Friday, February 05, 2016

Countdown for British Pubs

Countdown for British Pubs

Helen Fospero explains the #GreatBritishPubcoScam very simply in two minutes for #Countdown
Good job Helen @LadyFosp

The Royal Oak, Findsbury 

My cousin met his wife-to-be in the Royal Oak. That is what happens in pubs - amazing things. Unless WE stop this deliberate rot in our society soon there will be no pubs to meet people in. Pubs, the original social networks are under threat not because of TV, demographic change, cheap supermarket booze or anything else we're told are the problems... they are closing because pubco's WANT them to close - so they can cash in on alternative value to pay interest on debts they will never be able to pay down the capital on.

The ONLY reason this pub is under threat is because it was sold quietly by a pubco that has never invested in it and, NO DOUBT, taken enormous profits out of the businesses of several tied tenants they've serially ripped off and then flogged it to a developer they told could make easy money out of it by knocking it down and building homes. This is happening everywhere, it is a private equity assault on Britain's heritage, traditions, culture and our very sense of place. Pubco's are damaging society.

Helen Fospero explains very nicely how it happens in this short clip above from Countdown yesterday (4 February 2016)

The pubs Helen mentions there without name are the Chequer Inn, Ash and the Red Lion, Wingham.

There is no doubt the Royal Oak will thrive as a pub in the right hands, well stocked, well run and selling ales and providing amenities and facilities that are relevant to the local population.

If you care about people, pubs and places, then sign Joe O'Donnell's petition and get behind his campaign!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bully Boy Behaviour in Corporates and why it's almost endemic. The Free Market is imaginary

Bully boy behaviour condenses in pretty much any situation where it's not legislated against. Corporate behaviour is dominated by the NEED for the company to regard the benefit of its owners over the benefit of the people who are the company's source of income generation, its workers... The John Lewis Partnership, including Waitrose etc, is not a perfect corporate entity by any means - they have an environmental footprint that is conventional, their ethics toward their supplier chain are 'ethical' generally only by comparison with the gutter level of bad treatment in the sector overall but John Lewis has an enviable reputation for being a wonderful employer (employees typically get an annual bonus that is equivalent to many weeks' regular pay) and retailer who listens to its customers delivering best customer satisfaction in its market segment consistently, year after year. People LOVE the John Lewis Partnership.

What most people don't understand is that John Lewis is ONLY as benign as it is, relative to the other major retailers (and more successful now) because its founder, John Spedan Lewis spent years working through the minutiae and details of a fair form of conduct - the John Lewis Constitution - with a solicitor before making the company an Employee Ownership Trust... the constitution is that institution's own form of internal regulation.

"Our Constitution
Not many companies have a written constitution that sets out their principles, governance system and rules. The John Lewis Partnership does, for two reasons as explained below."

'The first is historical. The John Lewis Partnership exists today because of the extraordinary vision and ideals of our Founder, John Spedan Lewis, who signed away his personal ownership rights in a growing retail company to allow future generations of employees to take forward his 'experiment in industrial democracy'. Not unreasonably, he wanted to leave some clear guidelines for his successors, so that the values which had motivated him would not be eroded with the passage of time.

The second reason looks forward. Spedan Lewis was committed to establishing a 'better form of business', and the challenge for Partners of today is to prove that a business which is not driven by the demands of outside shareholders and which sets high standards of behaviour can flourish in the competitive conditions of the third millennium. Indeed, we aim to demonstrate that adhering to these Principles and Rules enables us over the long term to outperform companies with conventional ownership structures.

The Constitution states that 'the happiness of its members' is the Partnership's ultimate purpose, recognising that such happiness depends on having a satisfying job in a successful business. It establishes a system of 'rights and responsibilities', which places on all Partners the obligation to work for the improvement of our business in the knowledge that we share the rewards of success.

The Constitution defines mechanisms to provide for the management of the Partnership, with checks and balances to ensure accountability, transparency and honesty. It established the representation of the co-owners on the Partnership Board through the election of Partners as Directors (Elected Directors) and it also determines the role of the Partners' Counsellor.'

