A man, we’ll call him Dave, props up the bar of the Red Lion, watching the world go by — he’s forever suggesting things to chefs that wander past or the barstaff that pour him a pint.
You probably know him, he’s the one who is marginally reminiscent of that Harry Enfield character, the one of “You don’t wanna do it like that, you wanna do it like this” fame. Anyway, Dave finally decides he knows best and knows where everyone else is going wrong, so when his local pub fails he decides that he’ll buy the place — after all, how hard can it be?
So he sets his stall out — he wants to use fresh, local produce from Barry, the farmer up the road. He will do away with the pool table and the dartboard and he’ll lose the jukebox because it encroaches on conversation. He will sell only the basics — real ale, spirits, soft drinks and wine because it’s traditional and he doesn’t like lager drinkers very much. His décor is simple and his plain wooden dining tables just have salt and pepper on them.
A few weeks down the line his food isn’t doing as well as he’d like. Barry the farmer’s prices are a lot more expensive than the frozen-food company — can people really tell the difference? So Dave starts buying food from the frozen-food firm.
In the dining room he adds tablecloths to his tables and maybe a lone flower in a vase. He adds wine glasses, a wine list and some table mats. Oh, and he needs some vinegar, ketchup and maybe a tent card to say what’s going on.
Next, the drinking trade isn’t delivering but the old pub darts team captain stops in for a pint and suggests to landlord Dave that if he puts the dartboard back up and maybe the pool table back in and sold some lager, the boys would all start coming back in.
So he bangs in the dartboard, returns the pool table and gets in some enormous lager bar fonts that make his bar look like the Manhattan skyline and, lo and behold, the old regulars start drifting back. The jukebox returns, along with the alcopops, and suddenly Dave’s running something he didn’t sign up for…
The moral of the story? Stick to your guns and beware of ‘product creep’. Keep going back to the beginning — are you doing what you set out to do?
Next time Dave suggests something ridiculous over the bar, punch him on the nose —you’ll be doing him a favour.
Sam Cornwall-Jones is owner of the Red Lion in Hunningham, Warwickshire