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Raising the standards of pub retailing

On 15/05/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Training, qualifications and professional standards are all key to the reputation and standing of the British beer and pub industry and all were illuminated at the BII Annual Lunch and the SAB Miller Scholars Programme which held its Graduation ceremony this week.

Tim Hulme the CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping launched the new BII strategy in which he outlined his vision to be led by the needs of the members they serve and the learners who sit their qualifications. Unique in the Licensed Trade sector in having a dedicated Awarding Body, qualifications have been pared down to sit under six main headings and four levels from entry to management.The BII Licensing Hospitality Apprenticeship offers a Level 2 and Level 3 awards. The Pre-entry awareness training (PEAT) has been reviewed and enhanced and is of course compulsory for members of the BBPA and their tenants or lessees. Making sure that new entrants to our industry have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed must be a clear objective for everyone.

I was honoured to be asked again this year to be part of the 12 industry experts interviewing the six finalists of BII Licensee of the Year Award. As ever, six wonderful pubs and six absolutely dedicated licensees. This year four of them operated tied pubs and without doubt the low cost entry into running their own business was a factor in their success. The winner announced at the lunch is Lee Price from the Royal Pier Aberystwyth who clearly understands consumer demand and responsibility. Not only does he run a great pub which is actually a Pier, but for the past two years he has been awarded ‘Best Boss’ in Aberystwyth. Certainly one to visit!

As part of its commitment to the Responsibility Deal, SAB Miller has developed a strategy with three strands: Education; research and partnership. Since 2009 SAB Miller has funded scholarships on courses throughout the UK for 4,000 employees in pubs, bars, restaurants and the off-trade. All take the BIIAB Level 1 Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing. They have committed to train a further 6,000 people in the next three years at a cost to SAB Miller of £500,000.

Baroness Hayter hosted an event in the House of Lords to recognise a range of retail staff from across the UK who have been awarded the Level 1 Award. She was clear that the collaboration between local authorities, the police and the retailers had to be part of a responsible culture towards alcohol. She was joined by Sally Keeble the former Northampton MP (who is standing again at the next election), and has been helping SAB Miller deliver the scheme.

As we approach the summer with hopefully good weather and a successful World Cup, our credentials as a responsible industry are hugely important. Working with the BII and our members to raise standards of retailing so we all enjoy drinking beer responsibly and visiting pubs is vital and I am proud of all the good work done by members of the BBPA to take a lead in this area.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Bernard Brindley (3rd June 1950 to 20th April 2014)

On 09/05/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was able to drive to the very beautiful village of Monks Kirby in Warwickshire to share with some 500 others and his family the funeral for Bernard Brindley and to celebrate his life.

In his tribute Phil Dixon said right at the beginning; for someone who helped others so much, it is tragic that his life was cut short so early. His Father at 89 was unfortunately not able to be there, but the thoughts of all in the congregation were with him, Bernard’s wife Lorna and his children and grandchild.

We heard that Bernard was half Maltese, his Mother having met his Father during the Second World War. His sometimes steely stance when warranted could be put down to the ‘Maltese Factor!’. He was a committed Roman Catholic and his family came from a requiem mass at his own church to St Edith’s because it was so much larger and could accommodate all those who wanted to be there to pay their respects.

Bernard began life as a chef, but soon moved to working in some of the foremost hostelries in the local area and eventually owned his own pub; the White Lion in Pailton, near Rugby. He was there for over 20 years and according to Phil he ran one of the best and most successful pubs he had ever seen. When asked by Phil on a visit the GP on his spirits, Bernard was able to go through each one and tell him down to three decimal points!

When eventually Bernard and Lorna decided to sell on the lease, Bernard expanded his role of giving something back. Chairman of the Rugby National Licensed Victuallers, he was Regional Chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping and became its national Chairman in 2012. He was also Chairman of the Pub Governing Body bringing together pub companies and lessee organisations. He was a trustee of the Licensed Trade Charity and was often out visiting those in need.

For me, Bernard a lovely man with whom I enjoyed working. He would call me to discuss an issue, particularly for the PGB. I had huge respect for his experience as a publican and always welcomed his advice. He was kind, honest and always prepared with a thoughtful point of view. He did not enjoy the politics, but was determined to rise above it and play his part to help those who run pubs to make them as successful as possible (not many could be as successful as his!).