Download our Constitution (PDF size: 1.98MB)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Punch CEO sees pubs as community hubs in a digital age 

From the FT October 12, 2015 3:08 pm

Duncan Garood may find it interesting talk to some people, publicans even, who are critical of Punch's activities in winding down its estate. People who have a good measure of what has been happening from the outside, who will hold no punches in giving a fair appraisal of the company he's come to control. He comes late to the foray from a respectable background in retail catering with some pretty brilliant brands; An experience that cannot possibly have prepared him for the deep midden he's stepped into at Punch.  
The company has only survived by slashing and burning firebreaks right through an enormous estate - so that the gargantuan debt didn't pull the lot down,,, The debt is still a beast they cannot tame...  the public is largely unaware of the calamity.  Shedding 158 'non core' pubs, with sitting tenant publicans as goods and chattels, as they have done to New River Retail is only a recent high profile example of what they've been doing with thousands of pubs in the last five years or so.

They've sold hundreds of pub gems to private equity asset conversion specialists because they've needed the cash. Many people have been caught up in this appalling state of affairs. Publicans and communities, executives and line management to ground forces. It's a total tragedy that has left indelible scars on British culture... The legacy Duncan has inherited in the name of a high profile top exec job is a dreadful reality... He can only put on a brave face and say 'it's all under control' when really the only way forward is more of the same. Another 400 pubs? Is that all?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Some People are Getting IT #GreatBritishPubcoScam or at least noticing the symptoms

Spread the word to save The Glad all over
Editorial in InaPub. Hamish Champ 11/09/2015 

Hamish, we were talking about this ten years ago. It's been a straight line here as we were predicting back then and it's accelerating - as you have noticed - and it is manipulation of assets for conversion to cash no less... it IS the #GreatBritishPubcoScam. Most blatant of these transactions recently is Punch Taverns selling 158 pubs to New River Retail; a private equity backed vehicle for retail asset conversion. 158 pubs, with publicans trading their businesses, living above the pub and serving communities - sold down the river to raise cash to pay a bit of the interest on the debts that Punch raised to buy the pubs in the first place.

We are standing by, the whole population of the UK, while our most important traditional cultural assets, our unique social capital, is being flogged off by spivs and chancers who hate pubs.

It is a White Collar Cultural Crimewave. No one is doing anything structural about it. It has to be stopped.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Great British Pubco Scam Ramped Up

Vince Power and the last stand of the old Notting Hill bohemians - in The Guardian

Photograph: Jocelyn Bain Hogg
It's happening all over the UK - asset stripping pubco sells to asset stripping developer - screws tenant. Pubco and developer make millions; Pub closes. publican loses, staff lose their jobs, community loses their local, their traditions, the country loses its cultural heritage, sense of place and the things that define it as being different from other countries all over the globe.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

On the Guardian on Corbyn

On the Guardian on Corbyn

Their stance really pisses me off but to be fair The Guardian is treading a very radical path compared to any other papers in as much as they're seriously working on being financially independent of external corporate influence and generating all their income from newspaper and online content that's so appealing that people will pay for it. It's a tall order and from what I've seen they're taking it very seriously. When they set out to do this a couple of years ago figures were published which made it clear this is a huge financial risk. They set up Keep it in the Ground - Fossil Fuels that is - and the Guardian Social Enterprise network runs events that are really impressive with seminars and workshops for environmental impact awareness raising and all sorts of other forward thinking stuff that would be considered very radical only a few years ago...

all of this means they're bound to tread with caution on political backing for fear of losing readers, advertisers and income. They can't afford to look too radical and out there in case people don't buy it.

We are all gripped by the prevailing paradigm, one way or another, and until the tide has really, definitely, certainly turned, there's bound to be a lot, like millions and millions of people who are not going to become adopters until they're confident everyone else is coming along for the ride. Etcetera.

That ride will see people like the arrogant and self important Alistair Heath left on a leaky lilo pumped up with their own odorous free marketeering gas

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A Chat about Pubco Claims, Misrepresentations and Scamming at Source

Came across this conversation on a thread today:

Robert: "Enterprise, with you every step of the way through your journey to becoming a publican."

Andrew: 'Liars'

Robert: 'Aren't you being a little harsh? They're there when the bailiffs pitch up. They're there when you're obliged to go to court. They're certainly there when it's time to evict you from your pub. They're even there when you go to court to declare bankruptcy and of course they're there when they try and repossess your house. As they say; 'every step of the way'!

