So here we are again. At the back end of the year in the make or break season that will decide what sort of year our pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants are going to look back upon.
And I hate being a harbinger of doom, but I can’t help but feel the stakes are higher than ever this year and the industry is going to have to go that extra mile to squeeze anything much out of the tube marked feel good factor.
I sense that the atmosphere among potential Christmas and New Year revellers is at best fragile. Even before the atrocities of Paris people seemed to be reluctant to cast aside the worries of the world for a few weeks of festive fun.
It took one sudden change in the British weather a week later and Saturday night city centre trade was slashed. As the woman delivering our curry put it as she stood bedraggled in a snow shower on a doorstep: “Nobody wants to go out.” And why would they?
Amazon’s delivering cut price spirits door-to-door, the supermarkets are doing their annual nose cutting by discounting spirits drinks to the quick, our city centres are under threat and, despite what politicians across the world are telling us, people aren’t in a position to splash the cash and pump up the celebratory volume.
I mention all this, however, not in a bid to depress everyone even further. I mention it because as a regular paying customer to on-trade outlets of various types, I’m getting fed up with the level of rudeness I seem to be experiencing from people whose job it is to make me feel happy and to encourage me to come back again.
I got to thinking about this after a particularly pleasant pub lunch recently. What, I thought, had made it special? Nothing really, I concluded, beyond the fact that the waitress smiled a lot, the manager greeted my family and me at the door, took us to our table, and ensured we were looked after throughout our visit.
And most of all, because we got value for money. Not cheap. Just good quality food and drinks at a fair price. I’m still reeling from the fact that pubs are banishing my standard draught cider brand and replacing it with a premium one that costs between £1 and £1.50 a pint more.
Or that I was recently charged £3.50 for soda water with two dashes of lime in it. When I questioned it, the bar admitted to making a mistake and charged me £3.25 instead. I had to go back to whisky. I know, I know…But rudeness? No, that’s not on.
It seems to me that when it costs a fraction of the price to stay in the warmth and comfort of my home with a bottle of my favourite knock down price malt, I need a proper incentive to venture out to a public area.
And I reckon millions are with me, even younger consumers who want to go out to mix and meet, but who are increasingly sharing drinks at home before heading out late.
So my advice to anyone interacting with the public in the coming days is: These may be worrying times and the future might not look the brightest, but it’s our collective duty to get over that and bring some light and cheer in to the gloom.
Get that right and chances of keeping the lights on going forward are just that bit better.