Thousands of pubs will rightly go out of business over the next year because they are “stuck in the 1980s”, according to the Good Pub Guide 2014, which is out today.

Between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs will be forced out of business in the next 12 months and it is “high time they closed their doors”, guide editors Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley have predicted in the guide’s introduction.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has reported that 26 pubs are closing a week (c1300 a year), but the guide editors expect these numbers will escalate over the coming year due to the increase in sales of pub companies and analysis from insolvency experts.

Although the closures will mean bad news for staff and regulars, the editors said the pubs forced to close will be “Bad Pubs at the bottom of the pecking order” which are “happy with indifferent food, drink, service and surroundings”.

“The worst quality a pub can have is a landlord that doesn’t care for the pub inside and outside because that means they don’t care much about the customers. Licensees like that give the pub trade a bad name,” Stapley told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, sister title to M&C Report.

“Pubs closing keeps the trade healthy and robust. Pubs have got to diversify if they want to succeed - they can’t just open for lunch and open again in the evening anymore.”

However, Stapley added that 1,000 new pubs are expected to open in the next year and many of the ones that shut down will reopen by someone who knows how to run a successful business and are enthusiastic about the future.

The guide has also highlighted that poor service is the main reason for customers writing off a pub - beating bad beer and mediocre food - and licensees who motivate and inspire staff are the driving force behind improving pub service standards in the UK.

Despite this, overall there has been a fall in the number of complaints about service in the last 18 months, which Stapley said is down to a surge in professionalism in the industry and licensees realising training staff properly is paramount.

“A good pub will choose its staff well and treat them as part of the team. It’s about customers walking into a pub, feeling at home and receiving a warm welcome. As one landlord said to us, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince!” she said.

When it comes to beer prices, the editors found the average cost of a pint of real ale is £3.20 - up by more than 16% since 2009 when the average pint cost £2.68. Meanwhile, there is a 65p a pint difference in the cheapest beer in the country in Staffordshire and the most expensive in London, while pubs that brew their own beer charge 40p a pint less than the local average.

While Stapley admitted beer prices are now “horrendous” she said the biggest change the pub trade has seen is publicans absorbing costs themselves without passing them on to customers.
“Since the recession publicans know they have to offer fair prices. If customers feel they have paid too much they won’t go back so publicans have to be careful and canny with their prices,” she said.

The Good Pub Guide 2014 features over 4,700 pubs and has 163 new entries this year.

Olive Branch wins top pub award
An East Midlands licensee has praised the motivation of his staff as testament to his pub winning the Good Pub Guide’s Pub of the Year 2014.

The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland picked up this year’s accolade, despite losing its 10-year-old Michelin star last year, after providing “service as good as it gets” and offering “the ultimate pub experience”, as stated by the Guide’s readers. The pub is part of Olive Inns, which owns two pubs and one restaurant-with-rooms, and has been run by Sean Hope and Ben Jones for 14 years.

Jones told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser winning the award was down to offering the “whole package”.

“When we set out in 1999 our aim was to try and be a good pub and everything that goes with that - a place that served great food, beer and wine with a great atmosphere. We treat all these qualities with equal importance and our whole team understand that. We don’t concentrate on being very food-led or beer-led or event-based - we provide the whole package,” he said.

Salisbury Pubs won the Pub Group of the Year award. The Gun in London’s Docklands, operated by ETM Group, was named London Dining Pub of the Year and The Restaurant Group-owned Brunning & Price won the Best New Pub award for the Bull’s Head at Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire.

London-based Fuller’s was named Brewery of the Year. Chief executive Simon Emeny said: “We are hugely proud to receive this fantastic award. The accolade is particularly important to us because it reflects the opinion of our valued customers who consistently support us.”