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Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

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
3.1.2013 Matt Eley
altSo how was it for you?

Did the earth move? Could you hear constant sound of ching-ching? Were you surrounded by happy, smiling people having the time of their lives?

Or was there a huge build-up, followed by a disappointing anti-climax as you wondered where the hell everyone had got to?

I’m talking about Christmas of course.

It should be a banker for the trade. So if it went badly over the festive period, the signs are not good for the rest of the year.

The anecdotal evidence and reports from corporates suggests that Christmas actually went fairly well as the nation emerges from recession and remembers that going out is both fun and can be part of that all important work/life balance.

But you would expect companies to say they were doing well at Christmas. Ones saying it was as popular as an unwanted, oversized jumper, are few and far between because it is hardly the sort of thing they will want to shout about.

But for those who didn’t have the bubbliest Christmas imaginable, the next few months take on even greater significance.

A decent Christmas can help carry the load for the anticipated drop in trade in January and February. But if it didn’t go so well, you need to make amends.

Inapub’s All We Want campaign is designed with exactly that in mind. We have already given aw
ay a couple of iPads to a pub and a customer who made the most of the online element of the activity.

We encouraged customers to Ilike their locals using our website and mobile apps to create an online buzz around the pub. We now want to see that buzz translated into footfall and sales in January and February, when we know things have a tendency to fall off a cliff.

One of our aims as a new media business and magazine is to share great ideas so the pub industry can help itself attract customers. So let us know how you will be attempting to drive trade in those quieter months and we will cover your stories and share your top tips.

If Christmas is about people coming together to celebrate the important things in life – which they thankfully like to do a bit of in the pub – then the trade should do what it can to try and maintain that spirit throughout the year.

Doing so will not only mean a successful Christmas but a brilliant 2013.
So please get in touch (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will do what we can to support you and help spread the word.

Here’s to a prosperous new year.


Matt Eley
13.12.2012 Matt Eley
altAs another year draws to a close and awards get handed out all over the shop for a variety of different and often pointless things, we look back on 2012 with our own proud ceremony.

The difference being that you don’t need to hire out an expensive frock or dress-up like a waiter (even though you might think you look like James Bond) to attend The Inapub Alternatives.

For the event is here, right here right now, and the award is simply the recognition itself. Who knows, next year we might even get round to handing out some tat in a pub function room somewhere, but for now I present the 2012 ‘winners’.

Quote of the Year
We have had some belters in Inapub magazine this year but perhaps the best interview of them all was with that witty bugger Danny Wallace (though Michelle Mone was very popular too…). Anyway, when asked if he thought computer games and social media had created a ‘stay-at-home’ culture that could do the pub trade harm he puffed out his chest and proudly replied:

“Nothing will do too much damage to pub culture. We are Britain!”

For that reason alone we suggest you buy Danny’s debut novel Charlotte Street. It’s really very good.

Pantomime Villain Award
Who is the most dastardly and deserving off this gong for doing harm to the pub trade? Tax dodgers such as Starbucks? Utility companies that constantly whack up their prices? Supermarkets for their continual undercutting and value deals? Uncompromising pubcos?

Nope, for us this year there is only one winner. This award goes to someone who likes to portray themselves as a friend to the trade, but when the trade gets the courage to talk about something that’s bothering us that friend sticks its fingers in its ears and shouts ‘la la la la la la la la la I can’t hear you’.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the beer duty escalator to secure a debate in Parliament which was supported by 100-plus MPs. The government’s response was very Brian Clough: ‘We’ve sat down and talked it over and agreed that I am right.” The collective effort of the trade was outstanding. The response of ministers? Not so much.

The Phoenix from the Flames Award
Rik Mayall was a contender for this for reprising his Bombardier character in a series of TV ads. In fact beer ads on TV were in with a shot themselves, with Greene King IPA also making a return to our screens. But real ale gets so much of the glory in the pub world (up front there with its impressive pumps and artwork) that we thought we would go for a star of the back bar that we believed would never see the light of day again.

The last time I saw Hooch was when a girlfriend at university regurgitated about five bottles of the stuff on my bed. That was a night to remember. In fairness it was her fault for not knowing her limits and not the alcopop itself.

After a lot of tut-tutting from the media and politicians in the general direction of this popular style of 1990s drinks, they largely did a Dodo. But unlike that old bird (not the one in my student halls, who somewhat unbelievably is now my wife) they have returned with a lower ABV and in a bigger bottle (which in fairness, would be tough for any extinct creature to do). So congratulations Hooch and brand owner Global Brands, we salute your return. We hope it is more successful than Ricky Hatton’s.

The People’s Champion Award
Just when you thought that Stephen Fry (has he been knighted yet?) couldn’t snuggle up any tighter to the warm and welcoming bosom of the nation, he nuzzles in a little closer.

In pub world he has already been named by drinkers as the celeb they would most like to have a drink with (he’d probably be useful on the pub quiz team too) and now he has done his bit for the little man. When sharp-suited and fast-talking (we’re guessing here, but go with us) Hollywood bully-boy lawyers (please don’t sue us) got tough with a little pub in Southampton, Stephen Fry came to the rescue.

The lawyers were representing the interests of the studio behind The Hobbit films, and they wanted to ensure the pub of the same name (which incidentally has been around while some of those lawyers were in high chairs as opposed to the High Court) stopped trading off its title.

Fry, who stars in the film, along with Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen (highly commended in this category) stood up for the pub against the might of the studio and forced them to backtrack.

The pub is safe for now but the battle goes on…a bit like a lengthy film trilogy…hey, maybe there’s a script in this.

The What Was The Point In All That Award

Lawyers again I’m afraid. This one goes to the Karen Murphy v The Premier League case over showing foreign satellite football in her Portsmouth boozer.

After years, six at last count, of legal battle Murphy won the case. But then the Premier League claimed a victory of sorts too. And Sky. Basically Murphy won but you still can’t screen copyrighted material in your pub unless you have a Sky contract. Or you manage to find a way around it. Which is probably illegal.

Read the judgment yourself, it is brilliant for the complete lack of clarity it brings to the situation.
Still, probably best not show that foreign feed unless you want a big old fine. Or a court case that we all forget the point of by the time it’s concluded.

Lifetime Achievement Award

BII Licensee of the Year Mahdis Neghabian was a contender for this one. She has overcome the unfortunate barriers of being young, female and originally from another country to make a name for herself in this still all-too traditional trade to make a real mark on the industry.

But, brilliant as she is, she has been praised plenty this year and will no doubt win more accolades in the future.

Instead we want to highlight the work of who we believe to be the longest-serving barmaid in the country.

Dolly Saville is nearly 100 and has been working at The Red Lion in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, since 1939. Simply astonishing stuff and a wonderful example of the brilliant people that make pubs across the country the wonderful places they are. Our sincere congratulations.

And that is all for now, save for the after show party…anyone care to join me?

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


Matt Eley
5.12.2012 Matt Eley
altEver get the feeling you have let yourself in for more than you bargained for.

Last week I offered my services to pubs free of charge so I could get more hands on experience on the other side of the bar.

The idea is that this will surely benefit Inapub’s coverage of the trade, while the pubs get an extra pair of, hopefully not entirely useless, hands.

I suspected I might get the attention of a couple of sympathetic licensee friends who wouldn’t mind if I got behind the bar for an hour or so.

But no, it turns out there is plenty of work out there for an enthusiastic and, most importantly, free, pub trade journo.

I have received emails and tweets from across the country with subject lines such ‘Sucker wants to work in a pub?’ and ‘I was looking to take a break in January’.

So there’s no getting out of it now.

I will leave it until January because nobody, myself included, wants to have a hapless hack getting in the way while trade is so busy.

But come January I will be pouring pints, serving food, chopping veg and doing basically whatever it is that the pub wants.

And although part of me is looking forward to the prospect, I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about it all as well.

Just thinking about it makes me realise how much there is to know. ‘What if someone orders a drink that I don’t know how to make, what if I drop a plate, get the wrong change, mess up the till, fail to spot who is next to get served, and how should I deal with an obnoxious drunk?’

I’ve not even started yet but already the sheer volume and variety of work is playing on my mind. You have to be multi-skilled, hard-working and good-humoured. I’ll soon find out if I have got what it takes, though I suspect I already know the answer.

So thank you to everyone who has been in touch already. The offer remains open to anyone else who fancies getting involved and I will be in touch in the new year to pick up my shifts!

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

Matt Eley