Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matt Eley is an Inapub contributor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

9.7.2012 Matt Eley
altCountryfile is not a programme that I regularly watch if I’m honest but yesterday’s episode took an interesting look at the plight of our rural pubs.

Thank goodness God created the iPlayer in that case because you can still watch the show if you follow this link

Landlords, a potential pub co-op and industry leaders told us of the challenges pubs face - supermarkets, tax, changing consumer habits - and we were given a depressing montage of boarded-up boozers in rural settings.

Thankfully the programme wasn’t just looking for problems, but solutions as well.

We saw how, with the help of Pub is the Hub (, The Sycamore Inn in Parwich, Derbyshire, had expanded its services with a village shop. It was working well, but the licensee was putting in 80 hours a week to make it happen.

One member of the co-op that was looking to take-over another struggling village pub suggested that its travails were due to a lack of marketing under the previous regime.

Elsewhere in the show it was stated that pubs need to do so much more than sell drink and food these days.

Now this is where Inapub can help. I know you will probably say ‘well, you would say that wouldn’t you’ but online marketing is essential for pubs looking to grow their customer database.

A survey by Deloitte last week revealed that an increase in ‘going out occasions’ was being driven by 18 to 34-year-olds looking for offers online.

This is where can help. With our website, app, and links with numerous data partners we can get your information about events, drinks, offers etc to thousands of prospective punters.

We can help you build databases and work out the best way of getting in touch with these people – be it text, email, Twitter, Facebook or via a variety of different websites.

Most of this won’t even cost you a penny.

If you are serious about your online solution then give a look or download or iTunes app from the app store – the Android version is on its way.

We are confident that we can really help pubs in this area and be part of the solution to pubs getting more people through their doors.

This is, after all, what everybody in the pub trade wants. And while it is refreshing and important for programmes such as Countryfile to focus on how vital pubs are to their communities let’s hope that in the future they will be able to return to the subject matter and reveal how things have turned around.

Perhaps they might even be able to show a montage of how thriving pubs can help unite and support communities.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor
Matt Eley
4.7.2012 Matt Eley
altI was reading an interview with the author Martin Amis the other day when he said something along the lines of that ‘now that we are no longer an Empire and Britain is insignificant on the world stage the nation has slumped into a collective drunkenness to console itself’.

That is by no means a direct quote and Amis, naturally, put it far more eloquently than I ever could, but I hope I am getting across the point he was making.

It was an image of the country being like an old drunk at the bar telling stories of how good his life used to be. Only the smart guys in the suits, sipping Budweiser, weren’t paying any much attention, save for the occasional nod.

In my formative years when it came to reading, Amis was always a favourite so his opinions still intrigue me.

But, however vivid the picture he paints, I just can’t agree on this one.

For a starter this nation has never been shy of drinking. Beer goes back so far it has hard to put a precise date on it but monks have been brewing it for the best part of 1,000 years.

Breweries that were born centuries ago are still here today. Yes, they are still making money and beer but volumes are often in decline.

Drinking rates are falling whatever way you look at it, unless that happens to be in the pages of a national press that still seems to be in love with the phrase ‘Binge Britain’.

Yes, admissions to hospital for ‘alcohol related’ incidents are up but a large chunk of this is due to the way figures are now collated. For example, if you cut you thumb whilst doing some DIY and you have happened to have had a beer earlier in the day it will be recorded as an alcohol related incident, when in fact it may have had more to with an inability to hold a saw rather than your drink.

I just do not believe we are a nation of drunks.

What we are, as Amis’s line suggests, is a country that is quick to put itself down or think how much better things used to be.

I’m not saying things have never been so good, but they are not so bad either.

I have been fortunate to have travelled a bit in my time and despite the rain tumbling on Heathrow whenever I return there is nowhere I would rather live. I am sure most people feel the same way, despite their grumbles about tax, the NHS and the weather.

I want to be in a country that has a past, that has a sense of humour, freedom, opportunities for people, and a place to have a beer with friends by a fire or, and this will happen again one day, in a beer garden.

