17. Memorandum submitted by J D Wetherspoon
J D WETHERSPOON'S
(JDW) APPROACH TO
The issue of binge drinking is a very big one
in the media at the current time, and we all know that a minority
of people behave very badly after a few drinks. It is particularly
noticeable when people let their hair down for a special occasion,
and some feel it is okay to behave in a way that is offensive
to the majority of the population, or to those not involved in
At Wetherspoon, we understand that we are in
the business of selling alcohol, and cannot take the high moral
ground, but we have tried to create a convivial environment which
encourages people, within reason, to behave well.
In many licensing applications around the country,
trade competitors over the years have tried to say that Wetherspoon
"causes trouble" in the areas in which our pubs are
located. However, when the issue has been examined in court, the
evidence strongly indicates that there is no increase in crime
or disorder in the locality of our pubs as a result of our openings.
In a planning application in South Shields, the local inspector
telephoned all the licensing districts in which we traded and
indicated that Wetherspoons had an extremely good reputation.
Some of the things we have done over the years
(a) No Selling Up
Our most recent move in this area, following
advice from the Glasgow Licensing Board, is to remove incentives
for people to drink more alcohol than they intended by, for example,
stopping two for one offers and stopping selling spirit doubles
for less than the price of two single measures.
Wetherspoon is the only substantial national
pub company, of which we are aware, that has introduced this restriction.
We have now tried to remove all financial incentives to "trade
up" to a larger quantity of alcohol.
Some people say that our prices are lower than
average and this is true. However, working men's clubs and breweries
like Samuel Smiths and Joseph Holts also charge less than average,
but are not generally regarded as sources of binge drinking. In
any event, supermarkets charge less than half our prices for most
(b) No "All you can drink for £10"
These offers have become notorious and most
people in the industry strongly disapprove of them. Obviously,
we do not have these offers at Wetherspoon.
(c) Good selection of low priced soft drinks
As well as selling competitively priced beer,
Wetherspoon also sells a wide range of soft drinks at considerably
lower prices than almost all other pubs. Studies have shown that
the availability and prominent display of soft drinks, coffee
and tea have a helpful effect on excessive alcohol consumption.
(d) Good training for managers and staff
and a high ratio of managers
Wetherspoon has led the way in training for
managed house pub companies and we recently won the Supreme Training
Award from the BII for two years in a row. We have won numerous
other awards over the years and our training programmes for managers
are second to none. We also have a high number of managers per
pub, averaging six at the current time.
Good training and a high management presence
are regarded as important factors in curtailing bad behaviour
resulting from alcohol consumption.
(e) Working week
The introduction of a 48 hour working week for
all mangers and staff and the fact that all managers are allowed
two days off a week is evidence of the company's commitment to
ensuring proper working conditions for all its managers and staff.
(f) Food available all day at a reasonable
Wetherspoon's food sales have increased from
5% of sales in 1992 to about 25% now and, combined with soft drinks,
are approaching 40% of overall sales. Availability of food, as
with the ready availability of soft drinks, is known to be a helpful
factor in reducing the possible ill effects of excessive alcohol
consumption, and to that end we provide a full menu of hot and
cold food from opening until one hour before closing in all our
(g) Premises attract a broad range of age
groups, not just young people
Wetherspoon pubs, but not Lloyds bars, have
no music and this, combined with the range of products mentioned
above, as well as an emphasis on drinks such as traditional ales,
results in the attraction of a broad range of age groups from
pensioners at one end of the spectrum to students at the other.
In addition, we have recently been permitted to allow families
to dine in most of our pubs and this has increased again the range
of age groups.
Studies over the years have indicated that pubs
which do not target a predominantly young age group have better
Even in Lloyds bars, we attract a broad range
of age groups for a considerable part of the time and sell a far
higher level of food and soft drinks than almost any competitor.
(h) Aim for as many female customers as
Over the years, we have tried to make our pubs
appeal to women, since the presence of both sexes can have a beneficial
effect on behaviour. In this area, we invested heavily, for example,
in toilet facilities and won "Loo of the Year" for England,
Scotland and Wales for two years in a row. A high standard of
loos, as well as helping the overall ambience of our pubs is particularly
important, research shows, for women.
(i) Quick and efficient service
Wetherspoon has consistently increased the number
of managers, rates of pay and bonuses for staff to try and ensure
quick service and good standards. We also have approximately six
mystery visitor calls per pub per month to check on service. Efficient
and friendly service is a strong factor in creating the convivial
atmosphere which encourages good behaviour.
Many years ago, we were asked by Bournemouth
police, as a condition of our licence, to include CCTV's in our
pub in that town. Our pub managers felt it was an effective deterrent
and encouraged responsible behaviour and we spent many millions
of pounds introducing CCTV's throughout the company.
(k) Encourage diners with no smoking areas
As part of our efforts to encourage food sales,
as well as appealing to non-smokers, we introduced non-smoking
areas in our pubs over 10 years ago. We subsequently introduced
non-smoking areas around the bar serveries themselves. The combined
effect of these moves is to make the pubs more attractive to diners
and this has played a part of the big increase in our food sales.
(l) High standards of maintenance creating
Pubs are often poorly maintained and this can
have a subconscious effect on the behaviour of customers. It is
part of our policy to have excellently maintained pubs and is
encompassed in our motto of "CBSM" which stands for
cleanliness, beer, service and maintenance.
All our managers are encouraged to be members
of Pubwatch and if none exists we would aim to be instrumental
in setting up a Pubwatch. In addition, the Company is a member
of National Pubwatch and an associate member of The Portman Group
which aims to promote a sensible and responsible approach to the
retailing of alcohol.
It is right for society to take a dim view of
some of the extreme anti-social behaviour resulting from heavy
drinking and an immature and selfish attitude with which it often
goes hand in hand. We believe that the biggest victims of this
sort of behaviour are pub managers and staff. We realise that
we sell alcohol and, therefore, must do our best to create a safe
and convivial atmosphere for customers and staff. The actions
mentioned above have gone some way to reducing the problems in
our pubs, but cannot eliminate them completely, and we are keen
to work with the authorities on the introduction of further sensible
measures in this area.
14 December 2004