Head: are you giving too much?

By Mark Daniels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub companies, Pint glass

Mark Daniels: 'It's all about customer choice'
Mark Daniels: 'It's all about customer choice'
Last week, somebody decided that pubs are giving their customers too much head, which prompted somebody in a union to write to the government and complain that this is the sole fault of the pub companies.

There followed a flurry of denials from publicans who insisted that they always give the perfect amount of head and it all gave japing customers the perfect excuse to ask if it was possible to fit a shot of whisky in to the top of their beer…

The theory behind this argument, however, seems to be that it’s a conspiracy by the big pub companies, whose tied contracts make it so difficult for landlords to make money that they are therefore deliberately short-changing the customers by not providing them with a full pint of beer.

Further, yield targets implemented by said pub companies must mean that, in order to achieve discounts, publicans intentionally fluff the head of a pint to increase margins.

This, to me, seems a bit rude. Having failed to twist the government’s arm in to declaring the beer tie illegal (because, well, it isn’t) or to garner sympathy from customers towards their cause because, let’s be fair, the majority of the general public don’t have compassion for business contracts and therefore either don’t understand, or don’t care about, the arguments that are put forward, the GMB’s new tactic appears to be to tell the public that we, the publicans, are consciously ripping them off.

Sadly, though, the latest “shock findings” from the GMB and their demands for the government to act on contracts that “force” publicans to not supply 100% liquid in a glass simply accuse us of not doing our jobs properly and risk alienating us further from our customer base, and could potentially wrap the industry up in yet more red tape that it just doesn’t need.

The government, having recently decided that the issue of the tied business model is simply a legal contract between two parties that doesn’t need a statutory code to regulate it, are unlikely to suddenly perk up and blame the tie for the fact that a legal measure isn’t being poured for the customer.

And customers, many of which tend to think that publicans are rolling in cash anyway, aren’t going to believe that it’s necessary for them to get less than their full measure of a pint because somebody needs to hit a brewery target.

Instead, what will happen is that they will accuse us of being money-grubbing and go and buy a cheap can of lager from Tesco while the government will send in the heavies from Trading Standards, who will focus on the licensees and their business practices.

And isn’t the amount of head on a pint also a little bit driven by customer preference?

I quite like more head on my beer, while others appear to prefer their lager looking like a pint of cider.

And we know from television adverts that our neighbours across the channel prefer a beer that looks like it should be served with a flake sticking out of the top.

This difference of opinion even lead to brewers like Greene King developing fonts that allow bar staff to offer beer with a “northern” or “southern” style effect to the top of their drink.

And glassware, provided by so many of the major brands, is rarely oversized with a line marked to where the liquid should stop and the head begin; some receptacles are even specifically designed to force a head to appear.

What next? Will somebody declare that the blueprint of a humble beer glass, used widely across all sectors of the on-trade in all shapes and sizes of brand-specific design, has been conspiratorially created in order to ensure that a tied tenant is forced to improve his yield just to meet his contractual targets?

The last thing we need is yet more expensive Mandatory Code-esque regulation being forced upon those of us at the coalface, or our image tarnished further with the public, which are the only possible outcomes from such an accusation.

At the end of the day it comes down to just one thing: some customers like more head than others, and they’re pretty damned quick to tell us if they’re getting too much of it…

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