Help Our Hospitality: ‘Character and soul doesn’t come from the building and offers, but the people working here’
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Now the manager of The Cordwainer in The Ridings, Ian started out by building his experience and undertaking training until he took on his first pub in the suburbs of Birmingham.
For the first decade of his Wetherspoons career, Ian remained in Birmingham moving around different venues – until the company acquired a new site in Northampton and he took it over.
When asked what has changed in the industry since he started his career, Ian said: “Standards have dramatically improved. The standards of Wetherspoons have increased without a shadow of a doubt.
“The menu and quality have changed, but it’s still what people would expect from Wetherspoons. Everyone’s expectations and demands have risen.
“They don’t just want a bowl of chips with a pint, they want better quality food and surroundings.”
The town centre venue has even been reviewing its glassware collection recently, to meet the standards of the finer details customers want to see.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is real ale,” said Ian. “That’s the one thing for me that you can’t get anywhere except for a pub. The bottles and cans you get from shops aren’t the same – they’re not conditioned in the same way as in a cellar. What’s required to get a good pint of ale hasn’t changed.”
Ian believes what keeps customers coming back to Wetherspoons’ venues is the fact they “listen and constantly challenge” themselves.
All staff members are encouraged to share their ideas, thoughts and improvements with the company, which are regularly discussed and implemented.
Ian added: “Despite the fact we’ve become a large company and do large volume, we listen to everybody. My pub isn’t about me, it's about understanding what other people want.”
Looking back over the past 14 years of The Cordwainer, Ian shared that it started off as “weekend-led” with most of the trade being welcomed on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We started focusing on the ale,” said Ian. “I’m passionate about the ale side of it and wanted to grow it. There’s a lot of loyalty and communication amongst ale drinkers, and it reached further afield. With ale comes food, and that grew too.”
With the closure of the two other Wetherspoons pubs in Northampton, the decision was made to remove music from The Cordwainer.
One of the company’s beliefs is that their venues are places to meet, drink, eat and talk – and not be “overpowered” by anything else.
“We’re much more food and ale-led than ever,” said Ian.
The pub manager was asked his thoughts on the town’s hospitality scene and whether it has evolved for the better.
“There are times when it’s not as busy,” said Ian. “None of us know for sure why that is. A lot of it is down to the cost of living and the struggles of that – but also the shift in the youth’s attitude to drinking. It’s more about food and it’s a different lifestyle now.”
Ian praised the diverse mix of chains and quirky independents in Northampton town centre.
He said: “There might be places you see in every town, but the people working in them here are from Northampton. They’re not just people plucked from a big box at the head office.
“The soul and character doesn’t come from the building and offers, but the people working here. They need to be supported and celebrated.”