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Refreshing the growth strategy for England’s Tourism

On 23/03/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

As appropriate in English Tourism Week, Visit England has launched a consultation on their Growth Strategy towards 2020. This is an interim review and they are looking for industry engagement.

Visit England held a successful launch event last week, one of several events during the week in which I participated; I was asked to speak about how the BBPA had linked our own work with Visit England Strategy. I gave four examples:

  1. ‘Investing in products suited to people with Special Needs’.
    We published ‘An Open Welcome; Why being accessible is good for your pub’ in 2012 It encouraged licensees to attract the 27 per cent of the population with access needs, as there is clear evidence that with great service, they will return.

  2. ‘Increasing the visibility and understanding of England’s tourism offer’
    The BBPA worked with Visit Peak District to introduce Tourist Information Points in Pubs. Visit Peak District provides brochures and other material and local people in the pub can give advice: pubs open later than many Tourist Information Centres; and often visitors stay for a drink and meal after seeking the information.

  3. ‘Attracting and retaining motivated people and developing their skills’
    Our new film to attract young people interested in becoming chefs to choose the pub trade has just been launched under the Pub Passion website. In addition we have encouraged the employment of apprentices and work to highlight the huge amount of training offered in the brewing and pub sector.

  4. ‘Increasing the visibility and understanding of England’s tourism offer’
    The five major brewers have invested £15 million over five years in ‘There’s a Beer for That’; a consumer campaign aimed at improving the image of beer as a perfect drink with food, suited to a wide range of occasions; a drink for men and women; and of high quality. In the UK, most of the beer we drink is brewed here in Britain, and we have worked with DEFRA on their study on the local provenance of food and drink.

The consultation is now online; There will also be an online questionnaire for you to complete. The BBPA will be putting forward our own response in due course. The consultation will run until 15th May.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Recruiting the next generation of pub chefs

On 02/03/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

As part of the BBPA’s commitment to helping our members improve their own retail offer, we identified that recruiting pub chefs was becoming a huge challenge. Half of all hospitality job postings are looking for chefs. With the lowest number of applicants per role, we identified that pub retailers needed to make pubs stand out as a real career choice.

The television preoccupation with cooking competitions, from The Great British Bake Off to Masterchef and Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen nightmares, may have increased our interest in cooking (I am probably one of the few people you know who took cookery at O’level!); but they have driven the interest in young people towards working in top restaurants and celebratory kitchens.

The specific attractions of a pub kitchen, where you often have more control, choice and influence; and in the tenanted sector an opportunity to run your own business, is sadly not the first choice for young people leaving catering or further education college. We need to change this and our new Pub Chef’s film seeks to do just that.

The Pub Chef recruitment campaign is a partnership between the Perceptions Group, BII and BBPA. BII were able to launch their own pub apprenticeship’s programme and later this year the Perceptions Group will launch its Pub and Bar Careers website, where companies can put a link to their own job websites and explains the different roles and responsibilities of jobs in a kitchen.

It was great at the launch of the film to have some of the young chefs who appeared in it with us. James Agutu, started as an apprentice and is now a kitchen leader. Fiona Drake who is a chef at the George & Dragon pub for Robinsons in Cheshire. Craig Hawkes started as a pub apprentice and is now a Chef de Partie. They are all in their early twenties and were all a credit to their profession. I hope they will prove an inspiration to future pub chefs up and down the country.

Pubs serve almost a billion meals a year and more and more pubs are recognising that a good food offer will attract more customers. So many pubs serve wonderful, meals of high quality and great value for money. I can honestly say that some of the best meals I have ever had have been in a pub. We have a clear message about growth and investment and we need to address any negative perceptions of our sector that deter young people and their parents from considering a career in a pub. Crucially, we need to inspire young people to translate their passion for food into a passion for being a pub chef.

So what do we want you to do? Please create a link to our film on your website. It can be found here. If you are a catering college or educational establishment, please use the film too and show it to all your students. If you are on social media, you can share your support with #pubchefpassion.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Inspiring the Future

On 29/01/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Inspiring the Future is a charity which aims to motivate young people and give them confidence and guidance in shaping the decisions they will make which will affect their future. It is backed by Miriam Gonzalez Durantes, a successful partner in the European law firm Dechert LLP and wife of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Just before Christmas, I was asked to volunteer for their campaign ‘Inspiring Women’. The campaign aims to take female role models into state schools to speak about their careers and experiences, and let young women know that they can aim high and succeed.

Thinking that I was unlikely to find the time, but more likely no one would ask me, I duly filled in the online form and thought nothing more about it! So coming back after New Year, I was somewhat surprised to find an invitation from the Head of the Sixth form at The Oasis Academy, Hadley, near Enfield, to speak to 200 sixth formers.

The Oasis Academy is a new school which has been open for six years and is close to Lee Valley Regional Park, just north of London. It has a very high number of students from different ethnic minorities and over 90 per cent have English as a second language. Some children are from families of asylum seekers and they have a higher than average number of children who are entitled to free school meals.

As interesting as the school, was their head of sixth form, Sarah Hamilton. Sarah has been at the school for over four years and joined from the Teach First scheme whereby graduates (she studied history and politics at Nottingham) go out into the working world and, with six weeks re-training, join a school as a teacher. She clearly found the school completely right for her and I am sure is inspiring her pupils to achieve.

I was given 45 minutes to speak about my career and take questions as part of an off-timetable day. My approach was to intersperse what I had done with some suggestions about my principles, from ’don’t say on twitter something you would not be prepared to say to someone face to face’, to the importance of networking and my interest in working with people.

I also asked them if they had seen the new Sport England advertisement, This Girl Can, which has been watched by some 14 million people on You Tube and seeks to inspire women to exercise. Sport and the development through sport for life has always been a key goal for me.

After 20 minutes of speaking, it was their turn to ask questions. The questions were insightful, challenging and engaging, and ranged from “what was it like to be on the board of a football club and involved in the rebuilding of Wembley”, and “how do you find being a women in a man’s world”, to “what challenges have you faced in life and how have you dealt with them?”

I was clear: don’t be afraid of failure – when one window closes, another one will open. Just keep going, have confidence - you will find the right role and the right people to work with.

I found them all inspiring – looking at what they can do in the future, including universities, but also apprenticeships. We talked about working in hospitality, the mum’s factor and their own values. At the end I quoted from their school charter:

We are community – we are relationships

We are learning – we are achievement

We are unique – we are inclusive

We are enjoyment – we are perseverance

We are hope – we are the future

We are Oasis.

So many of their themes I can see in my approach to life.

I am so glad I volunteered. After such a positive personal experience with Inspiring Women, I would urge anyone reading this to sign up to the programme.

Could you inspire young people? Sign up here: Inspiring the future

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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10 traditional pub games we know and love (and some you’ve never heard of too!)

On 20/01/15 by Michelle Elston (The Bath Arms)

The great British pub has been a mainstay of any community throughout the ages. Whether we’re taking dates out to dinner or putting the world to rights over a few good malts, generations of our families have loved and laughed in the oak panelled confines of our beloved locals.

The modern pub might sport a pool table or two, or if you’re lucky perhaps even a crumbling dartboard, but back in the day the pub was very much a place to play. A lack of Sky Sports and fruit machines left patrons looking for things to do, and this led to the establishment of some excellent bar games and sports. Here are some of the pub games that we’ve loved and lost, some of which you might not have heard of at all:
1. Skittles

More familiar to generation Y as ten pin bowling, traditional skittles were often played in the back rooms of pubs around Britain. This game used only 9 skittles and a wooden ball and, although popularised in the 19th century, is still played in some pubs today.
2. Quoits

Played both indoors and outdoors, quoits involves throwing rings onto stakes to score points. Originally the rings would have been horseshoes, although these were later exchanged for hoops made from rope. Modern iterations of this game can still be found in a few dog friendly pubs in Wiltshire, although the hoops and stakes are now manufactured from plastic.
3. Shove Ha’penny

Played in taverns as long ago as the 15th century, shove ha’penny was originally called Shoffe-grote, as they used Edward IV groats. The game involved shoving coins up a board with a goal of landing them in between horizontal lines known as ‘beds’.
4. Backgammon

Still a popular board game today, backgammon boards have been found dating back to Egyptian times, the game being honoured as the oldest board game known to man.
5. Dominoes

It’s not clear how long ago dominoes first started to be played, but it is thought that their origins are based on Chinese dominoes from the 11th century. Many traditional spit and sawdust pubs around the UK still keep dominoes behind the bar so their patrons can while away the hours.
6. Bar billiards

Originally played on the floor in the 14th century, bar billiards are now more commonly played on tables a bit like pool. Each player uses a ball which they try to pass through a hoop known as the ‘port’, and then back to hit a skittle known as the ‘king’.
7. Ringing the Bull

Dating back to the 12th century, this game involved a ring tied to the ceiling and a bull’s horn. Players would attempt to throw the ring over the horn, although later versions of the game used metal hooks instead of actual bull’s horns.
8. Toad in the Hole

Similar in nature to another bar game known as ‘pitch penny’, toad in the hole involves throwing brass discs (the ‘toads’) at a table with a hole in the middle. Usually four toads are thrown per turn, and the player gets two points for a toad in the hole, and one for a toad on the table.
9. Devil among the tailors

This game uses an arrangement of nine miniature skittles (the ‘tailors’) placed in a 3 x 3 square on a purpose made box. At the corner of a box stands a vertical pole, to which a golf ball sized wooden ball (the ‘devil’) is attached by a chain. Players must swing the ball in an arc around the post in an attempt to knock down the pins.
10. Aunt Sally

The original game of Aunt Sally used a figurehead of an old woman with a clay pipe in her mouth. Players would try to break the clay pipe by throwing sticks at the head. Modern iterations of this game can still be found in pubs in Oxfordshire, where the figurine has been replaced with a ball on a stick.

There are many other pub games that may still be played in some locations today, and many more that have been long since forgotten. Why not head to your local pub today and see what games they still offer, or let us know of any games we’ve missed off the list?

The Bath Arms

This list was collated by Michelle Elston at The Bath Arms, a pub with accommodation set in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside near Longleat Safari and Adventure Park!

Michelle Elston
The Bath Arms


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Pubs of Ulster Annual Award

On 24/11/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

BBPA has a formal memorandum of understanding with Pubs of Ulster. We have worked hard with Colin Neil and his Chairman Mark Stewart on policy areas of mutual interest and with their Westminster MPs on our beer duty campaign.

I was therefore delighted to be asked to be one of the judges for this year’s Pubs of Ulster Awards, which were announced in Belfast last week, and to be offered a tour of Stormont as part of a 24 hour stay.

Although I have been to both the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, I had not before visited the Northern Ireland Assembly. Built in 1928 in Portland stone, Stormont resembles Buckingham Palace and stands on a hill, majestically overlooking the city. Its architect, Sir Arnold Thornley, was knighted by the Prince of Wales on the front steps on day the building opened and during the Second World War the Senate rooms became the headquarters of the RAF. The outside of the building was covered in a mixture of bitumen and cow dung so it could not be seen. It was not bombed, but it took 30 men, seven years to clean it off!

Greg Mulholland MP was also a guest, and so too was Charlie Lawson (Jim McDonald in Coronation Street), who is looking to film in pubs in the Province. Whilst, as many of you will know, I do not watch much television other than sport, many in the NI Assembly do. I cannot imagine going into a Public Accounts Select Committee in Westminster to observe and having the Committee Chair stop the proceedings to welcome a celebrity, but it does show politics in a very human light!

After lunch we visited a series of pubs with cross-party members of the Assembly in the Cathedral quarter of Belfast which all had a great atmosphere - I learned to pour a perfect pint of Heineken!

And so, to the awards. I was part of a judging panel for three categories and was delighted that, despite a rigorous second stage process, all my recommendations won! In the best hotel bar, the Adair Arms in Ballymena has a community bar which hosts language classes and book clubs. They have live entertainment with traditional Irish music sessions each week. The great Ulster Pub's Week took place from 1st to 9th May. Some 160 pubs took place with 85 per cent seeing increased footfall and 77% reporting a rise in turnover. The winner in this category was the Grande National Cafe in Belfast which held a national craft beer and food festival with street performances and barbecue. They served smoked salmon chowder in edible bread bowls. Finally the best charity event went to Sally's, inspired by a previous owner who died of prostate cancer. Events included 200 cyclists covering 200 miles in two days and over 20 members of staff taking part in the Belfast Marathon. Over £33,000 was raised. There were some wonderful entries and inspiring stories.

I must pay tribute to Mark Stewart who is stepping down as Chairman of Pubs of Ulster this year and so this was his last awards ceremony. He has quietly and very competently provided the operator's support to Colin Neill, their excellent CEO. I have met Mark several times in London and it would certainly be worth visiting his pub, the Coachman at Magherafelt, if you ever have the chance.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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New infographics on responsible retailing

On 20/11/14 by Neil Williams (Head of Media)

At the BBPA, we are often contacted on stories relating to the harm caused by alcohol, and we often find ourselves filling in gaps in knowledge, to present the whole picture.

And there is good news to report. Binge drinking is falling, as is harmful drinking and underage drinking. Earlier this year, working with colleagues in The Portman Group and other trade bodies, we gathered these and other facts into a comprehensive guide to all the available statistics, so that those interested in these issues have access to all the key facts.

The reasons for falling alcohol harms will always be complex, but the industry is certainly doing a lot. To give just a couple of examples close to home, the BBPA, along with Drinkaware, has introduced a customer unit-awareness campaign, with posters and other resources supplied by pub companies to pubs. We and our members are also working with the Government through the Public Health Responsibility Deal to reduce units of alcohol in the on-trade.

So it was great to see these new infographics from The Portman Group yesterday, highlighting the strides we are all making. I hope people will share them and tweet them @portmangroup, as well as highlighting the huge number of other initiatives and schemes across the country.

We need to make sure we paint a full picture of all the great work the industry is doing.

Neil Williams
Head of Media


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Promoting great British beer the Punch Taverns way

On 13/11/14 by Andy Slee (External Affairs & Central Operations Director, Punch Taverns)

As a pubco with nearly 4,000 pubs across the country, we’re in a great position to promote cask ale. Over the past few years, we’ve focused on getting better and better at it – aiming to benefit the industry and our Partners, as well as Punch Taverns. Winning Beer Champion 2014 at this year’s British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) awards is a very welcome milestone. It shows we’re getting it right.

We champion cask ale by making it available. All our established pubs get the chance to join our Finest Cask scheme and, with higher sales volumes, Partners can opt for a rotation of 16 regional beers every eight weeks – that’s more than 100 beers a year. Our most successful cask ale houses get access to more than 3,000 locally brewed cask ales through the Direct Delivery Scheme we set up via the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

But availability is only part of the story. We also provide far-reaching support to our Partners to give them the knowledge and skills they need to keep and serve their ales. When they join Punch Taverns, we help them set up their cellars. Once they’re up and running, we provide continuing in-house training and encouragement around staff training.

We also help Partners to develop their cask ale customer base through our ‘Try Before You Buy’ and ‘Third-of-a-Pint’ promotions – taking the risk out of trying something new and letting customers sample three different beers for the price of a pint.

Our efforts peak each year around Cask Ale Week, with our exclusive ‘Free Pint’ promotion. The scheme is entirely run and funded by Punch Taverns, and involves getting third parties to offer up to 140,000 free pint vouchers for use at our Finest Cask pubs. We provide a dedicated website and a media campaign to support the event.

Our success can be measured by the 70% of Punch Partners who regularly buy cask beer and the 1,117 Punch pubs that are now Cask Marque accredited – making us the largest supporter in the industry of this independent quality standard. Then there are the 263 Punch pubs that made it into the Good Beer Guide last year.

More importantly for us, our Partners are enthusiastic too. In a phone survey of 103 of the pubs that took part in Cask Ale Week last year, 96% said they would do so again.

We’re delighted with our BBPA award because it recognises how far we have come. The fact is, we now outperform the market when it comes to British cask beers. One in five of the pints being pulled in our pubs is a British cask ale – while the market average is one in seven. We think that’s really something to celebrate.

Annual Dinner Punch

Andy Slee
External Affairs & Central Operations Director, Punch Taverns

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Local authority higher-strength schemes

On 11/11/14 by Jeremy Beadles (Chair, Future Beer Group)

As Chairman of the Future Beer Group, I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog for the BBPA, especially at a time when there is such positive news for our category: two historic cuts to beer duty, consecutive quarters of beer sales growth, and rising consumer interest in beer – there is much to be optimistic about.

However, one area that is already a concern for many, and should be a concern for all, is the rapid spread of local authority restrictions on higher-strength beers and ciders. Local authority higher-strength schemes represent a serious threat, not just because they seek to restrict our market access, but because they risk fundamentally undermining the reputation of the beer and cider categories as a whole.

Many of the challenges we face as brewers, whether it is taxation or advertising and promotional restrictions, apply equally to other alcohol categories. But the move by almost 100 local authorities to restrict the sale of higher-strength beer and cider unfairly targets and stigmatises our category and risks undermining our reputation as beer producers. Furthermore, higher–strength refers to beer and cider with an ABV of 5.5% and above – which inadvertently targets some of our great historic, local and imported beers. What’s Theakston’s Old Peculier ever done to deserve that?

Whilst it is right that we focus on challenging the individual schemes, and the questionable evidence upon which they are established, it is also more important than ever to continue to promote the positives of our category. That is why the ‘There’s a Beer For That’ campaign is such a crucial piece of work – reminding consumers of the passion that we have for beer in Britain and breaking down some of the old-fashioned perceptions of beer.

The action taken by some local authorities to remove beers and ciders with an ABV of 5.5% and above also fails to recognise the work that is being done, often hand in hand with Government, to tackle irresponsible consumption. It is worth noting that, where these schemes have seen most success, it has not been through arbitrarily de-listing products but by taking a sensible approach to partnership working. That is why we need to remain on the front foot and must be prepared to demonstrate to local authorities that there are range of evidence-based and effective solutions available to them to help them tackle alcohol related crime and anti-social behaviour; such as Best Bar None, Community Alcohol Partnerships, Pub Watch and Purple Flag.

We also need to continue to remind people about the downward trends in alcohol consumption in the UK. The vast majority of adults enjoy alcohol responsibly, with overall alcohol consumption dropping by 18% since 2004. Government figures show that alcohol-related crime and drinking amongst young people is also in decline. This does not mean that we should be complacent, but it does mean that we are in strong position to encourage Government, at a national and local level, to pursue targeted and evidence-based solutions.

With the May 2015 General Election firmly on the horizon, we need to remain alert to the challenges that a new parliament, with a potentially different political mix, may bring. There seems to be a consensus across the political parties about the need to devolve more political control to local authorities, and to the devolved assemblies and parliaments. This means that, what at first appeared to be quite a unique challenge with local authority restrictions on higher-strength, could become more commonplace in future. Our response must be to continue to promote beer through campaigns such as There’s a Beer For That, delivering the highest standards of social responsibility, whilst engaging nationally and locally with support for evidence based and targeted action that can make a real difference. With breweries and pubs across the UK, we are well equipped to engage at a local and national level, demonstrating how effective we can all be as local partners.

Jeremy Beadles
Chair, Future Beer Group


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Worldwide Brewing Alliance – working together on global challenges

On 07/11/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Representatives of brewers and brewing trade associations from across the world met in Amsterdam on the 14th and 15th of October for the annual meeting of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance (WBA) and Global Brewers Initiative.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the many common issues faced by the brewing industry worldwide, share best practice, and strengthen collaboration in addressing these issues. The WBA also engages directly with global institutions such as the World Health Organisation on strategies to address the harmful use of alcohol as well as other bodies who can impact on the commercial freedoms of brewers.

The first session focused on work promoting beer as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet, and feedback from successful arms-length events held in Brussels in September and in Copenhagen earlier in the year. Over 600 people are also expected to attend a beer and health seminar in Lagos in November.

Important learning from these events, and future events elsewhere, is the need to ensure that academics and scientists themselves are delivering the key messages from their research and not the industry itself. Also, and perhaps unsurprisingly, securing positive media coverage means that “new” research is most appealing to journalists attending. Access to, and coordination and translation of, the latest research is vital as is securing funding through bodies such as ERAB the European Foundation for Alcohol Research.

On the flip side to the positive research on beer and wellbeing, the so called “best buys” (increasing taxation, advertising bans, and restricting availability) continue to be strongly pushed at a global, regional and national level as THE most effective way to tackle the harmful use of alcohol.

Of course, such population-based approaches can disproportionately affect responsible drinkers as well as drive informal and illicit markets. A whole session in Amsterdam was focused on “evidence-based engagement” to better understand how associations and companies across the world currently engage in this area, what the current evidence-base tells us, where are the gaps, and more needs to be done to strengthen our engagement.

Again coordination became a key theme. This work will continue with a further workshop in Geneva in February. For example, concern is such that the Brewers of Japan have now retained two scientists to review studies in this area and publish these reviews in Japanese and English on their website. In Finland, which already has a very restrictive alcohol policy, proposals have been put forward to further restrict marketing/advertising in print and social media, to no longer allow beer up to 4.7% abv to be sold outside of State monopoly outlets and also to further cut back trading hours.

Other national and regional challenges were presented and debated, with new labelling requirements being a common theme as well as national campaigns seeking to improve the reputation of the beer category in the eyes of policy makers, influencers and consumers.

The WBA provides a unique and valuable platform for the brewing industry, and after two very enjoyable years, I was sad to hand over the Chairmanship in Amsterdam although BBPA will continue to play an active role going forwards. The challenges we face remain as strong as ever and working together and learning from other markets will be key to protecting the freedom to produce and sell the best drink in the world!

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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