Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The view that our customer service style in this country could benefit ... Fuller's Tenants Extra, April 2014

The view that our customer service style in this country could benefit from the approach of US operators isn’t one that always convinces me. My usual response to the suggestion that I should “have a nice day” is to say “sorry, I’m afraid I’ve made other plans.”

While every pub has to decide its service style and focus staff training on delivering high standards, I like to think that good pub staff understand the essential difference between a pub and a restaurant.  That’s important because, in pricing terms, it seems the line is becoming more blurred.  The average price of a three course meal on a pub menu is now £18.67, compared to a £20.66 average in restaurants.

The figure comes from the latest Menurama survey, which looks at the prices being charged on menus across a range of sectors, from noodle bars to burger joints, as well as pubs. It reveals that while the average price of a main course in a pub has risen by a sharp 10.7% year-on-year, the average price for main course in a restaurant has fallen by 3%.

While pubs and restaurants are rapidly moving closer together in terms of price, the Menurama figures also show that pub food classics are growing in popularity in the wider eating out market:
  • Rib eye and sirloin steaks are featuring more frequently on menus
  • Traditional roasts - beef and chicken - are becoming more popular, showing how important the Sunday lunch session has become to many types of restaurant.
Which raises the perennial question, what is the difference between a pub and a restaurant? Regular readers, those who cut out my columns and lovingly paste them in a scrapbook, will point out that this is a question I’ve asked before, and as before, I’m not sure there’s a simple answer.

Being able to walk in of the street and order a meal without a reservation is a useful rule of thumb, although there are now trendy urban restaurants where queuing is part of the experience, just as there are pubs where you definitely need to book at  busy times.  

Fortunately, my tried and trusted view that you ought to be able to enjoy a pint in a ‘proper’ pub without being made to feel awkward or pointedly handed a menu still largely holds true.  It’s better to keep a few tables free of cutlery and improvise if things get busy, rather than lay all the tables and send the wrong message.      

Regular surveys show that pubs remain UK consumers’ favourite place to eat out. We may not be able to offer a clear definition, but we‘ll vote with our feet if we feel we’ve been misled.  On the other hand, offer us good pub food served by friendly, well-trained staff and we’ll definitely have a nice day. Just don’t feel you need to mention it.
This column originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra

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