Friday, September 14, 2012

Who Put the 'Cunt' in Scunthorpe?

A deep malaise infects every level of the pub industry and has seeped into every nook and cranny of the edifice; it manifests itself in the behaviour of the employees of pubcos as recounted by the people who report on pages such as this.

Rational observers of the tied pub scene cannot, simply cannot, get their heads round the fact that the pubco's are run by people whose general standards of conduct are very poor. This is predicated upon the fact that they, the people who make the decisions, run the businesses, operate the estates either have backgrounds coming out of the traditional British brewing pub/inn industry, or have learned their profession from such people who are quite simply narrow minded, short sighted, chauvinist, dysfunctional and damaged personalities. It doesn't sound right but they were TRAINED to be like this. Their world view is very different from normal peoples, it is not based upon the same rationality as others. It is based in a deep rooted belief that all publicans are wily, scheming clever, cash rich, conniving, ducking and diving dodgy scammers who will do anything to avoid paying bills and their dues and have mountains, bagsfull, of cash in the cellar or their mattresses or tucked away in offshore accounts. It all comes out of the past and while there was an element of truth about this long ago that long ago is long gone.

These pubco stadd learned their 'professions' in the good old days where they lived in a world free of regulation where massive deals were done on a nod and a wink, paperwork was sparse, everything was tickety boo and there were backhanders everywhere. The pub industry was a club where publicans, area managers, draymen and everyone in between got freebies, under declared earnings on the back of a robust black market, a thriving cash economy inside the trade. Such habits die hard no matter the change of circumstances and as the pub industry evolved radically, particularly with the advent of Private Equity driven pub companies, much of the old world died on the surface but the bad habits prevailed, spreading out under the radar like diseased rhizomes as newcomers into the business of letting pubs were contaminated, infected and inculcated with thoroughly bad practice at every level of their activities.

As the world has moved on and the pub industry has had to clean up its fiscal act through the imposition of legislation and ever more stringent financial controls and accounting methods being levered under business everywhere - and as pubco's have squeezed pubs by maximising their profits at every turn, increasing rents and supply prices faster than inflation and material and supply costs, the people in the middle are the squeezed publicans, exposed to the ravages financial extraction by others at every level of their businesses. They are on the chalk face of the industry paying for everyone else's fat cat lifestyles at the one end and for the rigours of legislation, taxes and cultural change at the other while customers become ever more discerning about price and offer and abandon pubs in favour of better funded, better appointed bars, restaurants and cafes.

And as publicans' profits have been eroded by greedy pubco's and their costs increased through a changing economic reality while their income over the bar falls because they have to price themselves out of the market BECAUSE of their greedy pubco's putting their prices up all the while - the pubco's continue to believe, like a punch drunk fool, that there is more to be had from the 'golden goose' they starved so they bully them, squeeze them and starve them to the point at which we see the industry now. Failing and Broken.

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