Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

4.4.2014 Matt Eley

"In very basic terms there is a lot more beer and far fewer places to sell it. Something has to give."

Matt Eley
28.3.2014 Matt Eley

And while I have tried to reserve judgement until I have experienced one of these for myself I couldn't help thinking 'well, that does sound a bit shit, doesn't it?'

Matt Eley
24.3.2014 Matt Eley

"As soon as we walked in we knew it was going to be about advertising because there was a man with a cool beard and natty attire with a small dog that got excited when people clapped."



Matt Eley
9.12.2013 Matt Eley

How about this for the start of a working day: Seven different beers, with seven different breakfasts in the company of about 20 women. In a pub.

Matt Eley
5.9.2013 Matt Eley
I just spotted an entry in my diary that made me laugh. It read ‘Well done  Matt you have now gone 100 days without a drink’.
Matt Eley
30.8.2013 Matt Eley
You would think that a book called The Good Pub Guide would focus on the positive side of the industry.
Matt Eley
20.8.2013 Matt Eley

Diversity: an energetic dance troupe or a box-ticking exercise at local authorities across the UK?

Matt Eley
2.8.2013 Matt Eley
altOne of the many excellent things about going to pubs for food and drink these days is just how often your expectations can be exceeded.

I have lost count of the times I have walked into a fairly standard looking set-up and been met by lovely surprises such as an unfamiliar beer on tap, amazing service, amusing banter or a meal that you’d expect from a Michelin starred gaff, but at half the price.

The flip-side of this is the disappointment of going somewhere where the experience just doesn’t match the expectation. This happened most starkly when I took The Wife and The Boy to a pub that had received a glowing write-up in an esteemed beer guide, only to find the pub was shut for lunch on the day of our visit.

I haven’t been back in a hurry.

Last week I at least managed to get inside the pub of my desires, but it was when there where my hopes were dashed.

I won’t reveal the name, to protect the innocent, but it was on an A road somewhere between my home in Sussex and my holiday destination in Dorset.

We passed it in the car on the way West and I would have been tempted to stop had it not been for a toddler meltdown a few miles up the road that had already caused me to pull over once.

Plus, I thought, it probably looked a bit posh for me and my clan to go in and create havoc.

It looked stunning, a new coat of bright white paint and signs in the type of font that screamed class with tempting food and drink offers. The car park and hanging baskets were immaculate and the fact that a village cricket match was taking place next to the garden added to the romance.

I took a mental note to check it out at a later date.

Well, that later date came as we returned from holiday and needed to make a pit-stop – The Boy had spilled a tiny drop of drink on his leg, which created more havoc than you could possibly imagine.

So, into the perfect car park we went and ventured up the stone steps of this wonderful looking freehouse. Only when we got inside the class disappeared and it bore more resemblance to a pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap managed chain.

Of course the food was anything but cheap. My steak, ordered medium rare, managed to be rare in places but also medium and well done in others. That was quite a neat trick that I doubt the chef could have pulled off had he been trying.

The wife’s veggie option was described as ‘bland’ by the wife and ‘something she could have done herself’. I let that hang without disputing her statement.

And then the boy’s kiddie’s portion was more fit for a hulking 16-year-old than one who had just turned three. I’m sure we would not be the only parents to despair at seeing an adult size plate covered in chips with a handful of token greens.

He was also served an anaemic looking orange squash that was about as tempting as the idea of pouring it over him and seeing what the reaction would be.

That said, The Boy wasn’t grumbling and he duly scoffed his chips down.

The peas were more problematic for him, particularly with grown-up cutlery. But by then I knew how much I was going to be paying so I wasn’t going to worry about a few peas being scattered about the place.

On top of the food itself the service was a little slow, due to a lack of staff rather than the skills of those working, and the atmosphere was stale.

I ended up looking forward to getting back in the car and heading off, £40 lighter.

My suspicion is that whoever runs the pub is brilliant at marketing and running a business – afterall how many more people will stop like we did to go in to the pub? This is all well and good for a pub that probably relies more on passing trade than local custom.

