Between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs will be forced out of business in the next 12 months and it is “high time they closed their doors”, guide editors Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley have predicted in the guide’s introduction.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has reported that 26 pubs are closing a week (c1300 a year), but Aird and Stapley expect these numbers to escalate over the coming year due to the increase in disposals by pub companies and predictions from insolvency experts.
Although the closures will mean bad news for staff and regulars, the editors said the pubs forced to close will be “bad pubs at the bottom of the pecking order” which are “happy with indifferent food, drink, service and surroundings”.
“The worst quality a pub can have is a landlord that doesn’t care for the pub inside and outside because that means they don’t care much about the customers. Licensees like that give the pub trade a bad name,” Stapley added.
“Pubs closing keeps the trade healthy and robust. Pubs have got to diversify if they want to succeed – they can’t just open for lunch and open again in the evening anymore.”
However, Stapley added that 1,000 new pubs are expected to open in the next year and many of the ones that shut down will reopen by someone who knows how to run a successful business.
The guide also highlighted that poor service is the main reason for customers writing off a pub – beating bad beer and mediocre food – and licensees who motivate and inspire staff are the driving force behind improving pub service standards in the UK.
Despite this, overall there has been a fall in the number of complaints about service in the last 18 months, which Stapley said is down to a surge in professionalism in the industry and licensees realising training staff properly is paramount.
“A good pub will choose its staff well and treat them as part of the team. It’s about customers walking into a pub, feeling at home and receiving a warm welcome.”
When it comes to beer prices, the editors found the average cost of a pint of real ale is £3.20 – up by more than 16% since 2009 when the average pint cost £2.68.
Meanwhile, there is a 65p a pint difference in the cheapest beer in the country in Staffordshire and the most expensive in London, while pubs that brew their own beer charge 40p a pint less than the local average.
While Stapley admitted beer prices are now “horrendous” she said the biggest change the pub trade has seen is publicans absorbing costs themselves without passing them on to customers.
“Since the recession publicans know they have to offer fair prices. If customers feel they have paid too much they won’t go back,” she said.
The Good Pub Guide 2014 features over 4,700 pubs and has 163 new entries.