We might not be the world player we once were but we have more good than bad here, and you can see most of it in the pubs and inns of this nation.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley
28.6.2012 Matt Eley
altI probably bang on about how accommodation can be a great revenue stream for pubs a bit too much but I am currently at a hotel that is providing even more evidence in this area.

Last month I stayed at an amazing pub and paid £120 for the privilege. It sounds a lot but due to the incredible service standards, beautifully constructed room, a breakfast fit for a king and a manor of other details it was actually a great deal.

Today I am just about to checkout from a hotel where I paid the same price and feel a little short changed.

It’s not that it’s bad. It isn’t, it is OK. But for £120 I want more than OK.

I don’t want a rubbery fry-up that has been sweating for who knows how long underneath lamps, I don’t want to pay an extra £15 for using WiFi for the day and I don’t want to be greeted by a humourless robot who runs through same checklist word-for-word with me and every other guest that arrives.

I want personality, free WiFi and to leave feeling that my custom is valued and that I will want to check in again.

That is what you get from pubs that do accommodation well. And what they get is your spend on the room, drinks and food and a ringing endorsement to anybody else they know that is heading that way.

Of course it is not practical or possible for every pub to offer letting rooms. Some don’t have the space and for others it just might not be appropriate for the area or the business.

But if you do have rooms or a space that can be converted into rooms it is worth looking into.

Many top operators are using the space they have for rooms and many have told me how after the initial outlay looking after rooms is a relatively low-cost way of bringing in extra revenue.

It creates a new customer base as well, be it staycationers or folk in the area for work.

It is an area we intend to look at more closely on this site and in the pages of Inapub magazine. So if you are a pub that specialises in accommodation we would love to hear from you so we can profile your pub.

Drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Time for me to check out...
Matt Eley
6.6.2012 Matt Eley
altAs part of my jubilee weekend celebrations I went away to a wedding in Suffolk and opted to stay in a pub room.

I tend to do this rather than a hotel because the experience is usually much more friendly, the rates can be considerably better value and naturally it is important to support the trade.

However, I was slightly taken aback when I called the pub and discovered that the last room available was going at a rate of £135.

This is fairly high by pub standards but, having typically left booking until the last moment and there being little else in the way of accommodation in the area, my only choice was to take it and worry about the hit on my credit card later.

I didn’t know quite what to expect but I can say that after checking out I wasn’t worried about my money because I felt I had received fantastic value.

The room itself was more of an apartment - a beautifully and tastefully furnished suite, with modern four-poster bed, all the mod cons you need, desiger toiletries and a freestanding bath (to mention just a few features). There had clearly been attention to detail – not scratchy blanket sheets here – and the stay was akin to a five star London hotel, which is obviously considerably pricier than this pub.

Breakfast was also a treat. Staff were friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and the carefully cooked scrambled eggs with salmon and the other half's eggs benedict with the juiciest mushrooms you ever feasted on got the day off to a hangover-curing start.

The visit was a treat and it further convinced me of a belief I have had for a while now – accommodation must be the next important revenue stream for pubs to tackle.

We have had the food revolution and we know how tough the drinks market is but accommodation is still a relatively untapped market for pubs.

Too many pubs have the space available but do not use it. As one award winning freeholder recently said to me ‘you must make every square foot of the building work for you’.

Admittedly, converting rooms is not cheap. But once you have done it the running costs are relatively low. And the beauty of rooms is that not only do you get the rates but also the incremental spend on drink and food.

People staying are generally going to need watering and feeding so, if your offer is right, the chances are they will be putting more money your way, 

Not every pub will be able to charge more than £100 a night. Many will be looking at half this at least, but it all adds up.

This year there will be an influx of tourists to the UK combined with staycationers be looking for bargains. Pubs with rooms should be cashing in.

We are planning on closely covering how pubs make the most of their letting space so if you have stories to tell please get in touch with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Right, I’d better go and deal with that credit card statement…
Matt Eley
23.5.2012 Matt Eley
altI was reminded the other day that it in July it will be five years since the smoking ban came into force in England.

