Tuesday, 26 May 2009

People Burn


I've probably mentioned before that bank holidays can get busy. The baseline footfall, outside holidays, is very low so we keep a small staff team. Peak times suddenly test our ability to keep our cool. Keeping a smile painted on from 7:30am till midnight certainly tests me. So Jeff, you see the need for the clown pants1.

But look at the quality of staff we're now attracting. Jeff Pickthall dropped in on Sunday afternoon, just for one. We managed to persuade him to stay over and help out on the bar during the evening. We also had Rob staying, so between us there was just perhaps, a little too much beer geeking in progress. But then, perhaps not.

It made it into one of the most pleasant bank holidays ever. It was nice to have discussions on food and beer matching with Rob. I enjoyed getting some interesting thoughts on matching various beers with my menu. Of course, I would tend to agree that with food, the Belgian beers almost always win.

Jeff has spent several years running his own bar in London. We discussed the psychological effects on publicans as a result of the lifestyle. A pub is a massive tie for the publican; It gets difficult to ensure customers have a great time and enjoy themselves when the people delivering that service have no life. All work and no play.......That is why Jeff will never be a publican again, and once the property market picks up, and we move on, neither will I, probably. 20 years ago the publican had an enforced break every afternoon due to licencing laws. It was quite reasonable to be closed for 3 hours. These days you're in deep trouble if you dare to to be closed in the afternoon. I suspect this is one reason why people generally stay in the trade for less time these days.

Some time ago a retired publican came here for a drink. He mentioned an effect which he called "people burn". It makes perfect sense to me. We all, for instance, like the sun but it is possible to get too much of it. Sunburn is painful, distressing and can ruin a perfectly good holiday. I like people. I like people quite a lot and if I didn't I'd be in the wrong trade. But, you can get too much of a good thing. Normally, by the end of a bank holiday, we're shattered both physically and emotionally, having had to keep chipper for 18 hours a day.

Just occasionally, when you know you should just politely nod and agree, when you've been pushed too far, too often, the desire to tell people what you really think, and where you believe they should go, can no longer be suppressed. That is people burn.

Sometime though, people can focus my mind to where it needs to be. Jeff, with his experience of the trade, managed to capture my thoughts as they fell out of my mouth and turned them into catchy hook lines for future marketing.

On the food: "If we can make it, we do" this is more or less true. Bread, marmalade, chutney, home roasted ham, pâté and of course the beer, are all made by us. Making stocks, gravy and sauces from scratch has always been a non-negotiable point for me. It took Jeff to bounce back a couple of comments to make me realise that the rest of the verbose waffle is superfluous. "More than just a pub" was the result of discussing the problems of trying to get across that it is not the classic pub trade that makes the money here. We do a whole lot more than an ordinary pub does and if we didn't it would not work.

If anybody is interested, it's my birthday. One thing I can guarantee is that I'll be having a few pints tonight. For my birthday present I get to sit in the office and work out the VAT return, lucky me, except I seem to have been diverted by my blog.

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1In the early days here, if I was outside taking a break before service, people used to ask me "Are you just the Chef?" At that time I wore very ordinary chef's whites. "Just the Chef" is so wrong on so many levels. Even if the only job I did was to cook it would still be wrong. Any chef will tell you that it is hard work, unsociable hours and undervalued. Most do it because they are passionate about what they do. Nobody is "Just the Chef"

I bought some crazy chef's pants to try and get across the subliminal message that there is no way you should ask me such a dumb question. It works. The piss taking from Jeff and my other friends is so much easier to cope with.

10 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Happy birthday, Dave. Don't work too hard.

Tandleman said...

Happy Birthday Dave. Enjoy a couple or more pints. You confirm what I have always said about running a pub. It is one hard game.

Richard said...

Happy birthday Dave. I've been following your blog since I read up on the upcoming beer festival, and always enjoy your posts. I will make sure I pop in and say hello in a couple of week's time - so long as it doesn't look like you're having people burn!

Philip said...

Many magical returns - I'm going to visit your pub one day for that food and beer I cannot buy elsewhere

Tyson said...

Happy Birthday. Now get back to work:)

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I called and kept you away from doing your VAT returns. No need to repeat anything here except that I need to visit more often.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Happy birthday Dave!

Have you noticed the way my sunburnt head made your whisky bottles glow?

Paul Garrard said...

Many happy returns Dave. I hate working on my birthday - I had to do it when I had my beer shop - I always take a holiday now I work for someone else. A pub must be 10 times worse than a beer shop for hard work,the shop was bloody hard work!

Woolpack Dave said...

Thanks everybody. VAT returns are at least making progress....but the end of the month seems very close and I've got beer to cask up yet.....

Now, another pint please bar person only 45 minutes left of my birthday.

Komarka said...

Happy Birthday grumpy chef ;)