Too few in the pub trade were devoting enough time and effort in educating their staff on ensuring beer and cider quality is at its prime in their operations, said five authorities on the segment at the Future Trends: Beer and Cider event in London earlier this month (June).
Beer writer Pete Brown, Campaign for Real Ale head of communications Tom Stainer, Cask Marque national account manager Roger Clayton and Society of Independent Brewers operations director Nick Stafford thrashed out the issues surrounding the quality of the nation’s favourite drinks in a debate sponsored by Vianet and hosted by the company’s managing director Steve Alton.
For all on the panel, big changes have to be made to ensure quality does not slip further. “It’s about changing our thinking about some very simple things,” according to Alton.
In reality, it costs very little to give staff training in how to run a cellar to its best, explained Stainer.
Brown, who also gave warning on the quality of training, echoed this point. “That’s right. But we short-change ourselves on what training is,” he said.
“I’m a qualified cellarman because I did a course for a day and did a multiple choice test where they gave us the answers, but it’s a disaster because I don’t know what to do in a cellar."
‘Don’t get enough credit’
Brown continued: “We are just paying lip service to it, we don’t give it enough credit and there are too many pubs just ticking the boxes to say they’ve done it.”
For Clayton there is no quality agenda in pubs and within the public around beer and cider, which is in contrast to the trade’s investment in food quality.
“We don’t have the quality agenda in pubs for beer [and cider] like we used to do. We have the quality agenda on food, but not so much on beer.”
Few behind the bar thought about the story of beer and how a better-served pint helps to tell that to the customer, claimed Stafford.
He said: “The brewer must be quite open with their customers on what they want to be delivered at the pump. The quality of the beer is the most important thing.”
It was now more important to deliver exceptional quality than ever before because consumer expectations had increased, he added.
“We’re all about the customer experience and we should be making sure that what they drink is good value for money and we need to start delivering more of this quality agenda,” Stafford said.
State on arrival
The trade not only has to start thinking more about how beer is delivered to the consumer, but also about its state on arrival at the pub, Stainer pointed out.
“That quality of experience doesn’t just go from the pub cellar to the glass, it also the other way – from the brewery to the pub,” he explained.
“Equally, people running pubs that get a bad barrel of beer should not serve it and must tell the brewer.”
For Brown, the answer to the issue is very simple, but difficult to put into practice. “It’s about getting the staff trained,” he said.
“There are companies that won’t do it because they say the staff will just move on anyway.
“But BrewDog and JD Wetherspoon are both great examples because if you have a bad pint in Wetherspoon then the staff will replace it – it’s not ‘well nobody else has complained’.
“The sooner that the industry gets over the idea that treating your staff like s**t because they’re going to leave anyway then it won’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The Future Trends: Beer and Cider event would like to thank sponsors and bar partners Aston Manor, Hop House 13, Kegstar, Smirnoff Cider, Vianet, Willis Publicity, The Brewers Association, BrewDog, Kentish Pip, HopStuff, Saxbys and the Society of Independent Brewers for making the event possible.