This week, MCA takes five minutes with JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman, Tim Martin. He tells us why short-sighted company directors are failing to fight for the sector, how there is an “ominous silence” around the VAT campaign and looks back to his sky-high ambitions when he was young.
1. What’s your main business priority over the next 12 months?
The main priority is to revive the campaign for VAT equality between supermarkets and pubs. Since Jacques Borel left the scene, an ominous silence reigns on the matter. In order to win, the pub industry has to convince its own staff, its customer and the public – only then, when the grass roots have been energised, is there validity in lobbying MPs.
2. What is the best marketing campaign you have seen in the past 12 months?
I don’t watch television or listen to the radio much, so it’s difficult to say. The worst marketing campaigns in the last few years have been George Osborne and David Cameron’s handling of the referendums in Scotland and the UK. In both campaigns, the duo relied on “Project Fear”, ignoring the necessity of weighty and considered intellectual arguments for the public to absorb. You could get no better example of a couple of out-of-touch marketeers.
3. Where did you have your best meal over the past year?
I’m going to be completely unbiased and name the Wetherspoon breakfast wrap. When I’m doing pub calls around the country, I call in our groovy pubs for breakfast and you can’t beat the wrap – slightly high in calories for some, but worth sacrificing something later in the day for this delicacy…..
4. Which business in the sector provides the best experience?
Stringfellows, according to the accounts of its owner. I haven’t been there myself, and it’s probably too late to start now.
5. What is your main concern for the sector?
I think the sector has been going backwards for many decades, having lost half its beer sales to supermarkets in the last 30 years or so. The time horizons of both shareholders and boards of directors mean that few bother campaigning on issues such as tax equality. Never mind VAT, how well will the pub industry be able to do if business rates are 16p or 17p a pint in our industry and 2p or so a pint in supermarkets?
6. Which other business (any sector) would you most like to run and why?
In my youth I wanted to be an airline pilot, but was foiled by colour blindness. I’d have to settle for head of the Swedish air hostess training school…..