Standards and staff are two of the issues that pubs have to contend with in an increasingly competitive market these days.

Provide an interesting and consistent offer delivered by passionate people and you should be on the right path.

When recruiting, the best operators often say the same thing: look for personality first, you can train the rest.

And it's true, most people can learn to pour a pint, change a barrel and, in time, advise what the specials on the menus are and why you might want to order them.

It's not so simple to teach passion or the ability to interact naturally with customers.

I experienced an example of that last week when out with colleagues for a couple of non-Dry January drinks.

We were at a pub with some craft credentials but was essentially a boozer with unpretentious food and an above average drinks offer.

Most of us were drinking pints, there was a driver on soft drinks and one of the chaps on halves so he could sample a few different beers.

Doing that has become more acceptable these days and that is no bad thing at all.

He took the chance to ask staff about the drinks, testing their knowledge and opting for a taster every now and then. While the woman serving him didn't come across as a beer expert she had gleaned enough knowledge to make a couple of suggestions.

When she returned to our table to ask if we wanted more drinks – and taking a queue out of the equation is always a good way of keeping people in – he complained about his half pint glass.

It was a standard straight one and he wanted 'a nice stemmed one.'

As the customer that is of course his prerogative. The member of staff, the same one he had pushed for information on the beer, smiled wryly and responded with a funny one liner.

She gently mocked his fastidious exploration of her knowledge and the pub's offer by giving a little bit back.

He laughed, we laughed, she laughed and we all had another drink. His was delivered, as requested, in a stemmed halfpint glass.

She broke the ice and helped keep us in the pub for longer than we otherwise might have done.

One of my fears for the pub trade is that while it becomes more professional, and again this is essential for the future, it doesn't do so at the expense of the warmth and wit that make pubs so unique.

For example, in my, admittedly limited, experience of bars in America it is hard to argue about the product knowledge and attention to detail displayed by staff. However, there times when you wonder how natural the interaction is. This has crept into some similar style outlets over here.

The best pubs are the ones that are professional but make you feel welcome and are not afraid to join in, create and add to the atmosphere.