Friday, 30 November 2012

Machine Game Duty

Don't forget you only have until 11/1/13 to register for Machine Game Duty ... "what the hell is that?" certainly seems to be the most commons response as it is reported in the Publicans' Morning Advertiser that 99% of premises with games machines have yet to register.

Click on me to find out more ...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Nostradamus ... or ... Cassandra ?

Around this time of year the media is full of various predictions of what will be "big" in the hospitality industry. To save you time I have trawled through over 30 different reports and noted what seems to be the most agreed upon trends we in the pub trade should be paying attention to … so check the latest Market Intelligence Reports page ...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Advice to customers ...

Just for a little bit of fun, in these times of austerity, minimum pricing, beer duty escalators etc ... hopefully it will remind us of why we are in the pub trade ... banter and a sense of humour ... if you want to read a fantastically evocative eligy to the great British pub then head over to Tandleman's blog (who by the way has just celebrated his 1,000th post ... congratulations) ... Tandleman captures, perfectly, the quiet joy of pub life.

Cobbled together from various sources ...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Lies, damned lies ... and well, just lies ...

As all you men out there will know it's a statistically proven fact that ManFlu is 20 times worse than WomanFlu (there are statistics to prove it here at Nursing Voices a global nursing forum) ... a fact to which I can currently attest as I shiver and shake on the verge of death ... so you'll excuse me if I'm brief about my disdain and disbelief about the raft of "statistical information" currently being bandied about by the neo-prohibitionists at Alcohol Concern and their myriad ranks of supporters in the 'health industry'.

For a long time now I and others have been high-lighting the inconsistencies in the arguments of the anti-drink lobby but this years Alcohol Awareness Week brings a truly unbelievable slew of 'facts' and figures to support their hysteria.

So if you want to see some of the counter-arguments then I suggest you head over to Pete Brown's Beer Blog and Phil Mellow's Politics of Drinking for some considered analysis of Alcohol Concern's outrageous calumnies.

If you search this blog for my musings on this subject you will see that Alcohol Concern is not alone in its distortion of the truth ...use the search button and look for alcohol concern ...

As for me? Well it may be relatively early in the day to imbibe, but I am going to supplement my Carlsberg Beecham's Cold  & Flu powder with a hefty shot of whisky and retire to my death-bed. If by some miracle I survive my bout of ManFlu I shall resume normal service shortly ... if not, send lilies.

For more factual information about ManFlu check out this highly respected health information site.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How To Be A Tax Avoider...or how I learned to love Amazon, Starbucks, et al ...

Recently I ran a call to action to answer the Treasury's rejection of any review of the beer duty escalator under the image of a ballot box with the tagline "If you can't join them …"

Today, I think I will revert to the more traditional "If you can't beat them, join them…"

Accordingly, I am pleased to announce the formation of The Perfect Pint Company ™. As you will see from the articles of incorporation (to follow shortly) The Perfect Pint Company ™ is based in Luxembourg, where it's highly dedicated staff (of one … me) will provide every independent pub operator in the country with a unique franchise offering.

The franchise will consist of a single piece of intellectual property, to wit, the way to pour and serve the perfect pint (pictured right). In return for the modest fee of 100% of all your takings The Perfect Pint Company ™ will provide you with a handy, easy to use portable diagram and instructions on how to serve and pour the perfect pint and more importantly will undertake to "fulfil" all your customer orders. You will only "deliver the product" to your customers.

Having received your total income, we will provide the invaluable service and management advice contained in The Perfect Pint Company ™ instruction card at the very reasonable cost to The Perfect Pint Company ™ of 99% of your turnover to cover the "cost of product sales and other ongoing costs related to the operations of the company".

The Perfect Pint Company ™ will then pay tax on the 1% of your turnover to the Luxembourg government. By means of a reciprocal licensing fee The Perfect Pint Company ™ will remit to you all monies required to operate your business and fulfil your VAT and PAYE liabilities. The Perfect Pint Company ™ will pay the shareholders of The Perfect Pint Company ™ a dividend on which 10% income tax can be levied in the UK. (You should note that dividends under £35,000 are eligible for a 10% tax credit … so you'll in effect not pay any tax on this income).

The shareholders of The Perfect Pint Company ™ will, of course, be you the franchisees. As your UK based "economic activity" units (your pubs) will be making an operating loss, your UK based pub business will not be subject to corporation tax so you can quite legitimately trouser the difference.

Application forms for potential franchisees can be obtained from The Perfect Pint Company ™ SARL, 13 Rue de la Boucherie, 1066, Luxembourg. Alternatively if you are visiting Luxembourg, call in and collect your franchise pack in person … just knock on the door and say "The one-breasted coffee vendor sent me …" 

(p.s. Brewers will be able to buy their hops from our Swiss domiciled subsidiary at a very reasonable 200% mark-up ...)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Market Intelligence Reports

Some of you will know that I have recently discovered "infographics" and used them in the spirit of " a picture paints a thousand words" ... I've now added a new page to store those (and other reports) that I think may be of interest to those running pubs ... hope you find them useful.

You say tomatoes, I say tomatoes ...

OK ... so I said I wouldn't be doing too many picture posts ... but in light of the Public Accounts Committee grilling of tax-avoiding companies Starbucks, Amazon and Google yesterday ...

Please feel free to use it as you will ...

In the interest of fairness, however, I would point out that Margaret Hodge (Chair of the Committee) must have some major "cojones" if this Telegraph story is to be believed

All you publicans and brewers out there must be wondering WTF is going on in this country when HMRC and HMG are intent on going after the little guy (and gal) when the big boys are getting away with such blatant and immoral tax evasion avoidance ... the "come the revolution" line is growing by the day and must now include not only bankers, but also their 'partners in crime' in the big accountancy firms. Don't you just love the new HMRC adverts?

But closing in on whom?

With reports that the Treasury is facing a £48 billion "black hole" in its books that will require another £22 billion of tax increases or spending cuts in the next spending round, surely it's time HMG sorted this mess out and we had an equitable tax regime where all individuals and businesses paid a "just amount" of tax and contribute proportionally to the societies where their economic activity occurs (pubs and brewers paid a combined £11 billions in duty, tax, VAT, national insurance last year alone) and more importantly inculcate a moral climate where it is seen as the right thing to do to pay one's way and not a jolly wheeze to think of ever more intricate ways to cheat the public purse of one's fair share. Perhaps, and only then, will we feel "we're all in this together".

Monday, 12 November 2012

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

You decide ...
Well this is probably a first, me using my almost long-forgotten schoolboy Latin. So, far from being of no use as I would continually harangue Mr Moore (my Latin master), it has come in handy this week. In essence, and at the risk of being corrected by pedants and Latin scholars, "who will watch the watchmen?".

Essentially the current administration of Eton educated Latin scholars has asked this question and come to the conclusion that we, the plebian proletariat, should decide who should watch the watchmen, which is why we are all expected to troop off to the polling station this Thursday (November 15th) to cast our ballots to elect our own Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC)... 37 of them across England and 4 in Wales.

Some may say that this will make the police more accountable and will further democratise one of our public services, namely the police, as unelected Police Authorities will be replaced by a PCC, Others will argue that we run the risk of further politicising the police and their activities and replace a committee of well informed, well intentioned Police Authority members with great experience and breadth of knowledge of crime and how it affects our respective areas with a PCC who doesn't have to have any experience of policing as a prerequisite of candidacy. Whichever view you subscribe to, these elections are upon us and it behoves us in the pub trade to find out who our local candidates are, what they are promising in their election manifestos and consider what will happen to local policing under their authority. 

The government assures us PCCs will have no operational control of our police forces especially in terms of where the diminishing resource of front-line officers will be deployed and what the priorities of those officers will be in the execution of their duties. My fear, and this is a fear shared by many discussing this issue in the media, is that they will; if not by the very dint of being able to hire and fire Chief Constables and oversee police budgets. One can easily imagine a PCC suggesting a Chief Constable immediately puts resources to a perceived problem that the PCC has become exercised about and the Chief Constable resisting this instruction. Result? The PCC sacks the Chief Constable and replaces that officer with one that will do their bidding. Far-fetched? Not really, the Mayor of London has for many years been London's PCC and the current incumbent has already sacked one Metropolitan Police Commissioner... Sir Ian Blair

If you recall Sir Ian's three and a half years in post were plagued by questions about his judgement, leadership credentials and 'politically correct' style of policing. His last months in office were bogged down in unprecedented controversy and in-fighting after he was accused of racism by a series of ethnic minority officers, including the country's top Asian policeman Tarique Ghaffur. It resulted in the upper ranks of the Met being plunged into a virtual state of paralysis, with officers regarding Sir Ian as a lame duck chief no longer in charge of his force. He was forced to eventually resign after a bitter (and very public) showdown with the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who said he had no confidence in him, the first time in modern history a Met Commissioner has been as good as sacked.

Is this a scenario we want played out across the country? Well, in some respects, it's too late, the change is upon us, but there is still just a little time to influence the choice of whom we are all going to get. So find out what your local candidate is proposing, think about how it's going to affect your business and your customers and above all make sure you vote. Despite the old anarchist graffito of "It doesn't matter who you vote for, they always get in" ... it does matter and if you get an anti-pub commissioner elected in your area you'll soon know about it. You think late night levies will remain the province of city and town centre pubs only? You think that pub closure orders by the police won't be used by hysterical PCCs in response to health lobbyists and neoprohibitionists? You think that scarce resources won't be deployed only in areas where the most votes for the PCC were cast (or come re-election time might be cast)?

We get precious few opportunities to exercise our democratic right in this country and it would be a shame to squander this one ... if nothing else it'll get you out of the pub for half an hour and who knows you might get a PCC that understands the invaluable role that pubs play in the social cohesion of the communities that both they and the police serve.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Damn and Blast 'em ...

Another of my guilty pleasures is the documentary series on Channel 4 ...  "999 what’s your emergency ?" and having just watched episode 7 I was quite shocked at some assertions the makers of the film Blast Film Productions make regarding alcohol. I have written to them to ask which studies / statistics they base the following statements on at the end of the programme:
  1. Drink is a major factor in 50% of all crime
  2. It (drink) costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year
  3. 1 in 8 of the adults who die before the age of 64 do so because they have abused alcohol
Their response should make interesting reading ...

(If you'd like to ask them to:

Update ... 26/11/12 ... quelle surprise! No answer ...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

"... you get monkeys"

Today marks the beginning of Living Wage Week 2012, which, will encourage employers throughout the country to bring the poorest paid workers to a pay level above that of the national minimum wage.

For hundreds of thousands of employees currently 'enjoying' the minimum wage of £6.19 this would mean an extra £1.26 (outside London)… not a huge amount, but for those subsisting on what the Labour party call "poverty wages" it will make an enormous difference.

The catering and hospitality industries have been notorious for too long as a low paid sector and in these difficult times of escalating rents and beer duties, increasing commodity and energy prices and the added burden of auto-enrolled pension schemes (which will add 3% to payroll) for some small businesses it may prove to be impossible to implement, but I would urge those that can to do so. Here's a sobering (and shaming) figure for you ... 85% of pub staff in the UK are paid less than the Living Wage.

The Living Wage Foundation cites these reasons for paying a Living Wage:

Good for Business
An independent study of the business benefits of implementing a Living Wage policy in London found that more than 80% of employers believe that the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%.
Two thirds of employers reported a significant impact on recruitment and retention within their organisation. 70% of employers felt that the Living Wage had increased consumer awareness of their organisation’s commitment to be an ethical employer.
Good for the Individual  
The Living Wage affords people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. 75% of employees reported increases in work quality as a result of receiving the Living Wage. 50% of employees felt that the Living Wage had made them more willing to implement changes in their working practices; enabled them to require fewer concessions to effect change; and made them more likely to adopt changes more quickly.
Good for Society 
The Living Wage campaign was launched in 2001 by parents in East London, who were frustrated that working two minimum wage jobs left no time for family life. Over 15,000 families have been lifted out of working poverty as a direct result of the Living Wage.

As I have said this may be impossible for many small businesses, none more so than the hard-pressed tenants of brewers and pubcos, so here's a suggestion for the likes of Punch and Enterprise, the pub trade's corporate Rackmen … for any tenant that signs up for the Living Wage, how about rebating the differential between that and minimum wage by means of reduced rent?

For a pub employing ten staff, say, this would be about £466 a week, or £24,000 or so … too much? How about going halvsies? £12,000 per pub to repair your reputation? Can't afford the cash? How about a free 11 gallon keg of lager per week? The tenant sells the lager at 100% profit and that goes to fund the Living Wage, surely you can afford that out of your massive supplier discounts? How about that for a bit of preredistribution?

And as for government, isn't it about time that the Living Wage became the national minimum wage? I, for one, can't understand the rationale of a prime minister supporting the aims of the Living Wage Foundation presiding over an administration that enforces a minimum wage that is 17% below what is actually needed to survive on or values the work one does based on age. But then again, nothing that Whitehall and Westminster does surprises me anymore. (By the way I bet that scrapping the beer duty escalator would go a long way to funding the Living Wage in pubs anyway).

A final word for publicans, if you are already paying the Living Wage or above, then bravo, if you aren't then seriously consider it after all as grandma said … "If you pay peanuts …"

(This piece amended with new Living Wage set at £8.55 for London and £7.45 outside the capital 5/11/12)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Enough with the pictures already ...

Those who read this little corner of the blogosphere will have noticed that recently I have been using a lot of what data journalists call infographics ... don't know which is worst the former or the latter ... but hey ho it has been useful as a way of spreading the message in another forum, namely, Twitter.

With a limit of 140 characters (or if you follow 'best practice' 100 characters) the constraint on meaningful and articulate messages can make communication for a wordy old bugger like me a bit of a challenge ... hence the need to create attachments to tweets that fully convey the point I am trying to make.

This has been incredibly useful over the last week or so in the lead up to yesterday's back bench business debate in the House of Commons on the beer duty escalator (scrapping thereof). I like to think that in some small way that the combined 'reach' that some of these images achieved has helped inform the wider debate and acted as a call to action for those in the trade (and their customers) who might not ordinarily participate in 'politics'.

There are many who say that religion and politics are things that any publican should steer clear of, in their own pub at least, and there are those that say simply getting out of bed is a 'political act' ... but with so much at stake for our industry and that of our suppliers, most notably brewers, I think it behoves all of us in the trade to engage with our customers on the issues facing us and (by dint of association/custom) them.

With unprecedented pub closures in recent years, brought on by many factors already discussed here and elsewhere, yesterday's debate in Parliament was, thankfully, not just about getting a tax break for pubs and brewers, it was an impassioned and evocative plea to save what is, for many people, the quintessential social institution in this country.

So when you, your colleagues and your customers can't be bothered with the issues facing our industry, stop, take a moment, and participate in the debate ... without 'grass roots' support no matter what is spent by industry lobbyists or said by the trade press or pundits such as myself, any efforts to effect changes to the way this administration act toward our industry will ultimately fail or be a waste of money.

So occasionally, if I drop a picture or two into the blog, to illustrate a point, I trust you will forgive me ... hey, you can always pass it on to your customers without having to spend endless hours proselytising and maybe the next time we get our say, in the next General Election, our views might be heard and taken note of by those whose political base relies so heavily upon our customer base.

Now vicar about that ecumenical discussion about those angels dancing on the head of that pin ...

Enjoy the weekend ... and look no pictures!