As we sung the hymn known by many as ‘How Great Thou Art’; the last verse;

“When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart;
Then shall I bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim; my God how great thou art”.

Bernard was a great stalwart of our industry; he gave so much time to us all. He himself was ‘great’ and as we stood shoulder to shoulder in our respect for him: industry veterans, pub company senior executives and licensees, I only hope that Bernard’s work can continue and that others with his experience will step forward and give as much as he did. He will be very much missed by us all.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Where's my £1000 discount? That's the question a lot of licensees have found themselves asking recently

On 02/05/14

The Autumn Statement last December announced a £1,000 discount for retail businesses with a rateable value of £50,000 or below for the next two financial years. In part this was a response to the struggles of the High Street and also aimed to address the growing sense of unfairness about the business rates system.

It was an extremely welcome move, for which both the Chancellor and the Community Pubs Minister Brandon Lewis deserve great credit. The Treasury is paying for it and Mr. Lewis' department, DCLG, are in charge of business rates.

For licensees it will make a difference. A licensee recently wrote to the Prime Minister about the burden of business rates on his business. The letter was copied to the Publican's Morning Advertiser, who connected the gentleman with the BBPA. The pub's rateable value is £26,000 so the bill would have risen from £12,246 per year to £12,679. As it was the annual bill fell to £11,532, a saving of £714 on the previous year. Or rather it would have done if he had received the discount.

And this is where issues start to arise. Although the discount is funded from central Government it is up to the 300+ billing authorities (councils) to implement the reduction. Having experienced a relatively small number of these bodies, it seems that there are wide variations in the way they are dealing with the discount.

The Royal Oak mentioned above is covered by Harrogate Borough Council. To receive the discount businesses need to complete a form and return it to the Council to receive the discount. It doesn't appear that businesses were made aware of this fact when they received their rates bills for the coming year. If this is the case then it appears likely that many pubs entitled to the discount will not receive it. The Royal Inn was only made aware of this when they contacted the BBPA.

Tunbridge Wells so far stands out as best in class. Pubs have reported that their discount was automatically applied to their bills when they were sent out for the year ahead. This clearly reduces the administrative burden on the pub and helps with cash flow from the start of the year.

Other local authorities, including Ashford, also in Kent, have not applied the discount but have assured businesses they will have had an update by the end of May. The London Borough of Haringey on the other hand has no reference to the relief on its website and little indication of when the discount will apply.

Reasons for delays have been cited as IT and procedural difficulties. It is true that some systems were not set up for this type of discount so that may have caused some delays. And it is also the case that councils need to set up a local scheme to administer the discount. But these measures were introduced nearly five months ago so there should be little excuse for pubs and other retail businesses not receiving what they had been offered. If Tunbridge Wells can get the discounts onto bills by March it seems hard to believe that Haringey Council won't even have received permission from their councillors to do so until June at the earliest!

I would plead with all councils to implement this discount at the earliest possible opportunity. It can make a big difference to a small business. And if any business that believes they have not received the discount that they are eligible for please get in touch.

As an aside, the retail relief on its own isn't enough to alleviate the burden of business rates. More needs to be done. And that is why we are grateful to see Government looking more closely at this, including a consultation on 'checking and challenging' rates and a recent discussion paper on the administration of the whole scheme, including revaluations. This is the highest profile that business rates have had for a very long time.


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Following the facts

On 25/04/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

I don’t know if you would have noticed it but there was an excellent article published in The Sun at the end of March; ‘Will your loaf leave you brown bread?’ The article itself delivered a fascinating insight into the consumption of wholemeal bread as a cause of dementia, breast cancer, headaches, stroke, diabetes, bloating, kidney cancer and loss in libido!

This article quickly followed from another triumph in the delivery of factual, nutritional information, published about a month earlier, which threw the spotlight on the hidden sugars in alcoholic beverages and in particular the alleged nine-and-a-half teaspoons, nearly 40 grams, of sugar that can be found in a pint of bitter. Imagine!

‘Educating’ consumers about the dietary risks associated with everyday, common foods it seems is the current game of choice, not that this is a new game, of course. However the irresponsible and inaccurate communication of nutritional ‘dangers’ is damaging and ultimately does nothing to educate consumers or make them aware of where there may indeed be some benefit from exercising moderation when it comes to dietary choice.
Perhaps more concerning is the degree of confusion and misunderstanding that such headline-grabbing approaches inspire, further preventing people from understanding complex issues and making informed and sensible decisions about their diet or lifestyle.

Such a position formed a central concern by members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (ISFAR) earlier this year as part of a critique of the World Health Organisations ‘World Cancer Report 2014’. Members of the scientific forum called for ‘a balanced message on alcohol and health’ and found that ‘the WHO seriously undermines its credibility by publishing a report that seems to deliberately ignore overwhelming scientific evidence showing that light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol not only reduces overall mortality but is usually not associated with an increased risk of cancer.’

Despite the obvious need for more objective and informative education around public health issues, media campaigns continue to present unbalanced information with a focus on the shock factor or which simply fail to identify the serious risks associated with alcohol abuse and heavy consumption. Such approaches also commonly focus on increased risk but often fail to realise the context within which it is important to view such risk. Another statement by ISFAR shows that 'Of all lifestyle factors related to cancer, alcohol is a modest attributable risk at 4-6%, while the attributable risk for cigarette smoking is approximately 30% and that for diet and sedentary lifestyles is 20-50%’

Claims that there is clear, scientific consensus around the globe of the risks associated with increasing alcohol intake and cancer formation are simply not true. Whilst undoubtedly the public health community will continue to argue that this is so, there is an undeniable lack of agreement since the confounding factors associated with possible cause are too great and actual causative mechanisms are simply not fully understood.

By example, a paper by Klatsky et al. published this month in the journal ‘Cancer Causes and Control’ reports that underreporting of heavy alcohol consumption is skewing data that would imply an increased cancer risk from moderate alcohol consumption. Indeed, much of what is understood about the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk is only associated with heavy, immoderate consumption.

However, what cannot be ignored is the growing scientific consensus that regular, moderate alcohol consumption actually confers an overall net benefit in terms of reduced mortality risk. Here, there is clear evidence that those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, stand to live longer than those who either drink nothing at all or those who drink excessively.
Clearly, the importance of conveying clear and accurate information about the true nature of alcohol is vital to help the public make informed and sensible decisions about consumption.
Watching the BBC news this week, I can’t help but wonder whether the inferred consequence of higher prices associated with alcohol as a factor of the declining incidences of violent crime in the UK are the whole story. The brewing industry has certainly made concerted efforts and significant investment to be responsible in their approach to alcohol marketing and through their support for educational programs around the world which aim to teach young people about the risks of alcohol abuse.

When all is said and done, the most valuable lessons that I have learnt about alcohol and the importance of moderation were taught to me by a head brewer and not the media or the health sector.

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Alcohol policy. Moving beyond the evidence-base...?

On 11/04/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

A number of recent reports, conferences and proposals have questioned whether in a desire to ‘do more’ and ‘go further’ to foster the culture of responsible drinking in the UK that we all aspire to, we are moving well beyond what is rational, evidence-based policies. This ultimately risks being counter-productive and damaging.

The rush of local authorities and police forces to promote schemes ‘banning’ stronger beers and ciders following the apparent success of the “reduce the strength” campaign in Ipswich is a worrying example of this. Putting aside concerns around competition and licensing law issues, the logic appears flawed in many cases. In Ipswich, following a number of deaths among street drinkers, seventy-five individuals were identified with an ambition to try and accelerate getting these individuals into treatment programmes and provide the necessary support to help them with their alcohol addiction.

This was called the Start Afresh programme with a thirty-six point action plan. Removing from shelves the products favoured by street drinkers was one such action and seen as a way to help facilitate engagement by either these individuals switching to drinking lower-alcohol products (and so be more coherent when approached by support workers) or realise that rather than trek to somewhere that did still stock these drinks this could be the trigger to seek treatment for their addiction.

Out of all the thirty-six measures put in place, this was the one measure that appears to make the least sense yet has caught on as the ultimate panacea. There are many other products of equal strength (e.g. British wines) or much greater strength (table wines and spirits) that can still be purchased with no problem. Despite the fact that street drinkers may prefer cans of strong lagers and PET bottles of strong cider for convenience and price – to think that these products somehow cause a different effect than the same quantity of alcohol (or indeed a greater concentration of alcohol) in other drinks, or indeed that someone with a serious addiction will simply not just buy a bottle of cheap wine or sherry or a small bottle of vodka, is very difficult to believe. If one were being cynical you might think the attraction of this one measure is that it appears to be a cost-free.

Perhaps equally concerning is a proposal to somehow enshrine in law a restriction on the maximum amount of alcohol in a particular package format...four alcohol units in a can and fifteen units in a PET bottle...on what evidence and where does this end? If, as is suggested, this is to help people drink within recommended daily limits then where does fifteen come from or, if this is also primarily aimed at street drinkers, are they really going to stop at one (now slightly cheaper) can to stay within the Government guidelines or consume their bottle of cider over three to four days?
For brand owners and retailers to take action to help reduce the harmful use of alcohol is hugely important and should be strongly encouraged. If this involves reducing the strength of certain products, looking carefully at product portfolios and their appeal and even packaging then this is great and as it should be. Providing a greater choice of lower-alcohol products and encouraging the production and consumption of such products can also only help and can make a significant difference.

But seeking to ban certain beers/ciders or mandate the total units for certain package this really where the focus should be?

Next it will be perfectly acceptable to misrepresent science and scare people in to thinking that having a beer whilst cooking dinner is likely to result in a cancer tumour..but that’s a blog for another day.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Three Red Lions on a Shirt – pubs celebrate World Cup boost

On 04/04/14 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

The trade was celebrating this week, as the Government announced the results of the recent consultation into extending licensing hours for England’s World Cup matches.

The result was extending hours until 1am to let fans watch Hodgson’s men take on the Italians down their local on Saturday 14th June, kicking off at 11pm. The second group match pits England against World Cup legends Uruguay on Thursday 14th June (8pm) and pubs showing the match will be able to open until midnight. The Costa Rica match kicks off at 5pm and as such normal hours will apply on 24th June.

Once England make it to the second round (don’t stop believing) the extended hours will kick in again as these matches start at 9pm – meaning pubs could stay open until 1am. The two dates that England could potentially play are the 28th or 29th June depending on our final position in the group. It is worth noting that this will only apply if England actually play, so it is worth planning ahead with TENs for these - and of course all the other late kick off matches not involving Roy’s Boys.

Sadly the extension does not apply to Wales, with the reason given by the Home Office that it was not of enough significance to anyone wishing to watch the matches in a Welsh pub. This is despite the fact the majority of those responding to the consultation wanted it to apply to both countries - perhaps a Moyes-esque protest involving a Welsh plane and banner over Downing Street could see the Government change their mind on this.

The four hour extension is important to allow safe and managed dispersal from premises after the game to prevent an influx of customers into the street as soon as England are cruelly defeated on penalties. In terms of management of premises during the World Cup, the industry has a wealth of experience in dealing with major broadcast sporting events on a regular basis. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup the BBPA has published guidance for operators developed with the support of the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). The guidance is intended as a template for pubs, local authorities and police to work together to ensure that the World Cup is a successful and enjoyable occasion. It provides a handy checklist for licensees to run through in making sure all angles to running a successful event are considered and covered. The guidance is freely available to all operators, police forces and local authorities here.

Football is our national sport and England’s participation in the World Cup Finals is a cause for national celebration. The trade is rightly pleased the Government has recognised this, and it cements the status of the pub as the best place to enjoy this year’s World Cup. It’s almost like being in Brazil.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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Pub chefs of the future

On 03/04/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was privileged to attend the finals of the Nestle Toque d'Or competition for young chefs and front of house staff from colleges around the UK.

It is the 26th year of this award and I was very fortunate to have been placed next to someone who has been there from the start, Anton Mossiman. Anton was the chef at the Dorchester for 13 years and achieved two Michelin Stars during his residence there. Since then, he has owned his own restaurant and recently catered for the IOC at the Olympics and also Help the Heroes in his native Switzerland. In turn I was able to talk to him about our planned pub chefs campaign to attract more young people from catering colleges into our pub kitchens and how food in pubs has changed beyond recognition!

The Toque d'Or competition goes through various regional heats and ends with six teams in the finals. The initial written submissions were judged by Tim Hulme, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping, and James Armitage, Head of Marketing at Enterprise Inns. There was this year a stronger emphasis on ensuring that students received an educational experience as well as being tested on what they knew. Practical experience is crucial to ensure the next generation of hospitality stars are prepared for the real world of work and they were tested in a range of different situations from preparing and serving in a Michelin star restaurant, to preparing pub meals and food for service personnel.

