M&B's two-fors' put to the sword

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Related tags: Drinking culture

by Ewan Turney Two-for-one drink offers and happy hours have been dumped by managed operator Mitchells & Butlers in a crackdown on speed...

by Ewan Turney

Two-for-one drink offers and happy hours have been dumped by managed operator Mitchells & Butlers in a crackdown on speed drinking.

Chief executive Tim Clarke said its new alcohol and social responsibility policy was an "evolution" of its predecessor published more than two years ago.

In an exclusive interview he said the policy was based closely on the objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 ­ the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm ­ and the lawful obligations of the retail of alcohol.

"The critical element is that we make it very clear that we will not use promotional activity where there is a financial inducement at the point of transaction," said Clarke. "We believe in everyday competitive prices but we won't do two-for-one offers."

Two-for­one offers have gradually been withdrawn from the "It's a Scream" chain over the last six months.

He added: "In the long run, I am absolutely convinced running your pub properly is the most profitable thing you can do ­ period."

A minimum price of £1.25 has been set across the estate and any outlets wishing to run promotions selling drinks under this price will have to obtain permission from managing director Mike Bramley.

Even then, drinks will still be subjected to a £1 minimum price. In order to avoid happyhour binge drinking, the time limit for any promotion will not be less than three hours.

No M&B outlet will be allowed to offer significant discounts on double spirit measures although the price will not necessarily be exactly double the price of a single. In addition, no single glass will contain more than four units of alcohol.

"It would have been irresponsible of us not to review if we are doing everything possible to run this business in a way that meets, as much as we can, all our obligations under the letter of the licensing act," said Clarke.

A set of operational guidelines has been issued as part of the policy to advise staff that anyone who appears to be under 21 should be asked for ID.

M&B fared well in the summer crackdown and test purchasing cases and the company supports such campaigns as a valid way of helping to enforce the law.

"Our attitude is one of no grey lines as it is one aspect of being granted a licence. A tiny hand-full of our outlets were caught and they were concentrated in one town over the August bank holiday. I would like to say none were caught so we regard it as a failure," Clarke added.

The new policy should be in place by the end of October.

Granting licences willy-nilly' goes against licensing principle: Clarke

Clarke on Licensing Act 2003

"It is re-regulation. It must be right that new licences should be influenced by wider social concerns and public policy. To grant licences willy-nilly seems the virtual opposite of the intent of having a system in the first place."

Saturation policies

"It is patently sensible. I have no doubt that the consequences of the Major Government's deregulation of licensing from the mid-90s led to systematic over capacity."

Minimum pricing

"One of the overwhelming unintentional effects of regulation of minimum price is to drive far more consumption into the off-trade, which is, by definition, an uncontrolled environment for alcohol consumption. It is against the whole reason why the pub licensing system was invented. I could not imagine a worse outcome in terms of unintended effects."

Supermarkets

"All the trade should be speaking out against the pricing of beer in supermarkets. Here we have supermarkets regularly selling beer at 80p a pint in an uncontrolled environment which leads to pre-loading."

Paid for policing

"I am fundamentally opposed to the principle of anything other than statutory national taxation. If every little quango or authority in an area had the right to raise taxation it would be disastrous for the competitiveness of British industry."

Related topics: Legislation, Mitchells & Butlers

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