Sunday 19 April 2009

Lime and soda

It always puzzles me why there are certain expectations of a pub. One of the worst in my view is, what is called in the trade, post mix. We used to have one of these draft fizzy drinks dispensers. They simply take the tap water, fizz it up and add an amount of a syrup before dispensing it as a proprietary soft drink at the bar. They are handy for rum and cola, making shandies and for that awful drink, lime and soda. Of course for the latter it is required to also have some other product called cordial on the bar. All of these items are punted by large multinationals who have dubious marketing and business ethics.

Around 2 years ago the largest of these multinationals decided that their machine could no longer be supported at our establishment. They made excuses about our private water supply damaging the machine. In truth I imagine that the combination of low throughput and our remote location added up to it not being commercially viable.

This was the start of a long downhill road for our relationship with multinationals at my pub.

We started to stock large plastic bottles of cola, made by the same notorious multinational. PET bottles, as they are known in the trade. We also stocked lemonade and soda in the same way. It's tacky and really, really not like us. After a while we discovered Fentimans drinks. They make a nice range of quality soft drinks, not cheap but good. We decided to ditch the large PET bottles and go completely with Fentimans, but that left a gap in a product range for soda.

Without a machine to deliver gassed up water the only real option was individual bottles of sparkling mineral water. They are a little more expensive than the carbonated tap water, but hey, we've not got that option anymore. This does make lime and soda a little expensive.

To be fair though, what person who has any level of decernibility chooses lime and soda as a drink? Lime cordial has probably never had any association with real limes. It certainly tastes like rubbish to me. This is part of the populace homogenisation of pub culture that in turn is part of the trade's downturn.

After much tribulations with people asking for lime and "just tap water" and then complaining about the price I finally stopped stocking lime cordial. It's become something of an obsession now. Crisps, chocolate and coffee; lager, fizzy drinks and fruit juices all have to be quality products. Cordial just had to go.

You may think I'm crazy. My suspicion is that you are right. Many people don't get what we do here, but the proportion that do are worth it. After all, if I work the hours I do, without a day off, I'm damn well going to stock a range of products I believe in and insist my customer base believes in it too.

And don't get me started on Shandy.

I had two Dutch people in today, they had an orange juice and a still water, not "just tap water". We never have problems with foreigners. We probably conform to the continental café bar model in some ways.


Sat In A Pub said...

Tricky one. Lime & soda has been many a driver's best friend as the cheapest drink a pub usually does. I have been known to drink it when theres nothing else I fancy. It is rubbish, though.

ChrisM said...

Lime and soda can be refreshing, and it is usually what I drink, like Tyson says, when I'm driving or there is nothing I fancy. It just gives a bit of a break from 'just tap water'! However, any pub stocking Fentimans Ginger Beer doesn't have to stock lime cordial on my account, as it's the best firey ginger beer I know - in fact, I dream of cask ginger beers being this firey...!

Curmudgeon said...

I agree - lime and soda can be a good option when you want a long, refreshing drink and don't want to waste your thirst on a pint of beer.

I take it anyone wanting a lager and lime will be disappointed at the Woolpack, then ;-)

Do you have orange squash, which is usually the other option for a reasonably-priced pint of soft drink?

Sat In A Pub said...

Lager and lime? Surely too downmarket retro for a middle class haunt such as the Woolpack:)

Unknown said...

ChrisM, you need to visit me when I have my Woolly Fusion brewed, it's packed with ginger. Of course we have Fentimans ginger beer, which I agree is so refreshing it beats the socks of anything else.

Lager and lime! now do you not know about my policy on swearing on my blog. Actually, this is a problem having a beer nerd as a landlord. Lager and lime customers are a challenge to me, if it's a lady I normally win with Kriek, after allowing a small taster of course. If it's a bloke, well.....I tend to keep my thoughts to myself.

"downmarket retro" perfect summing up Tyson.

