Tuesday, 29 January 2013

So long Roger ... missing you already

... damned right Mr Whiteside (with apologies to Aardman)
In today's Publicans' Morning Advertiser the outgoing CEO of embattled Punch Taverns gets to have his say on the pub trade and his time at Punch

This is my reply ...

All the best Mr Whiteside, sadly for thousands of individuals who were at the shitty end of the partnership stick and were stripped of their assets whilst the company of which you are so proud paid down its debt mountain with their life savings, your words will ring somewhat hollow.

Yet again we see the "low cost entry" mantra reiterated as justification for sharp business practices but no acknowledgement or even a whiff of an apology to the hapless victims of your company's (and others) "high cost exit" business model.

As few will mourn your passing from the "stormy seas of the pub sector", so will few mourn the passing of Punch et al when they finally succumb to regulation and market forces.

Angry blogger? You bet! When the industry that I have worked in and been proud to be part of for over 30 years is in such crisis. Yes, tax and duty, supermarkets and smoking have all had their part to play, but the billions of value in our national estate of pubs that has been stripped out by pubcos must surely be a major culprit.

I am glad you enjoyed your time at Punch, on your salary I should imagine that the odd frosty reception, coffin bearing protestors and angry blogs haven't been too onerous a burden.

The once in a generation chance to bring the pub industry to an equitable settlement through regulation is not to be feared as you and others who have a vested interest in the status quo would like... rather it is to be embraced as the only chance for this industry to survive. If thousands of pubs do come to the market on a free of tie basis (be it freehold or rented) with transparency of rents and other costs then this will be no bad thing.

Just as it was not beyond the wit of Punch to re-brand the tie as a buying club (surely this must get a lifetime marketing award from somebody) nor will it beyond the wit of individual operators to join or create their own genuine buying clubs to extract their true value from the supply market.

I recognise the need for the market to create its own levels (both in terms of absolute numbers of pubs and the beer those pubs consume) and that there is a place within the market for the tied model. But it has to be a model that rewards in equal measure the capital and entrepreneurial input of the tenant and the capital and estate management input of the landlord.

What the average bloke(ess) who take on a pub want from a landlord is a fair shake of the stick, if they succeed so be it, if they fail so be it. Some are good at running pub businesses, some are not, but the emphasis has to be on fair ... and whilst we're at it honest and transparent. You and your colleagues within the BBPA have steadfastly resisted this to the point that Parliament has finally run out of patience.

So, in closing I have a message as an angry blogger to you ... bring it on!

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