Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Liquid Larceny

One Mine Host's favourite blogs is UK blogger The Magistrate's Blog, writing as "Bystander" and titled "The Law West of Ealing Broadway".

Recently Bystander posted a piece titled "Liquid Larceny", which was of great interest to Mine Host.

It provides some insight into the pub trade in the UK, which despite some surface similiarities, is a totally different industry to its cousin in the land of Oz.

From careful reading of the Magistrate's Blog, it would seem any similarities between being a Magistrate in the UK and in Qld are equally rare.

Mine Host is aware that the UK pub trade is quite tough, and if any of the following allegations from Bystander are remotely true, then the UK pub trade is every bit as hardscrabble as Mine Host has always suspected it to be.

Were anyone to make similar allegations about the Wayside Tavern, or any other pub Mine Host as operated or worked in, it would be so ridiculously false as to be laughable.

However human nature is such that were such ignorant allegations to be made, they would be believed by several of the clientele, though many would be motivated by the off-chance of getting a free beer out of it.

In "Liquid Larceny" Bystander makes several allegations:
That there is a lucrative conspiracy against the public. (by the liquor industry)
That short measures of beer are the norm.
That short measures are deliberate.
That the deliberate policy of publicans is to serve short measures.
That this fraud amounts to 150 million quid each year.
That topping up beer (ie, pouring with *ugh* no head on the beer) at customer request is done sourly and under duress only.
That charging 25p to add Lime, Lemonade etc to beer is a "fiddle".
That charging the same for a shandy as for a straight beer is also a "fiddle".

As some insight into the reality of the pub trade, Mine Host now provides his rebuttal of each allegation:

Drinkers demand a head on beer, and will send back a glass which is full to the brim as readily as they would send back one which has too much foam.
However, as the initiated know, spillage is the greatest worry of publicans, the elimination of which will bring far greater benefits than would short pouring, (and without the legal penalty & commercial boycott which would be the consequence of short pouring)

So the "short measures" are deliberate, are a deliberate policy by Mine Host, but are done purely at the request, nay, demand of the clientele.

Deliberate "short pours" are the least of Mine Host's worries. Spillage is the serious worry of any publican. Spillage, caused by a combination of poor equipment, beer temperature rising above 1 deg celsius, bar staff error, or high gas pressure

Spillage, when unchecked, can easily be 10 litres for every 50 litres actually sold. I say "piffle" to anyone who is so ignorant of the pub trade as to believe I would bother with short measures.

Charging for adding cordial or lemonade to a beer glass, is not a fiddle, done without consideration for the displaced beer. The cost of service is what is being paid for far more than the cost of ingredients.

Mine Host can only hold & pour five beer glasses at once, although some of his barmaids can manage six. A busy public bar keeps staff on the hop. The charge (about 1/3 of the 25p bystander & his fellow drinkers must pay) is a reflection of the time taken, rather than the amount of lime or lemonade consumed.

Staff are the largest cost in a bar, and their time must be paid for.

1 comment:

John said...

Since no-one else has seen fit to challenge Mine Host, I will take up the gauntlet.

1) Time and again I have been served beer that is 1/4 head. Asking for a top-up has indeed brought everything from dirty looks to outright ridicule. I rarely return to such a spot voluntieri, but it probably happens 1 in 10 days (we get around quite a bit, and, unfortunately, when near home often need to frequent a couple of unsatisfactory pubs.)
2) If your equiptment and staff are so problematic that they are the proximate cause of significant spillage, you have a management issue. Fix that, then get onto the short pours, which sour your clientelle beyond all rationality.
3) Ditto for High Gas pressure. Can't do much about the weather, sad to say, but it should be the least of your worries if you are gas-charged.
4)If you price your products correctly, you will not worry about the staff cost of serving 1/4 lime.
5) Almost all of these "problems" would be solved by being friendly, a solution not given much thought these days, I'm afraid.

Short Pours might be the least of Mine Host's worries, but not the least of mine. It's second to being short changed. Both are deliberate acts; one is criminal.

And, given the number of pubs, I'd say 150 million pounds sounds low.