Most of the focus has been on the casual-dining sector and some of the bigger restaurant chains, but the whole of the hospitality sector, including pubs, finds itself under scrutiny on this issue.
As such, it’s vitally important that pubs are seen to be doing the right thing when it comes to tips and staff.
We, as an industry, are working extremely hard to improve the image and perception of our industry as an employer and place to work. Any suggestion that the sector is mishandling tips is hugely damaging — and the increased focus currently being placed on the issues surrounding tips helps add to the impression that working in the pub sector is a low-paid career.
Tips should be seen as the cream on top of what is a well-remunerated job with excellent career prospects.
We need to have robust policies and measures in place to ensure tips are handled in a fair and transparent way, and move the agenda on, or risk further damaging the perception of a job in the hospitality sector.
Meanwhile, the debate about children and pubs has been re-ignited by the findings in the Good Pub Guide that unruly and noisy children are the number one subject of customer complaint in pubs.
Having recently been in a pleasant beer garden and subject to a small gang of screaming, erm… delights, running in circles round my table while their parents blithely ignored their activities, I have some sympathies with the complainants.
However, banning children entirely?
That I fear sends the wrong message entirely, and paints a negative perception of the pub sector.
I agree, that unruly and badly behaved parents and children are a problem for any business — the same way in which unruly drunken adults can cause problems.
At the end of the day, it’s down to each pub to model and market its business according to the customer base it has.
If the bulk of your customers don’t bring children to the pub then minimising that noisy disruption in the pub garden may obviously work to your benefit.
However, rather than a hard and fast ban, I prefer the approach of one pub in Wales, which chooses to create a more adult space to discourage noisy behaviour, and encourage parents and children to either seek more suitable venues, or behave accordingly.
It neatly sidesteps the need for a difficult conversation with a customer being told they can’t come in.
And let’s not forget, those children banned from pubs are going to grow up to be the consumers of the future. Surely we would rather them have warm, nostalgic childhood memories of wonderful afternoons spent playing in the pub’s garden? Simply banning them may come back to bite us in the future.