So maybe they have in fact got the offer right for bringing in people and money, but I doubt most people wouldn’t stop for a second bite.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
16.7.2013 Matt Eley
altI always feel a bit sorry for a celebrity when someone says ‘yeah, I met so and so and he was a total git, completely up himself’.

Was he? Was he really? I wonder. Or did he just find you approaching him annoying, or maybe he was just having a bad day? We’re all entitled to those, even if we are rich and famous.

I suppose it just goes to show the importance of a first impression.

Pubs are celebrities too. Everyone in the town knows a pub by name and has an opinion about it whether they have been there or not. If they have paid a visit that first impression is everything.

‘I’m never going back there again. They didn’t say hello / the toilets were filthy / my pint was woeful’

People can be very unforgiving – they are nowhere near as generous as me in the celebrity situation above.

If you make a bad first impression the chances are you have lost that customer for good. And his friends. And the friends of those friends.

That’s the problem with celebrity and pubs. Not only do we all have an opinion but we are all desperate to share it these days to. And word of mouth is not just word of mouth: it is Facebook, it is Twitter, it is Trip Advisor. It is everywhere.

As one licensee once said to me ‘it used to be that if a customer had a bad experience he would tell his friends. Now they tell the world.’

So whether you are a bed-hopping b-lister or a pub that serves a poor pint, people will find out about it.

In both situations the answer is standards. The higher your standards and training the best chance you have of not falling foul to an angry review or tweet.

Same with celebrities. While they will inevitably have bad days, many of them trade off their popularity with the public so they have to do their best to hide it and put on a brave face.

Landlords and bar staff simply have to follow suit. Nobody wants a member of staff with a face like thunder serving them or moaning about how crap everything is.

In fact that is probably the best piece of training a landlord can give his staff on day one. Smile, it’s about the customer’s experience. It’s not about how you feel.

Give the punters the A-list treatment and you will be regarded in the same way.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
3.7.2013 Matt Eley
altOK, so hands up. I failed. Pure and simple, as I believe Hear’Say once said.

I said I was going to go alcohol free for three months and I managed six weeks. In old school terms I would be lucky to get away with a D for that performance. Maybe a generous teacher would give me a C- for effort

So do I feel like a loser? Well, no more than usual.
Attempting this when you work in the pub industry is not dissimilar to an accountant saying he won’t use a calculator for the same period of time. It is both pointless and bordering on the unprofessional.

Drinking is not a pre-requisite to writing about pubs but turning down alcohol at events or promotions or visiting a brewery and not trying their beer can be viewed as rude and a little odd.

I like to think I am neither of those things.

So I have succumbed, initially at a launch for a beer event and then in slightly more spectacular style at the weekend. I had a couple, as the saying goes.

Even though my detox period was not as long as I had planned it has not been without merit.

For a start I have learned that giving up alcohol is actually not that difficult. I found the experience much easier than say giving up smoking, which took years of failed attempts before finally knocking it on the head once and for all (I think).

I suppose the fact that I knew this was only temporary helped but there were no cravings as such. The only times when I felt like I was missing out was when I was in the pub and others were enjoying what looked like lovely pints of beer or cider or glasses of wine.

On the positive side I felt more inclined to exercise more and received one or two comments saying that I looked well. I’ll take any compliments I can get so that was most welcome.

But I certainly believe it is possible to live a healthy and balanced life that includes alcohol as part of it.

Before I started my brief period of abstinence I viewed alcohol was a life-enhancing product - when used properly - and I stand by that.

A drink to celebrate, relax with friends or to mark an occasion is no bad thing. And while soft drinks have improved I still don’t think they can match the intense flavour experiences you can enjoy with alcohol.

So far the only drinks I have had have been when I have been out and actually at work events. The occasional glass of wine or other at home is not something I have missed as I have a social occasion in the pub.

And while I think I could probably continue to give up drinking at home I can see no advantage and nor do I have any desire to do the same at the pub!

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley