News

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

19.3.2013 Matt Eley
altIt’s 5pm on St Patrick’s Day and I am dreading going to the pub.

Not because of the hordes of people in daft hats swigging back the Black Stuff and singing out of tune or even because the Welsh will fancy a drink or two after their Six Nations success.

I’m not up for it because instead of drinking I am supposed to be working tonight.

I am down to do a stint behind the bar at a local pub, The Blue Anchor in Crowborough, East Sussex, as part of my own initiative to get more practical experience of a subject I spend my days writing about.

The fact is though, it’s Sunday, my two-year-old son is clinging to my legs for dear life, it’s tipping down outside, and I can’t really be arsed to leave the house.

But I do. And the main reason is because this must be how many people feel before putting a shift in. Not motivated, not at their best but still having to get behind the bar and put a smile on.

I needn’t have worried about having to find a forced sense of jollity. My hosts for the night brothers, Martyn and Damian and wife/sister-in-law Caroline, welcome me behind the bar and deftly bring me into a conversation with a friendly bunch of locals.

The atmosphere is good and I sense that this could actually be fun.

The trio have been at the pub – a Shepherd Neame tenancy – for four years and in that time have built up local and destination trade based around good quality, locally sourced food and a bar run to the highest of standards.

Thankfully as tonight is quiz night I don’t have to worry about any food orders. My job is to serve drinks and take the money.

You might think that with it being St Patrick’s Day there would be plenty of Guinness flowing but despite an Ireland themed section in the quiz, it isn’t really that sort of night. I only serve a few pints of Guinness and these come with a dash of blackcurrant. My biggest achievement is not turning my nose up at the order.

As I completed my first shift last week I feel confident pulling a pint (first up, cider – yes! Easy) but the team have plenty of tips for me.

I’m told to give the lager a swirl as I pour to encourage a decent head, which is the exact opposite to the problem I faced last time out.

When my fingers stray too close to the top of a pint Damian tells me to grab the glass with my little finger rested underneath, explaining that if a hand is anywhere near where the customer drinks from he won’t let it go across the bar.

After pouring what I, in my humble opinion, consider to be a darn decent pint of Kent Best, I tell a customer I can’t serve him that one and begin pouring another.

‘You’ve just poured me a pint. What’s wrong with that one?’

‘Oh, I can’t give you that one I’m afraid.’

‘Why ever not, it looks fine (he may have said ‘darn decent’, I can’t quite recall).

Anyway, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to explain why I chose to rest that first pint on the back bar. I look across to Damian for help, but his expression suggests that he doesn’t have a clue why I am faffing about and wasting good drink.

‘I’m afraid I’ve contaminated that one,’ I venture

As soon as the sentence leaves my mouth I realise that my choice of words make it sound like I have gobbed in his pint.

‘A hair fell in it.’ I add. ‘An eyelash’, I splutter out, just for the sake of clarity.

‘Right, lovely. Thanks,’ says the customer, unimpressed, walking off with his uncontaminated beer.

Still, Damian tells me I did the right thing, even if my phrasing, a little ironically, wasn’t of as high a standard as my pint-pouring. It also means that I now I have a pint to drink, because my own eye-lash doesn’t bother me one jot and it’s either that or chuck it away.

The bar gets busier before the quiz gets going and the four of us work fairly solidly. Of course they all manage to serve about three customers to my one. If I’m not looking for the right glass, I’m struggling with the till.

Naturally, it’s electronic and for the other three it is as easy as typing in a PIN number at the cashpoint. But for me every attempt to use it is like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. alt

‘Hit ‘clerk 4’ first, that’s you tonight, then add your drinks, enter the cash and give them the change’

Sounds easy enough, but where the bloody hell is the ‘dash of lime’ button? Which wine am I looking for? Is there a ‘175ml button’? And don’t even get me started on people with tabs or those paying with cards and asking for cashback.

I muddle on and thankfully my colleagues are always close at hand for when I need help. Either that or they’re taking the piss out of me on Twitter.

Things quieten down as the quiz gets going and I manage to collect a few glasses and perfect my lime and soda pouring technique(there’s a few students in), thinking that I’m just a few shifts away from being Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

Then it’s break time and the teams need to quench their thirst.

‘Pint of Best. Hold the eyelash’ quips the returning customer. I exaggerate leaning back as I pour his pint and hand it over minus any detached parts of my body.

That for me is a huge success.

And as soon as the shift has begun it seems to be drawing to an end. I half-heartedly help with cleaning tables before thinking ‘sod it, I’m working tomorrow’ and head off.

I leave happy with my efforts behind the bar but more importantly delighted to have found somewhere that from now on I will call my local.

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


Matt Eley
8.3.2013 Matt Eley
alt
‘So he always has his cider in that oversized glass. And he likes a pint in the straight glass with the Manchester United badge on it. And he likes a large red wine in a pint glass, with ice, topped-up with soda water. But he will have something different after that.’
Locals. They can be a particular lot, can’t they?

The above were among the instructions I received from my brilliant trainer/manager/guide/bodyguard Sally, as I stood behind the bar for the first time at The Grove Tavern in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

A while ago, after a drink, it has to be said, I thought it might be an idea to work a few shifts at pubs to get a more practical insight into a subject that I write about on a daily basis.

Landlord Steve was one of the first to get back to me on Twitter and, as his buzzy community local is only a few miles from my home, it seemed like a good place to start.

About 20 minutes into my first shift with a lively group of lads ordering Jager Bombs (at 5.30pm!) I was beginning question my wisdom.

The lads were regulars and they were, good-humouredly, putting me to the test.  alt

I actually took a strange delight in creating the Jager Bombs, and making sure that the energy drink filled neatly around the shot glass, without the two liquids mixing. Not every drink made me smile though.

Surely lager would be easy, but I began to dread it every time someone ordered a Beck’s Vier. My initial attempts (and ‘it happens to everyone’ Sally kindly reassured me) resulted in half pints of head sitting on a half of lager.

‘It’s how they like it on the continent?’ I tried.

‘Not in here son,’ someone replied.

The trick, I eventually discovered but never really mastered, was to hold the glass in an almost horizontal position before gently changing the angle as the liquid was nearing the top. Sounds simple, but with a small crowd gathering and waiting for their drinks, I felt nervous about getting it right and not pouring away Steve’s profits.

‘Pint of Mother-in-Law please?’

‘You what?’

‘Pint of Mother-in-Law. Dark and bitter.’

That was an unexpectedly popular choice, but one I will probably avoid this weekend. Real ale was popular here, and must have outsold lager five to one. I even earned my ‘changing a barrel’ badge.

As well as Sally’s guidance, the locals were also on hand to give me useful pointers.

‘Stop asking people if they want a fresh glass. It’s annoying. If they do they’ll ask you,’ one chap explained, after I put that question to him for about the third time.

‘If you pour over the spot on the glass where you have your thumb, you’ll get less head,’ said another.’

‘Keep the pump in the pint as you pour, just twist the glass and bring it out at the end,’ someone else chipped in.

I looked a bit cack-handed doing it but it seemed to work.

Serving the drinks was one thing, remembering names was another.

Virtually everyone in the pub was a local and they were all calling me Matt (or Max, which is close enough) within minutes of my arrival. I, on the other hand, felt dreadful about not returning the compliment.

‘So this is Pete, that’s John, Kevin, Sam’s over there...you know Steve and met Richard earlier,’ Sally said, before reeling off another 20 names, including two dogs.

‘You lost me at Pete,’ I confessed.

And this, I think, is probably the key and a point that Sally impressed on me. While most people can learn to pull a pint and pour a glass of wine, at a community local it is imperative to be able to get on with the customers. And get their orders right.

In fairness, the crew at the Grove treated me brilliantly. They knew I was on work experience, and while I was put to the test they were always forgiving of my mistakes.

The one time anyone was vaguely rude (I was told to ‘top that pint up. Boy.’) Sally stepped in and had a quiet word. My raised eyebrow and deadpan stare clearly hadn’t earned enough respect to get the same result.

As a man who uses words more than numbers the till was another area of concern. Thankfully Steve is an IT whizz and he has made an electronic system that even I managed to work out fairly quickly. Only once did it tell me that I had to give a customer £350 change for the £10 he handed over.

I suspect that was probably an error on my part.

Other than that, and a little bit of wasted liquid, I was grateful to get through without any major incidents.

So while I enjoyed being behind the bar for a change and getting some practical experience I am still in absolutely no doubt about which side of things I feel most comfortable on.

And the pint that a customer kindly bought me at the end of the night as my shift came to an end, certainly tasted all the sweeter for feeling that it had been earned.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
26.2.2013 Matt Eley
altI was a little bit charmed by a couple of young pub employees today.

Jess, a 21-year-old manager at Yummy Pub Company’s Somers Town Coffee House, and her recent recruit Billy, were talking at an event promoting work placements, and they did themselves and the industry proud.

Billy is a school leaver with no previous employment under his belt. He is clearly bright, articulate and keen to learn. Numerous job rejections knocked his confidence a little but eventually he found his way onto a two-week work placement at the London pub.

He had never seriously considered a career in hospitality before and told Jess that he just wanted some experience on his CV.

To him, waiting tables and serving people looked fairly dull from the outside. That was his perception of the industry.

After completing his placement he was offered a job and told the crowd of industry types today that he hoped to work with Yummy for years to come. His boss was standing nearby but the sentiment was definitely genuine.

His view of the industry had been altered by the people he worked with, the skills he picked-up and the career path he could visualise. His confidence has grown and, he said smiling, his parents are also very proud of his achievements so far.

Billy has enthusiasm in bucket loads, according to Lisa. We could all see that today and he would be a great addition to many pubs.

And he is just the starting point of an initiative that should bring more brilliant youngsters into the industry.

Anthony Pender, one of Yummy’s directors (they have four pubs), explained his and the wider Perceptions Group (for that is what this project is called) vision of all future recruits completing a multi-faceted, two-week placement before joining the industry full-time.

Some will get jobs, others vital experience that will lead to confidence and employment further down the line, and others will realise that hospitality is not for them.

Everyone can gain from this.

Pubs can uncover some gems when recruiting, young people (of which there are currently 1.1m neither working nor in full-time education) can find jobs and the reputation of the pub industry as a great employer improves.

Changing perceptions, see.

There’s even some funding available centrally if youngsters who have been unemployed for more than six months stay in a job for that length of time too.

It is a wholly positive initiative that has brought together many industry voices who at times can seem a little disparate and, to the outside world, confused in the messages they want to put across.

The message here is simple. The pub industry wants to provide 15,000 work placements to young people looking for a job.

Now there is something we can all unite behind and support.

Find out how you can get involved by visiting www.hospitalityguild.co.uk, emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling 01895 817000

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

Простыня не порвалась, и потому "Накануне" Гасси был счастлив.

Происходящее отличалось от его первой попытки "Жизнь в свете Полезные советы помогающие изм. себя и мир" на горе Меру и не имело ничего общего с тренировками, которые они устраивали вместе "Что такое буддизм? Как жить по принципам Будды" с Алисой.

Он перебрался в высокую башню и долго смотрел оттуда на восток.

Но она все идет, "Инсургент" и там, где она ступает, падают горы.

Едва "Любой ценой" мы сели за стол, как вдруг с удивлением услышали шум и хорошо "Четыре проявления силы воли" знакомый звук резкую пальбу винтовок.

Стакан виски с водой, пожалуйста,-скромно обратился он к хозяину.

Matt Eley
22.2.2013 Matt Eley
alt‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’, depending on your personal preference, is probably the most important word in your pub.

I was chatting to a multiple-operator and the assistant manager at one of his pubs earlier this week when she politely broke off from our conversation to greet two new customers with a warm and friendly ‘hi, how are you both doing today?’

It was such a simple thing to do but the impact was obvious.

Beforehand the middle-aged couple were shuffling in the doorway and didn’t seem entirely sure which area to go to. It was only for half a second but you could almost see the thought process going on in their minds.

‘Right here we are then shall we go to the bar first…or straight to a table to get a drink…ooh look the fire looks nice shall we go there…I wonder where the toilets are in here…shall I take your coat dear.’

But that meandering thinking was punctured immediately by the friendly welcome of the assistant manager.

The indecision was lifted from their faces, they had been welcomed, made to feel important and given confidence that they were going to have a good experience.

They duly found a table, took off their coats and settled in.

That welcome, even if it is just a nod of recognition on a busy night, can make a huge difference to a customer.

I was interviewing a pub goer last week and he believes if the staff do not recognise you after your third visit then they are not doing their job properly. He wouldn't go back after that.

Another licensee once proudly told me how he had rmemorised 100 names of customers in his first week in a new bar. That, he said, had ensured that he got off to a winning start with a new bunch of locals.

Back at the pub this week, the assistant manager not only brought a smile to the face of her customers but also to her boss. He was delighted that she knew the most important thing at that moment was not speaking to him or me but to greet the new customers.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

A simple hello goes a very long way. And if you can manage a ‘goodbye, see you soon’ too, the chances are you probably will.