For something that was such a major change for the industry it is an anniversary that for me could have gone by unnoticed.

I am a former and occasional smoker who has absolutely no problem going outside for a cigarette. In fact, it seems almost unbelievable to me that we were ever allowed to smoke inside pubs in the first place.

After a meal I used to always be one of the first to spark up and utter the words ‘ah, always the best one of the day’.

But the notion of smoking in front of other diners now seems entirely selfish. Even when I’m abroad in countries where you can smoke indoors I tend to find myself by the front door in true English fashion.

And, apart from a few grumblers who find it hard to accept the world has changed, I think most people agree that smoke free pubs are a more sociable and friendly environment for both workers and the majority of customers.

I know it has hurt trade and I know it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many pubs. Wet-led, land-locked boozers found it particularly hard and for them the new breed of customer never really transpired.

Smokers stayed at home feeling betrayed and many never returned.

But, for the greater good, I can’t help thinking that the smoking ban was the right thing to do.

When I was growing up I found it inconceivable that you used to be able to smoke on planes, buses and in cinemas. I suppose the next generation will think the same of pubs and restaurants and look at grainy old photos (probably on Facebook) of smoke-filled bars with wonder at how that was ever allowed to happen.

I just hope that this is where it stops and we do not follow a trend for banning smoking in open air spaces, such as pub gardens. For while smoking is still legal in this country, it is wrong to treat smokers as second class citizens who are only allowed to indulge in their habit at home.

The balance at the moment seems right and fair and I hope any future reviews of the ban reach the same conclusion.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor
Matt Eley
10.5.2012 Matt Eley
altI have always had mixed feelings about the value of awards, mainly because I have never won any myself.

Yes, there is a lot to be said for recognising talent, hard work, innovation and all of those other many factors that go into making something a success.

If done properly awards can be a great asset to a deserving pub or individual that has been handed such an accolade. They can then use it to their advantage to gain column inches and in turn more trade.

A case in point is Mahdis Neghabian of the Camden Eye in North London. The 31-year-old was named BII Licensee of the Year on Tuesday and widely praised for turning a pub around so that it is now making 20 per cent extra year on year.

A great success story, and a well deserved winner. Hats off, thumbs up and a big well done all round.

However, the same can not be said of another BII Award that was handed out, or rather not handed out on Sunday.

In a shocking example of a corporate power trip, sponsors Diageo refused to give the Scotland BII Award for Bar Operator of the Year to winners BrewDog. This is despite the fact that an independent panel of judges had picked them and the trophy had been engraved with their name on it.

Instead they tried to hand it to another pub team, which, in what must have been a very embarrassing situation all round, refused as it was clear they were not the first choice.

For whatever reason Diageo didn’t want BrewDog, a company that is never shy of an opinion on the big boys of the drinks world, to win the award.

Unsurprisingly, it has backfired dramatically.

Judges whispered to BrewDog that they were the winners, the bullied and embarrassed BII apologised, and Diageo had to admit that it had made an almighty balls up, though the words they used were more along the lines of ‘we made an error of judgment’.

Too bloody right they did.

But the apology is all too late. The damage was done by the individuals who made that call at the awards. BrewDog have made sure everyone knows what happened, and can you blame them?

The problem is not just that Diageo wanted to pick its winner but that the entire thing can devalue awards to the point that people will wonder if they mean anything at all.

Corporate sponsorship and advertising is much needed by groups such as the BII and indeed by media companies such as ourselves. But if the lines become blurred integrity is lost and everything you strive to achieve becomes meaningless.

It’s a very sad day when the best in the business are deemed unworthy winners of an award because the sponsors have a problem with them.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley
1.5.2012 Matt Eley
altI witnessed some worrying signs ahead of the European Championships last night, and I’m not talking about the lack of sparkle from the English players on show in the Manchester derby.

A game of this magnitude was a handy trial run for pubs ahead of the Euros, which should attract football fans a-plenty in June.

However, the pub I was in managed to get it so wrong that I wondered if it was being run by the FA.