The atmosphere of the final night was exhilarating and uplifting. The winner this year was the team of three from the City of Glasgow. "I've never been so happy in my life" said one of the young chefs who won. Just as they were leaving the stage one of their lecturers from Glasgow College spoke in tears. "I've been involved in this competition for 26 years and it is the first time we have won". There was hardly a dry eye there and certainly not mine!

BBPA and our members have been working with Nestle for some years. They have a particular interest through their expertise in Nestle coffee and the stocks they offer for pub chefs. Nestle is still a family owned company owning a whole range of products which never ceases to amaze me! The Toque d'Or competition is inspiring and I hope that through our soon-to-be launched Pub Chefs campaign and inspirational recruitment film some of the candidates will end up in pub kitchens and as front of house staff – benefitting from the thousands of career opportunities our industry offers.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Media reports regarding beer's sugar content

On 02/04/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

Media reports regarding beer's sugar content

There has been considerable focus on the sugar content of food and drink in the national media of late, and in particular some misleading reports have been published, claiming to highlight the ‘hidden’ sugars within alcoholic beverages, including beer. Much of this focus appears to be on the apparent addition of sugar to beer by brewers and, in the case of one report challenged by the BBPA in February, the ridiculous suggestion that a pint of ale contains nine teaspoons or 45g of sugar!

Spurious claims aside, the reality is very different and a pint of beer will typically contain less than a teaspoon of sugar. Some of the considerable media confusion occurred in differentiating carbohydrates from sugar. The total carbohydrate content of beer will almost certainly be higher than the sugar content. The finished beer contains many sources of carbohydrates beyond sugars, such as soluble fibre, many of which have been individually associated with positive health benefits. In addition, the majority of this carbohydrate is derived from the cereals which are one of the main ingredients of beer

Most beer will have very little, if any, sugar added during the brewing process, and any sugars that are added will be almost entirely converted into alcohol. The average sugar content for ale with a characteristic alcohol strength of 4%-5% ABV is around 2.5g, or half a teaspoon, per 500ml. Studies reported in the media that centre on sugar do so largely as a proxy for calories. In this way it is worth remembering that beer is relatively low in calories. A typical half a pint of bitter contains just 90 calories - that's fewer than in the same amount of orange juice, or milk.

Confusion and misinformation reported in the media do very little to aid consumer understanding of complex issues associated with nutrition and diet. They can also lead to misconceptions and in the case of beer, few know that, as well as being relatively low in calories, it also typically contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. There is no doubt that, when enjoyed in moderation by those without underlying health conditions, beer can certainly be part of a healthy lifestyle."

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Local action leading the way

On 01/04/14 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

The recent announcement by the Government of 20 Local Alcohol Action Areasto pilot solutions to tackle alcohol related harm have been met with general support from the industry but at a least some uncertainty of what the role of businesses should be.

However, as has already been seen through the commitments undertaken through the Public Health Responsibility Deal the industry has a great deal to offer and have signed up to a range of diverse pledges with far ranging and often creative actions to demonstrate their social responsibility and help contribute to the core commitment ‘to foster a culture of responsible drinking’.

Whether providing consistent information to consumers about units in their favourite drinks; providing appropriate health labelling on packaging; tackling underage sales; funding Drinkaware to educate people about responsible consumption; supporting partnership working in local communities or innovating to grow the lower alcohol beer category, the brewing industry continues to take its responsibilities seriously and will continue to challenge itself to do more.

However, work in the LAAAs will be a very different ballgame. Although signs show that the key trends nationally are moving in the right direction with reductions in underage drinking, harmful drinking, alcohol related deaths and alcohol related crime the picture at a local level is more varied with certain areas still coming higher than average on key harm indicators and a strong local desire to find solutions to problems.

With a diverse range of areas from Scarborough to Weston Super Mare selected as LAAAs, strategies will necessarily be tailored to the needs of the area and key objectives will vary. With public health now also a responsibility of local authorities, this will further add to the diversity of local ambitions and aims.

The pub and brewing industry has already been supporting partnership based solutions for some time and the schemes such as Pubwatch, Best Bar None, Community Alcohol Partnerships and Purple Flag have been making a difference in local areas in tackling a range of issues and helping to promote a diverse, safe evening and night time economy.

Whether it be providing support for the work of the national schemes, raising awareness amongst employees or providing local knowledge and input into the development of local alcohol strategies and action plans despite the challenges it is important that the industry get involved with an active role as an equal partner with local stakeholders and demonstrate what can be achieved with coordinated and targeted local action.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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