Andrew: 'Oh Robert are they there when you want MRO? I think they run for cover when "local breweries" are mentioned with a quick retaliation of "you've got SIBA, you've got SIBA!"
They really do take the bloody biscuit'

Sean: '"Enterprise you will hear from us whenever you miss a payment, until that day you're on your own" - 6 long years of meeting every payment and getting no help, not bitter though'

At this point I came across the thread and got interested:

Me: 'The enterprise website, and all the pubco's websites are full of Bullshit worded exactly like this;
They all say they have the best estate, the widest range of pubs to suit all lifestyles, the best provenance, the most flexible range of lease 'agreements', the best and most desirable brands and product support, the best supply flexibility and discount deals, the best training, the best teams of area managers, the best accounting and back office support, the best telephone helplines the best of fucking absolutely everything and anything you can imagine anyone starting out a new business relationship with a big partner could ever, in a month of blue moon Sundays, ever want...

Spend a day checking out all the various pubco websites. They all look like they've had the same creative writing workshop behind them. These pages are the shop windows of a Cartel'

Thinking on I searched: "Enterprise, with you every step of the way through your journey to becoming a publican."

Ooh! Just came across this

Wow! There's loads of these things out there scroll down above ...

ONE could NOT make it up:

"Finder's Bounty £1,500" Enterprise Inns Pub Opportunities Winter 15 Hull & Yorkshire brochure:

Blimey I just found out who's responsible for Enterprise Inns' marketing and image. It's We Are Bunny

Did a bit more looking around. It isn't We Are Bunny it's an agency called Futureproof - "We are an independent creating lighthouse marketing for challenger brands" the above BunnyBoys worked there when ETI got the miracle marketing makeover. See below.

Here's the story in We Are Bunny's words:

"In 2010, Enterprise Inns, the UK’s largest PubCo, had a no brand, bad press and nothing with which to excite its publicans. In 2013 it has a unified brand, a considered experience-marketing strategy and is on the cusp of launching a website that will allow it to leapfrog the competition."

"The start of a new era"

We took a 20-year-old brand and made it appear both fresh and familiar at the same time. Retaining the eagle whilst cutting ‘Inns’ from the name reflected a change in the Enterprise estate and the company itself. Coupled with a distinctive colour palette and an updated tone of voice, the new brand guidelines have now been applied to many hundreds of documents."

"A solid foundation

With sessions in London, the Midlands and the North, we conducted a series of focus groups to understand what features publicans would need within the website. We took this research and developed Balsamiq wireframes to explain the concept and user journeys to Enterprise’s development team. The creation of a Global Experience Language (GEL) catalogues each element for their team and how to go about recreate it."

"Bringing order to complexity

Making a lot of information easily accessible at a relevant time and in the right context was the main element of our recommendation. Working closely with the development team at Enterprise, we created a site that is both intelligent and easy to navigate, giving the right information at the right time so that even less tech-savvy publicans are able to find it."

"Making the most of a good thing

To publicise the first round of updates to the Enterprise site, specifically pub search, we designed and produced an HMTL email to be sent to the entire database of registered users on that highlighted the benefits of the new design in an easy-to-read and engaging way. In the week after the email was sent out, searches made on the Enterprise website rose from 1,200 to 4,300."

"Read all about it

Engagement with its publicans was very low, and was compounded by bad press from the lack of any real PR activity. Enterprise needed a way to reconnect with its publicans. We designed and produced a newspaper, deals brochure and email template that would increase the communication channels to publicans in a consistent and familiar way."

"The cherry on top

Driven by the impending introduction of e-commerce for Enterprise publicans, we identified a need for a brand to encapsulate the ways the company interacts with its publicans, and vice versa. We therefore streamlined the brand hierarchy to make it easy for publicans to know which services were relevant to them. We created a suite of tools and associated iconography to effect a unified look:"

Enterprise Inns

Here's the story in Futureproof's words:


"Enterprise are the largest pub company in the UK, but you are unlikely to have heard of them. That’s because their enormous portfolio of over 5,400 pubs (for comparison there are 700 Starbucks in the UK) are all purposely not branded as Enterprise pubs and are independently run.

An increase in pub closures, and growing pressure from lobbyists to review their business model, catalysed Enterprise’s need for a rethink. They wanted to establish a fresher, clearer and more transparent identity, more fit for the modern world of leisure.

Futureproof were tasked with helping Enterprise to reposition their brand. We performed a significant audit of the company and brand to see what was going wrong and in doing so, we identified three central areas of focus. Firstly, they needed to become a brand with personality; secondly, they were constantly firefighting negative publicity; and thirdly, they had no real way of corresponding with their 5,400 Publicans, sharing best practice and stimulating interaction."

"After conducting research with groups of Publicans, stakeholders, and consumers, we landed on three central ideas to address Enterprise’s problems. Firstly we created a brand, based on the essence of ‘Empowering the Great British Publican’ – and built a graphical and tonal language for the company to consistently communicate within. Secondly we created a CSR scheme called the ‘Community Hero Awards’ – designed to not only allow Enterprise to have a positive impact on the communities their pubs were in, but also to enable them to have positive conversations with the media. Thirdly, we created an online and offline internal communication platform called ‘Empower’ – designed to reignite the relationship between Enterprise and its 5,400 Publicans.

This commitment to marketing and communication was a significant shift for the 20 year-old company who had never really worked with a creative agency before.

The results were dramatic. Not only did relationships with Publicans significantly improve, and Enterprise commit to spending £10million in the local communities of their pubs, but the commercial performance of the business also turned a corner. Over the three years that Futureproof have worked with Enterprise, their share-price has enjoyed a more than five-fold increase, from 27p (2011) to £1.50 (2014). And as of March 2014 the firm reported like-for-like net income growth of 1.1% for the six months to March 31, making it three straight quarters of growth for the first time since 2008."

So. It's all down to marketing then.

Note what he says from 43 seconds in: "Once you've completed and agreed your business plan and terms with us... it's almost time to start your exciting career as an Enterprise publican". I'd say that's a subliminal message implying you have some kind of job security. What it should say is 'your exciting career as a self employed person running a business taking on all the liabilities a large pub company has'. 

That's it for now folks. I'll try to find the time to balance this out with some posts about other White Collar Cultural Criminal Scamming Pubco websites as well. Just to show there's not a fag paper's width of difference between them. At least they don't employ all the same people... Hang on! They DO!

Seems that Leisure industry analysts Panmure Gordon don't agree with the marketing companies about Enterprise being Futureproof: "Asset disposals will continue at about £60m per year" That's a lot of pubs to be selling to pay interest on debt ETI raised to buy them in the first place.

The Personnel Blowout. Hissy Fits and Personality Disorder in the Inn Kitchen

'If anyone can cook fresh pub grub and fancies a couple of months in beautiful Cornwall please get in touch as our Head Chef had a major blowout last night and walked out'...

This not uncommon plea was posted this morning in a private forum I help admin, Licensees Supporting Licensees, where publicans discuss issues of the moment and the wider world and freely share support, advice and guidance based on combined hundreds of years' experience of the pressured, but perennially brilliant, public house catering environment.

My comment based on twenty five years of work in the hospitality industry is below. By the way, if anyone reading this is interested in the job above, do get in touch and I'll make the introductions.

Long time work in Catering tends to attract people with needs that are different from other professions, people who don't 'fit in' into more conventional working structures, often people who rely on personality, wit, graft and improvisation rather than formal qualifications for career progression. The people who can't hack 'Head Chef' positions in more stable and highly regimented pressurised restaurant catering often fall into the more laid back, less formal areas of catering such as in the burgeoning Pub food area. These charismatic broken personality, usually drug or alcohol addled, fallouts from being unable to manage the demands of higher things in the dysfunctional broader catering world come along to the pub sector basically trained to be mercurial bullies who get the job done by mimicking the bastards they worked for above but without the skills needed, or indeed the staff, to delegate the whole job of getting a menu out reliably consistently delivering quality and value and enough profit to pay the kitchen's overhead...

They come to the job saying they didn't get enough creative satisfaction in their previous posts and are looking for a challenge where they can set out their stall, make a name for themselves and their new adopted pub Establishment, and make a mark on the world. They're out of their depth and blagging it. They don't know how to train without screaming at people, they can't delegate, there's probably not enough people to delegate to anyway, and the only way they can get their head around achieving everything they say they can do is do absolutely everything themselves, from peeling veg to washing pans because no one else in your kitchen is capable because the previous 'chef' was shit. They're totally out of their depth and incapable of admitting it because then their pay would be compromised and they wouldn't be able to sustain their drug habit, and they work all the time, burn their candle at both ends and flog everything to psychological and physical breaking point until blow out happens.

Nicky and I resolved this perennially difficult reality by working very hard on the always reliable 'line cooks' and 'dish dogs' and training them to run the kitchen without the presence of any arsehole prima donna whose main role was to keep everyone else around them believing the world will collapse without their own presence dominating every last corner of their working lives. Resulted in the most stable and productive years we ever had in the kitchen.