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

Matt Eley
15.2.2013 Matt Eley
altA pub that I used to frequent in my student days (yep, long, long ago) was in the news this week for creating a beer for the recently exhumed Richard III.

Since he has been dead for more than 500 years it’s unlikely that the Last Plantagenet king will enjoy the brew which is on tap at a pub of that very name.

It’s a nice move by the pub (a Wetherspoon in Leicester) which is a stone’s throw from where the remains were dug up.

Despite the name of the pub, I had absolutely no idea about its links to the throne. All I, and my friends, were interested in was the fact that we could get a beer or Smirnoff Ice (look, I was a student) for a really good price.

A tenner went a long way in 1997.

A few months ago I found myself back in Leicester and, feeling nostalgic, decided to visit a few of my haunts. The Last Plantagenet had barely changed at all. I, on the other hand clearly had.

The pub was busy and still offered great deals on drink and food, but for me it would no longer be high on the list on a Saturday night.

These days I clearly want something different to when I was a student. There’s no surprise there, we all change our tastes as we mature and our lives take different paths.

But what should the pubs do? Should they change with us to keep our custom or focus on the next wave of people coming in?

It is probably easier for student pubs (though in fairness ‘The Planny’ was actually a town centre pub that attracted a range of locals as well as students) because they have a new influx of young people willing to spend money every year.

It is more difficult for pubs in areas where the demographics shift. An offer that may have worked 10 years ago can soon get outdated and a pub has to move with the times.

A local of mine is a fine example. 15 years ago it was the place for all of the bright, young things in the area to go to on any given night of the week. Today it is closed up after a continual struggle with its offer and a failure to adapt to changes in the world around it. It is a huge waste.

Youngsters in the area have found other, more relevant places to go, while the thirty-somethings who have fond memories of the pub walk past with their own kids and wonder why they can’t go there for a coffee or lunch.

It tried to attract the young market when actually it might have worked better if the pub had matured with its customer base.

Another licensee I visited this week told me how he sees people growing up in his bar. Live sport and after match functions for local teams attracts them at first, and when they get older they shift along the bar and settle by the real ale pumps.

It provides a lovely image of customers going through different stages with a pub.

It is also easier said than done. Whether you want to be a pub for a certain demographic or somewhere for different crowds at different times of day it is imperative to be fully-focused on your target but flexible enough to change if it isn’t going to plan.

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

Matt Eley
5.2.2013 Matt Eley
altSometimes the political parties in this country are so frustrating that I wonder if we would be better off under a monarchy.

I’m sure such a system would benefit the pub trade because our royals certainly seem more supportive of the industry than our political leaders.

My favourite story in recent weeks was of Prince Charles veering from his schedule, which you can bet was organised to the minute, thus giving his people palpitations, to have a half at The Wellington Vaults in Toxteth.

Now, all due respect to the owners of that particular pub, but just once glance at a photo suggests it is not the most salubrious of watering holes.

But that didn’t stop HRH responding to the calls of locals to join him in there for a beer. He had a half of Guinness and chatted away.

Then, a week later, he made a more official stop at The Parcel Yard in London’s King’s Cross to mark 150 years of the London Underground.

If you add in the work he has done with Pub is the Hub, which helps rural pubs diversify their businesses, it becomes clear that our future king clearly has a soft spot for the industry.

And why is this? Not because he is some kind of closet boozer who is desperate for his next pint, but because he understands the true worth of pubs to society.

It always irks me when a bunch of MPs are debating pubs and some smart arse makes a quip about ‘how it was a really tough subject to research’, joking, if that’s the right word, that pubs are great for a beer aren’t they! Ho, ho ho.

Well of course they bloody are, but actually some real research would show them that they are far more than this as well.

A huge employer. Tick. Employer of the young. Tick. Contributor to good causes, the economy. Tick and tick again. I could go on with the tick thing but I’ll start to look nervous. Let’s just say that pubs can also be places of historical interest and provide social cohesion and vital support to many other businesses in the communities across the UK.

The Prince of Wales gets this and understands the threats pubs face because of his close ties with the countryside, youth employment and enterprise through the Prince’s Trust, and his passion for the environment we live in.

I never thought I would be a defender of a royal but as far as pubs are concerned, Prince Charles is a force for good.

It seems both of his sons have inherited that trait and have also supported the industry in official and unofficial visits.

