Pub tenants need protection against financial disaster
We're regularly approached by the owners of businesses in our sector who have problems making enough profit, and we're pleased to assist them. However, we're becoming increasingly frustrated with such enquiries from businesses that are (or are effectively) pub leases.
The usual issues are twofold. First, that the gross profit percentage afforded by the undiscounted beer prices isn't adequate to pay the overheads of the business, and second, that the rent charged by the landlord is way out of line with industry norms, and is often so high as to make the business unviable.
What can we do here other than advise a quick exit if the landlord won't listen, empathise, and work with the tenant towards a successful outcome for both parties?
When we do have to advise an exit, we then often find that the landlord has refused to allow the keen entrepreneur to participate unless they sign personal guarantees, which of course puts them and their families in jeopardy. There are often young children involved, and the family stand to lose their homes.
We of course understand why the landlords insist on personal guarantees, but we wish that they would equally insist on ensuring that the prospective tenant has the ability to run a business, and make a profit.
The last time I challenged a director of such a "landlord" company in this vein he coldly replied: "It's the tenant's own responsibility. If he fails, we'll simply bankrupt him and put in another tenant. Loads of people want to run our pubs."
Is it time we did some naming and shaming? Are there any pub landlord companies out there which can prove to me that they don't put people in this position?
David J Hunter, The Bowden Group, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Hotel grading works well
Steve Boorman and Andrea Londors express concern over the new common standards for the hotel grading scheme (Letters, Caterer, 10 November).
The principle of designators such as "hotel", "small hotel", "inn", etc, accompanying the star grading is a tried and tested means of conveying information on quality.
It's worked successfully in Scotland and Wales for the past seven years, with consumer research demonstrating a high degree of understanding of the system. This approach has also been adopted by South Africa.
Tony Mercer, head of quality and standards, VisitScotland
Do consortia provide value? Your article about upmarket hotel consortia like Leading Hotels of the World (Caterer, 10 November, page 30) was exactly that - about upmarket consortia.
It has to be said that for every UK hotel that could meet the eligibility criteria of LHW, Small Luxury Hotels, Preferred Hotels or Summit International, there are probably five others that would need to investigate midmarket consortia like Best Western, Distinguished Hotels, Your Hotel, Classic British, The Independents, or one of the many regional consortia like Scotland's Hotels of Distinction or Welsh Rarebits. But at a time when consortia are, like the hotel chains, changing their business models, I would advise all hotel consortium members to fully review the value for money that their membership generates at least once a year.
Around the country, I'm finding that the decision for managers is not just which consortium to join, but - in this age of increased online business, direct database marketing and more professional salespeople - whether such a large part of the hotel marketing budget is best spent with consortia at all.
Martin Evans, The Tourism Business, York
We've been here 23 years
In your article about the Leading Hotels of the World consortium (Caterer, 10 November) you referred to several other marketing groups and publications but not Pride of Britain Hotels.
This not-for-profit consortium for privately owned luxury hotels has been in existence for 23 years and has more members in the UK than Leading, Relais & Chteaux or Small Luxury Hotels.
If any readers are interested in the work we do for our members they should look at www.prideofbritainhotels.com or call me on 01666 824666
Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of Britain Hotels
Grant scheme for SMEs With reference to recent articles Caterer has published in relation to industry training and development, I would like to draw readers' attention to a £1,000 training grant that Business Link for London is offering to any business in the London area employing between 20 and 249 employees.
The objective of the scheme is to improve the leadership capabilities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and so the £1,000 must be spent on developing one executive or senior manager, ie, someone with a strategic role.
We know from previous experience that paperwork and red tape can prevent busy business owners from applying. The good news is that Learnpurple is working in partnership with Business Link for London to take away the hassle for the SMEs.
All that is involved is a (free) diagnostic visit to ascertain how best the recipient can benefit and then we will handle the rest. As an example, £1,000 could buy six sessions on our HCIMA-endorsed management development programme, six hours of executive coaching or 13 of CatererSearch's very own 90-minute Masterclass sessions.
So London SMEs, if you'd like to claim your free £1,000-worth of development, I'd be very pleased to hear from you on 020 7836 6999, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This scheme is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so my advice is to act quickly as interested parties must have signed up for the scheme by March 2006.
Jon Reed, learning and development, Learnpurple
Beware of cold callers I'm writing to warn other restaurateurs and hoteliers to beware of companies cold calling to sell rolls for tills and credit card machines
The assistant manager at one of our restaurants was recently contacted by someone he wrongly believed to be from our nominated supplier. He placed an order for rolls for our credit card terminal. When the goods were delivered the charge was more than £200 for one small box of rolls which would have normally cost us about £10.
The company is refusing to budge, and we may have to fight it through the courts.
So beware of anyone offering credit card rolls. Ask the name of the company and check that it's the nominated supplier.
Stuart Young, operations manager, the River Bar, Washington, Tyne & Wear
Many thanks As a licensed victualler for 40 years, I would like to thank all magistrates and clerks of court for their help over many years in granting both full and occasional licences to myself and all others in our trade.
Their service has always been done with fairness, speed and efficiency. It's very sad, therefore, that yet another piece of English history and law is cast aside in favour of more bureaucracy and paperwork.
Paul Stretton-Downes, Bottle & Glass Inn, Picklescott, Shropshire
Our back pages: stories from the Caterer vaults
Caterer & Hotelkeeper, 18 November 1971
My colleagues in the industry and I were very pleased to read Mr Dan Massey's comments concerning students with over-long hair and beards at Brighton Technical College (Caterer, 11 November).
He is absolutely right when he says that a student's training must include manners and social graces. There is no point in colleges producing brilliant students academically if they do not match up to the social demands of the industry.
A smart and tidy appearance is as important in a hotel manager as his ability to balance the accounts. Students, before entering college, should be made aware of standards required of them. If they cannot meet these, they should be encouraged to embark on some other career before wasting taxpayers' time and money.
George E Goring, managing director, Goring hotel, London