Bad beer puts pubs at risk of ruin

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Damning: beer quality at a low
Damning: beer quality at a low

Related tags Cask marque Cask ale

Pubs face potential ruin if they do not improve the quality of their beer, especially in an environment of increased costs and competition from the likes of coffee shops and fast-food outlets, sector experts have warned.

Cask Marque’s recently launched Scores on the Cellar Doors scheme, which rates pubs on how well cellars are kept, scored pubs mainly three out of five for the quality of their cellars, according to Cask Marque director Paul Nunny.

Scores on the Cellar Doors (750 pubs)

  • 5 star: 27.3%
  • 4 star: 10.1%
  • 3 star: 58.8%
  • 2 star: 3.3%
  • 1 star: 0.5%

It was disappointing to see, of the 750 visits conducted in 2016, that 58.8% of pubs had scored so low since poor cellar quality meant poor beer quality, said Nunny at the launch of the annual Beer Quality Report​ in London today (6 April).

Many things, including increased financial pressures, poor staff training and an uptick in choice, had affected standards, added Nunny.

To counter rising costs, more pubs were forgoing frequent line cleaning in a bid to save on beer wastage and to avoid taking pumps out of service.

He told The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​): “There are more cost pressures on the industry nowadays and some pubs are taking short cuts and this is having an effect on consumer experience."

'Must stand out'

He continued: “Consumers today expect good retail standards and this has added to the demands on the pub. These are difficult times and you must stand out.

“We have now got a lot of fast-food outlets that are competing with pubs and so are coffee shops, only their standards are higher and pubs need to catch up. But that’s not to say there aren’t pubs out there with higher standards than their competitors.”

According to the report, which was compiled using insight from Vianet, by 2020, pubs will face an additional £374m in costs from extra employment regulations and business rates. This will burden the average pub with an additional £7,178.

Unclean beer lines by draught







Premium lager


Standard lager


Keg ale


Cask ale


Though pubs have no control over business rates and employment regulation costs, they could claw back money through serving beer better, the report claimed.

Profits of £709m are lost each year through sub-standard quality; £73m of that through wasted taps, £182m through missed quality uplift, £206m through pouring loss and £248m through money not reaching the till.

Other worrying figures in the report, which was compiled using data from 222,000 Vianet devices, 22,000 Cask Marque pub visits and 750 Scores on the Cellar Doors, were that one in three pints are served from dirty beer lines,​ 60% of pubs do not achieve target beer yields and 6% of all pints are too warm.

The figures were discouraging because beer sales account for 65% of takings in the pub trade, according to Nunny.

'Damning report'

He added: “This is a damning report on the quality offer to consumers. Findings from our own recent research showed that 49% of [non Cask Marque] pubs are not meeting Cask Marque standards. It remains vital for the future of the category we don’t disappoint customers when it comes to serving a perfect pint.”

However, an additional £182m could be generated by pubs if they consistently delivered a great pint, through improved line cleaning and serving it at the correct temperature.

Vianet managing director Steve Alton said: “This report lays bare the profit opportunity for all operators across the pub sector, regardless of whether they run managed, tenanted or independent outlets."

Unclean beer lines: percentage of pubs by region











West Midlands




East Midlands


Home Counties


Yorkshire & Humber


East England




Greater London




He added: “The message is good operators could have better businesses by driving up retail standards and, in turn, help safeguard the future of the category.”

Beer, as a category, has a total value of £12.1bn, which has grown by 1.3% in the past year. Draught keg grew by 57%, while cask ale volumes declined by 6.5% for the year ending February 2017, according to figures from CGA Strategy, the British Beer and Pub Association, the Society of Independent Brewers and Cask Marque.

The Beer Quality Report ​will be available from Cask Marque’s website​ soon.

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