That was 2005. This is 2012.
As of today (12 January) there are 197 days to go until the opening ceremony, if the dodgy Olympic countdown clock can be believed. That’s just 28 weeks.
Several of the industry leaders who share their predictions for 2012 on pages 44-49 mention the Olympics as a reason to be hopeful for a strong summer’s trading, even if the first half of the year will be challenging to say the least.
This year’s big set-piece events — the Olympics, Diamond Jubilee and Euro 2012 football tournament — are all opportunities not to be sniffed at. Now is the time to be planning your themed events to drive footfall, fill your pubs and get the tills ringing.
That’s not to say that the Olympics and other summer events will be a panacea for all the economy’s and industry’s ills. Just before Christmas I took the Publican’s Morning Advertiser team on a day out in Stratford, east London (I know — I spoil them) to visit some of the pubs within 500 yards of the entrance to the Olympic Park (see pages 52-53).
It was an eye-opening experience. Exit Stratford station, head north-west to the E20 postcode across the shiny bridge, pass through the sparkling Westfield Stratford City shopping centre and you’ll find a parade of gleaming restaurants and a single pub — Geronimo’s the Cow — overlooking the Olympic Stadium, already doing great business and bracing themselves for several weeks of super-revenues.
But head south-east through the old shopping centre to Stratford Broadway and it’s like emerging from a time tunnel into the retail environment time forgot.
For the licensees of most pubs with an E15 postcode, the future is uncertain at best. Some, and particularly those with accommodation, are putting a brave face on things — hoping for some decent scraps from the Olympics table.
Others say they are resigned to the fact that few Olympic tourists will bother to visit and spend in the real East End.
For them, the twin challenges of managing deliveries via a disrupted road network and planning stock and staffing levels in such a way as to take advantage of uncertain extra custom is front of mind.
Whatever their plans, they must pay attention to the common theme of all the best-practice stories the PMA has been reporting on in these difficult times: offering a quality experience and providing real value for money.
It’s a consistent feature of all the shortlisted entries in this year’s Publican Awards. The preliminary judging has resulted in an excellent set of finalists (see page 14) who will be visited, interrogated and mystery-shopped over the next few weeks as we aim to identify the best in the business.
Good luck to all those companies in the running, and I look forward to welcoming the best of you on to the stage at the Grosvenor House hotel in central London on 27 March (just 11 weeks away)!