But finally Tyson, this is part of the problem with cheap non alcoholic drinks and driving. Being where I am I need to get more money out of the large non alcoholic trade during the day. It's about spends per head, as we say in the trade. I know I need to get more money out of each and every person who comes through the door, there is no way to increase footfall, so refusing to do cheap is the answer.

Am I right? to be honest, the jury is still out on that one.

Alistair Reece said...

If someone wants a lager and lime then I would suggest them trying a good wheat beer, with a wedge of something citrusy squeezed in. Lovibond's Henley Gold would be an excellent choice as it isn't cloudly and unlike to provoke the usual response of lager drinkers to a nice cloudy hefe-weizen.

Unknown said...

I ment to post a couple of links for Fentimans:

Their main site
Funny advertising (doesn't work in Google Chrome)

Unknown said...

Ah yes, a wheat beer, must do something about that.....

Tandleman said...

I see where you are coming from Dave, but it is a tricky one. I'm guessing here that some (most?) of your customers must come by car. I like to have a soft drink sometimes (when I'm driving), but it is the small quantity that annoys. That's where, no matter how horrid, a pint of lime and soda, or in my case a lime and tap water comes in. It's what I drink when I work at the pub because the volume is there.

As I said, I do see your point though.

Unknown said...

Tandleman, that sounded like a tactful agreeing to disagree, which of course is good.

On the point of volume, which of course is valid, last night a gentleman who had climbed Scafell and had to travel back to Manchester that day claimed to have a 2 pint thirst. One pint of water and one pint of 3.4% Light Cascade did the trick.

Friday and Saturday nights we had a group who purchased large volumes of beverage. The glasses of tap water and ice requested became a pleasure to dispense.

I have absolutely no problem with existing customers who wish to augment their purchase with free tap water, although our tap water is no more "just tap water" than I am "just the chef" - but that is another story.

Chap said...

Quality counts to discerning customers and will bring them back. So stick to your guns!

Paul Garrard said...

If I'm driving I prefer a fizzy drink but have never found anything to please. I usually plump for coke or sparkling water. I always regret coke when I've ordered it because of the sweetness, so the water often wins out, but that's just too bland. I don't think the soft drink I crave actually exists. I hope someone invents it soon!

Paul Bailey said...

When we had our shop we stocked the Fentiman's range. They are quality products and always sold well. The Ginger Beer and the Lemonade are especially good. We were also fortunate to stock a locally produced range of soft-drinks, marketed by Kentish Hills Spring Water. From memory the brand was called "James Edwards". If anything, their ginger beer was even more fiery than Fentimans!

Discerning people will always pay that little bit extra for quality.

Curmudgeon said...

Dave: "Being where I am I need to get more money out of the large non alcoholic trade during the day."

I quite understand what you mean, which is why it annoys me when some people suggest that all soft drinks should be sold at little over cost as they are sometimes bought as a distress purchase by drivers. This shows a total failure to understand the economics of the pub trade.

Stonch said...

Why don't you take a day off? Take some days off! I take loads of days off. It's good for you and good for your customers!

I stock Fentimans Ginger Beer (as of last week) and I must say the products are lovely. I'm going to order some more. Out of interest what are you selling it for?

Don't share your revulsion for lime and soda and shandy. If someone wants to pay me £1.50 for a pint of fizzed water and a dash of cordial, they're welcome. I make almost as much profit on that as I do on a pint of ale! Likewise shandy - someone's paying you the price of a pint in exchange for a half and a bit of syrup - what's not to like? But then I have a postmix machine.

Unknown said...

Ah but Jeffrey, that was the problem, people complained about £1.50, so yet anouther reason to stop selling it.

Stonch said...

Customers who complain about prices are customers best discouraged! It comes down to whether you think you're being fair - when all things are taken into consideration. So I don't mind extracting a high profit margin on softies because I see it as a sort of cover charge for those who won't partake in my alcoholic delights, where the margin is smaller and where the heart of the pub lies (slightly muddled metaphor but there you have it).