.
Pub 4: I went in there a few times previously but it's only been within the last few months I've really started going there regularly as I met the landlord and landlady at The City of Ale Launch Party and they seemed like really cool people. I was right... they’re extremely cool people. A few times lately when I’ve been wanting to go to the pub but nobody else has been around, I’ve headed up there hoping that either one of them was on the bar because these are people I can just sit there and chat to about various things for hours (mainly beer) and they know the type of beer I like. Often I’ve just been sat on a stool at the bar, I’ve finished my pint and went to order a beer and they’ve been like “Oooh... that’s a bit malty – here try this instead, it’s hoppy” and so far, they’ve had a 100% conversion rate in getting me to buy a pint of it. They’re also really great with social media, updating twitter with the beers they’ve got on which is one thing a lot of Norwich pubs don’t do. It’s quite quickly becoming my favourite pub in Norwich.
The rest: I lied. There are a lot of pubs I go in quite frequently as I like change. There are only 1 or 2 more that have quite active managerial staff who will actually talk to you. The rest, well, they have good beer but why I don’t go there as frequently as some is because they have bar staff that are uninterested in the customers and sometimes, you don’t even know who the manager or landlord/lady is. Sometimes, you can walk into a pub and not even get a “Hi” or a smile. They just stare at you and bluntly ask what you want.
Nate Dawg’s Verdict: I think that the manager/landlord/landlady should have more of a role in a pub than simply keeping their pub running and profitable; hiring and firing staff; ordering beer and the such. I think that if you want to keep your regular customers and indeed get new customers who might have just stopped in for a swift one, to come back, you really do need to make more of an effort to do so. As much as I think this, however, I can kinda see it from the other side of the bar in that if you’re running a pub for a brewery on a salary or something similar why do you give a fuck? Ultimately, it’s the brewery that’s gonna make a shit load of profit. If they decide you’re not suitable for the role, fuck it; go back to your previous career or something completely different because well “Yeah, running a pub just wasn’t for me”.
Landlords, please get involved. Let your customers know who’s running their local. Talk to them. Actually have a conversation with them. Ask for suggestions on which beers they’d like to see on the bar. Maybe even the food they’d like to see on the menu. Don’t see it as more work; it’s not; it’s being sociable. Make time for your customers and your pub will succeed. Probably. I cannot guarantee this. I will not be held liable for any failings.
Thank you for your time.