However, can the same really be said of Osborne and Cameron? The latter talks a good game but his Chancellor doesn’t seem to care in the slightest.

Yes there has been progress with the alcohol duty debate and it is encouraging to see so many MPs signing motions and making supportive statements. Whether that has the desired effect come Budget Day remains to be seen.

In all likelihood the alcohol escalator will remain and the campaign to end it will have to think of even more persuasive arguments for 2014.

Perhaps they could encourage Messrs Cameron and Osborne to see what public opinion of the policy is by visiting The Wellington Vaults. I doubt they’d ever go. And if they stepped inside they might find it fairly hard to leave.

Matt Eley is Inapub's editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
31.1.2013 Matt Eley
altWhat does the word ‘pub’ mean to you?

For me it conjures up images of people laughing at a bar, enjoying a pint or glass of wine and generally enjoying themselves.

There could be kids in the garden, dogs at your feet or lovers canoodling in the corner.

All of the images and connections I make with the word ‘pub’ are wholly positive and life-affirming.

But that is not the case for everyone.

Just this week I visited what I would call a pub, but what its owners have decided to name an ‘inn and kitchen’.

It’s not the first time either. Last year I had an animated conversation with an excellent licensee who was adamant that I did not refer to her business as a pub. I told her this would be tricky as that was very much a prerequisite for appearing in ‘Inapub’ magazine, but she wouldn’t budge. Licensees can be a stubborn lot.

So why the lack of love for the term?

It’s because many feel it now carries a negative connotation, thanks to media (yes, I realise I am part of that gang) stories about closures and alcohol related crime.

It seems the word ‘pub’ has come to mean failure or trouble, to some at least.

Inn, on the other hand, still encourages images of warm fires and hankering down to relax after a tough day at work. 'Eat, drink and be merry', the word demands.

But this seems wrong to me. Let’s not give up on the word pub just because it has had a bit of a tough time of late.

Now this might seem like a bit of a leap, but I was bought a pair of Union Jack gloves for Christmas. I love them, and proudly sported them when the snow came down recently.

However, if I had worn these a few years ago I may have been mistaken for a thug or a member of the National Front (I am neither, I can assure you).

In recent years, thanks ultimately to the great goodwill the Olympics generated, we have managed to reclaim the flag from the violent and the racist. It is now OK to wear your colours and be proud to be British again, which ironically and brilliantly is also a statement about the celebration, in part at least, of multiculturalism.

We should do the same with the word ‘pub’.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Pubs are places of happiness and celebration for everyone. It is where we meet the loves of our lives and say goodbye to them too. It is where we celebrate getting a year older, a new job or watch our teams strive valiantly and vainly for victory.

It is where we eat, drink and be merry.

Like the flag, it is also part of our national heritage and identity. So let’s embrace it rather than letting the doom mongers gain ownership of the word.

Here’s to pubs.

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

Matt Eley
24.1.2013 Matt Eley
altI have to give credit to the writer John O’Farrell for the above headline because I found it in his novel The Man Who Forgot His Wife. 

The character makes the argument that people use Twitter to confirm their identity to the rest of the world. As if it is the modern equivalent of shouting “look at me, I exist!” at the top of your voice.

For some, perhaps it does provide that affirmation. While for others it will always be a pointless device for talking about mundane topics such as what you had for breakfast (Special K Honey and Oats and a banana, in case you were wondering).

As a journalist, I think Twitter is one, if not the, most effective way of connecting with a lot of people in a short space of time.

It used to be that a hack’s contact book was his greatest tool, nowadays it can be the followers he amasses on Twitter.

About four years ago I was one of the cynical brigade. I basically didn’t understand the point of Twitter and was sceptical towards a new media tool that a bunch of geeks had embraced.

In my own time I created a profile and experimented with various tweets and searches.

I have now amassed a number of followers who I can provide content to and occasionally ask something of.

For example, today I needed to find a pub that had hosted a race night for a feature I am working on. I could have rung around some contacts, searched online or called a few friendly PRs, but a quick tweet resulted in an instant response.

Similarly, the most effective way of driving traffic to content such as this very blog will be by putting a link on Twitter. I have found that you have to give something to expect something in return.

The same is true for pubs. I follow hundreds across the country, both pub accounts and licensees. There are many that just tweet about their offers. This is fine, but I believe to really make the most of Twitter you have to get your personality out there as well.

News, titbits, jokes, funny photos of the pub, can all help bring the personality of a business to life in a social media sphere such as Twitter. It helps people connect with you and remember why you are different to the multitude of others out there.

If you only Tweet about deals that basically say ‘come here and get a bargain’ don’t be surprised if you build up a following of people looking for offers rather than a potentially loyal and connected customer base.

If you successfully build a Twitter profile that can reflect your personality or the personality of the pub then I believe it can be a hugely beneficial marketing tool.

In the last week tweets about warm fires, mulled wine and cider and snow-based pub activities have grabbed my attention. They can also grab the attention of potential customers too.

It won’t happen overnight but Twitter is a tool that is worth persisting with.

Right, best tell my followers about what I’m planning for lunch…

Matt Eley is Inapub’s editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
17.1.2013 Matt Eley
altIt’s been another rotten week for the High Street.

Former stalwarts HMV, Jessops and now Blockbuster have all gone into administration.

A decade ago this would have seemed impossible as they were seemingly robust businesses and fixtures in our town centres.

And it is not so much what they have to offer that is no longer wanted by society, but rather how they deliver it.

Our habits of listening to music, watching films and taking and printing photos still exist but the way we get there has been revolutionised by online shopping.

Companies such as Apple, Love Film, and Amazon have had as much to do with the demise of certain street retailers as the recession.

Why would you need to go to a shop to rent out a DVD when you can do it at a click of a button and return it in the post?

This is one area where pubs have an advantage, providing they get it right.

To an extent you can get the same products your favourite pub serves, albeit not necessarily on draught and certainly not on cask. So if people purely go to the pub for drink and food they could opt for a cheaper home alternative, or even order the products online.

However, what you can’t buy at the click of a button, as yet, is atmosphere and friendship.

Now that might sound a little trite but it is the main reason many people go to the pub, for human contact, laughter and companionship (actually there are websites that promises that too, but let’s steer clear of that for now).

Of course, we have seen thousands of pubs go to the wall for a variety of well-documented reasons. But one reason pubs should not have to contend with is that there is a more efficient business model that can offer virtually the same service.

The off-trade and the internet can both offer cheaper booze, but it can’t give you a licensee with personality, a charity pub quiz once a week, a lairy football team who up the energy levels on a Saturday evening or the old boy in the corner who just wants to watch the races and enjoy his pint.

Online trading removes human contact and customer service from the equation – but was anyone going to Blockbuster and Jessops for that anyway?

That is one of the main selling points of the pub and while getting it right does not guarantee a secure future it certainly puts you on a stronger footing that outlets that merely sell food and drink.

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

Matt Eley
11.1.2013 Matt Eley
altSo far this year I have slept soundly in a couple of pubs, had breakfast overlooking the sea, had a brilliant pie, tried to answer some quiz questions, played a new game I had never heard of, watched some live football, had a drink or two, met a group of walkers, a Tai Chi instructor and chatted with a group of mums and toddlers.

That isn’t an attempt to show how busy I have been because all of those things happened within a few days of each other at just a few pubs.

In my job I am lucky enough to get to travel around the country and meet operators in all four corners.

And from my trips in January alone I can report that pub customers have never had it so good.

Pubs are becoming more and more creative as they attempt to work out where that next few hundred quid is coming from, which means that consumers have more choice than ever.

At one pub, The Dock Inn, in Penzance, they had something on every night of the week to attract people in. I was there for the quiz and the curry. I struggled with the former but not so much the latter.

Others, such as The Staunton Arms, in Nottinghamshire, are providing great accommodation deals. Midweek you can get dinner, bed and breakfast for two for £90! Having stayed there and sampled one of their pies I can assure you this is a deal very few would be disappointed in.

I remain convinced that accommodation will become an increasingly important part of the trade’s business. If you have room for it then it makes financial sense to capitalise on it.

Whenever I go away now I always, always, look for a pub. Standards have improved so much that you now get a far better experience than at a hotel at a far better price. The rest of the world will catch on soon enough.

Looking ahead for the rest of the year, food will of course remain important, as will events, but the key to the industry’s success will be pushing standards and innovations to new levels.

It has never been harder to get people out of their homes, which means that despite the closures that still get sited, pubs have actually never been better.

There is more diversity and creativity in the trade than ever before.

I can’t wait to visit more brilliant pubs throughout the year. I just hope they get the rewards they deserve.

Matt Eley is Inapub's editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley