Friday, July 8, 2011

A fair-weather business

Something that has often been commented on is how, over the past four years, the drinking trade in pubs has become much more dependent on the weather. If it’s warm, and the sun is shining, customers magically appear out of nowhere and fill up your beer garden. When it’s cold and wet, they just vanish into thin air.

This was brought home to me last week in the Barrels pub in Hereford. This is Wye Valley Brewery’s flagship pub, a spacious establishment with four separate rooms which has a lively, slightly Bohemian atmosphere and a noticeably younger and more female clientele than the typical “specialist beer pub”. It’s an excellent pub that clearly “works” when many others don’t. The 3.7% ABV Wye Valley Bitter was a bargain £2.10 a pint, well below typical Greater Manchester prices.

The pub also has a spacious rear drinking courtyard, partly open, partly covered by smoking shelters. Last Monday – typically the quietest night of the week – the weather was warm and dry, and the courtyard was absolutely rammed with customers. Not all smoking, but probably two or three smokers in every group. Inside it was fairly quiet. Had it been raining, I suspect most of those courtyard customers simply wouldn’t have been there.

This must make planning of staff rotas and stock turnover much more difficult for pubs, as customers will descend on them as soon as the sun shines, but once it disappears so will the punters.