There were only two members of seemingly junior staff on and they were clearly struggling to cope with a fairly busy bar.

They couldn’t change a barrel between them as the beers fell down as quickly as Ashley Young in the penalty area.

‘Pint of EPA please?’
‘Sorry, that’s gone’
‘Timothy Taylor Landlord’
‘That too’
‘Sorry, that’s off as well’,
‘Right, what’s on. Peroni?’
No, we’re out.
‘OK I’ll have a bottle of something in that case’

Running out of beer is pretty basic and when there is a big game on surely it doesn’t take too much to ensure the orders are in.

Also, staff up for these occasions. It might cost more in wages but trust me if you don’t do it people will just leave, as I did at half time.

The lack of drink, service and an inaudible sound system, meant the experience was entirely unenjoyable.

We headed to another pub to watch the second half. They had clearly got it right because the pub was packed and it was tough to find a spot to watch the action (or lack there of) unfold.

Eventually we gave up the ghost and went to a third pub without Sky and enjoyed a chat and a few beers watching the last 20 minutes playout on our smart phones - the modern day equivalent of watching football on Ceefax.

The way the evening panned out was largely due to the offer at the first pub. If it had provided the right experience we would have stayed there all night, spent a decent wedge of cash and returned for future football matches and recommended it to friends.
As it is I will avoid it from now on and watch games elsewhere.

Pubs need to get it right to ensure customers choose to visit them when England take on the rest of Europe in June.

An average or poor pub offer is just not good enough when people can watch the game in the comfort of their own home.

Here’s to getting it right for the Euros, and hoping Roy can do the same.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor.
Matt Eley
25.4.2012 Matt Eley
altIn the last couple of days two celebrities have been involved in serious debates around the matter of alcohol and drugs.

One of these was a politician and the other a comedian.

But I have no doubts about which one I would take seriously.

Actor, comedian and former heroin addict Russell Brand yesterday gave evidence to a panel of MPs on the subject of drug addiction and his experiences of being treated by the system.

He turned up in a black vest and flamboyant jewellery, as befits his image, and spoke wisely and articulately on a subject that he has first-hand experience of.

Now contrast that to the Radio Five Live programme ‘Drunk Again’ hosted by Ann Widdecombe.

The premise was that former Tory MP and celebrated dancing buffoon Ann would head around town with a group young professional women to see why they liked to get absolutely blotto of an evening.

The usual clichés were trotted out about women drinking ‘shots’ (heaven forbid) and how town centres are no go areas on a Saturday night for normal members of society.

Now I am not saying that alcohol consumption is not an issue in this country but let’s get a bit of perspective here. Alcohol consumption in this country is in decline. People are drinking less - the statistics revealed as much in the first five minutes of the show

Nobody likes to see people puking on the pavements at the weekends but this is not as widespread as Ann and the Daily Mail would have you believe.

The vast majority of people who drink in this country do so for social reasons and not to go out and cause problems for themselves and others, yet this side of drinking is rarely explored on television or radio.

I don’t believe you have to be an expert in a subject to make a programme or broadcast about it but was Ann really the right person for this job? I am sure she has read and studied a huge amount about alcohol but what can she really know about being young, going out and wanting to have a drink?

For the girls on the show it must have been like having your granny out on a Saturday night, trespassing into a world that in a practical sense she is entirely unfamiliar with.

Ann may protest that the programme was not about those who just want to have a bit of fun but these things rarely come across that way. They end up demonising a section of society who by and large just want to have a drink, relax and maybe a bit of a jig. If it goes beyond that the vast majority of people feel the regret and remorse the following day.

Yes, there are some who have a serious problem, but this is a very small percentage of people who go out to pubs, bars and clubs
Back to our man Russell. He told MPs that he would much prefer it if politicians regarded drug addiction as a disease rather than a criminal justice matter and that those involved should be treated with compassion.

Could it be argued that the same approach is required for the minority of people who drink to excess on a regular basis?
Nobody is saying that it is not a problem, but are we really tackling it properly as a society?

The more we demonise those who can not drink responsibly the further away we are from helping them deal with their own demons.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
17.4.2012 Matt Eley
altI was a very lucky boy at the weekend as I had the pleasure of being invited along to the John Smith’s Grand National.

By the time I got there my luck had run out somewhat as I came away much lighter in the pocket than I had started the day.

That really is by-the-by though because I never expect to win at the races and just being there and enjoying the day is the main draw for me. Witnessing such a close finish was pretty incredible too, though by this stage my horse, Shakalakaboomboom, was going backwards.

Being at Aintree also gave me the chance to go out in one of my favourite cities in the country later that night.

There are certain places that hold good memories and always seem to offer a cracking night out. For me Liverpool is one of those places.

It has a great mix of party pubs, boozers and bars; the people (and I know this is a generalisation) are more often than not welcoming and keen on having a laugh.

I had a slight concern that Saturday night in Liverpool could be fraught with tension. For while 40,000 happy Reds were travelling back from Wembley, there were an equal number of blue Blues.

The combination of 80,000 football fans meeting up with the 70,000 folk who had spent a day at the races could have been troublesome. As far as I could see it was nothing of the sort.

The pubs were packed and full of fun and one of the key ingredients seemed to be live music.

We visited the famous Mathew Street – home of The Cavern, The Grapes, and a load of other places frequented by The Beatles some 50 years ago. Their legacy lives on here as bright young things, and slightly older and more jaded ones, take to the stage to provide entertainment.

It reminded me just how enjoyable a spot of spontaneous live music can be. Most of the pubs and bars were free to enter and had a fairly simple set up with one or two musicians belting out covers.

It provided a great focal point in every pub and it didn’t take long before groups of people were joining in to have a good old sing song.

For me, live music, when done well, provides a great energy in a pub that you just can’t get from a DJ or a juke box.

And now with the laws changing to allow live music to grow pubs should really be able to capitalise.

The Live Music Act is expected to become law by October and, among other things, this means venues with a capacity of up to 200, will not need a special licence to host live acts.

It is a cutting of red tape that should help pubs and hopefully replicate the talent and atmosphere I experience in Liverpool at the weekend.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley 
Matt Eley
13.4.2012 Matt Eley
altOne of the oft heard mantras in the pub trade is that the value of the offer is key.

The considered view is that most customers are not looking for something cheap but they do want to feel that whatever they pay they are getting what they deserve or more for their money.

This week I had two examples that I believe perfectly highlight the importance of value.

On Tuesday a friend and I went to a pub with a great reputation for food and prices to match. We had three courses, a bottle of wine and ended up spending the best part of £100.

However the food and wine was superb and the member of staff who looked after us was charming and knew what he was talking about.

He explained why gurnard was becoming more prevalent on menus (it was mighty fine too) nodded in approval at our choices (thus making us feel what we knew we were talking about) and offered to get extra bread, water, and to order a taxi when we were finally ready to leave.

It was the kind of experience you would want and expect from a high quality restaurant but it was delivered in a pub that you would feel equally comfortable turning up in flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt (if you’re lucky at this time of year) and lounging at the bar with a pint.

Put it this way, we left having spent a good whack of cash but I know that when I am I that area again I will head straight to that pub (The Harwood Arms in Fulham in case you were wondering).

However yesterday I paid about 20 per cent of that price for two burgers and chips, onion rings and a couple of soft drinks (again I was with a friend, I wasn’t being greedy). And despite this being relatively ‘cheap’ I left feeling I had not gotten great value.

The chips were soggy, the onion rings greasy and the burger, while big enough, was dripping in fat. After the meal I felt like I had eaten a kebab; guilty, fat, and sure that in a few hours time I was going to be punished for my crime.

I was in a town centre managed house that serves very standard pub meals. My expectations were low yet they were still not met. I will not be returning there in a hurry.

So I wholeheartedly agree with the mantra. The perception of value is of huge importance to me as a customer.
But then there might be one other factor that I should take into account with these two pub meals. I paid for the second one

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley