Sam Smiths pubs used to be some of my favourites, they retained their heritage and offered a traditional pub environment, back to the George Orwell ‘Moon Under the Water‘ standard. In my view (which doesn’t count for much, I’m aware) they’ve, sadly, spiralled into a chaotic situation where their reputation is shattered and they admit themselves that they are “struggling”.
The pub doesn’t allow photos to be taken. The prices were very cheap, £2 for a pint of bitter and £2.30 for a pint of extra stout. I had the latter and it was an excellent beer, with a depth of flavour and very drinkable. On this measure, the chain is doing nothing wrong. The service was automated and routine, but not overly impolite.
This is, unfortunately, complete nonsense in my irrelevant opinion. I spend a lot of times in pubs as I can get work done on a laptop, making my environment more social. Most major pub chain are responding to that by installing power points and free wi-fi across pubs, with companies such as Brewdog offering their Deskdog service. The environment in these pub chains, in my experience, is nearly always a social one which is obtained by getting a variety of customers looking to come together in their own ways. JD Wetherspoons have managed this very well to a degree, but they’re not alone, very many smaller pubs (including micropubs) have got the balance just right.
It is true that some coffee shops can have a sterile environment if they have too many customers sitting on laptops and phones, but only a poor operator of a pub would find themselves in that situation. Any pub chain who has gotten into so much difficulty that it has to tell customers to be social has a problem IMO, competent bar staff should be able to deliver that.
Sam Smiths now ban people from texting their friends and it’s verging on being a bullying attitude that is out-of-date, nasty and ridiculous. The policy is led by Humphrey Smith, a man who has gained charge of the organisation by birth. There are all manner of people who find comfort in using their phone if they come to a pub alone, there isn’t always someone to talk to. When someone is, they will put their phone down and talk, which is what a pub needs, a social environment.
Reading on-line what Sam Smiths staff think, it’s clear that many landlords are appalled as well by their boss’s confused policy. But their boss thrives on being controversial and he tried to stop the Pensions Regulator serving his current and former staff by telling them to go away. Humphrey Smith timidly backed down quietly when the court process against him started.
Anyway, when we were in the pub, there were no other customers. Very bloody social that was and it was probably one of the least social pubs I’ve been into all year, with the staff member not offering any engagement beyond the minimum. So, I absolutely agree with the brewery, they’re struggling.