Q: What is one of Britain’s fast-growing pastimes? A: The pub quizzes that are seeing big screens switched for answer sheets

Quizzes are replacing football as the best way for pub landlords to draw in punters

The problems besieging the pubs industry are well known. Beer tax rises, cheap supermarket booze and the increased social acceptability of drinking at home mean an average of 18 pubs are closing every week.

But landlords do have one trick up their sleeve, and it is proving an almost surefire way of bringing paying customers through the door: the humble pub quiz.

While many publicans have ditched their big television screens – because Monday night football fans cannot be counted on to drink enough to cover the cost of the pub’s subsription to Sky– more and more pubs are laying on quizzes.

A survey by the trade magazine The Publican shows that about 23,000 of the UK’s 60,000 or so pubs have at least one weekly quiz, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the proportion has increased further over the past few years. It is a trend very much noticed by quizmasters, question-setters, contestants and landlords.

The economic downturn is cited as one of the most likely causes. Martin Green, the managing director Redtooth, a pub entertainment company that sends out ready-to-go quizzes to more than 4,000 pubs a week, has his theory.

“The reason that they’re back in fashion is that there has been a big increase in people applying to be on TV game shows,” he says. “That has gone up by 75 per cent in the past few years. People are applying to go on Pointless, The Chase and The Million Pound Drop instead of buying a lottery ticket. They think it’s far more realistic to get on a game show and win five or ten grand. And there’s a lot of them on TV at the moment, and that’s getting people back in to pubs, even just to win £20, £30 or £50.”

Mark Labbett, one of the in-house “Chasers” on ITV1’s The Chase is one of Redtooth’s question writers. A pre-made quiz from Redtooth costs a publican only £7. The ubiquitous smartphone is an obvious menace to the pub quiz,  if people want to cheat, but the emergence of the centralised quiz factories such as Redtooth can give rise to other opportunities to game the system. One serious quizzer, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Independent how he came to discover that the quiz in a north London pub on a Wednesday was always repeated in a pub in south London the following Monday, every single week. 

“We actually got bored with winning in the end,” he says. “It became more fun gambling on how many we would risk getting wrong.”

It is a problem, though, that Redtooth is aware of. “We write it on a daily basis. So as long as everyone sticks to how it should work then it’s kind of foolproof,” says Mr Green. His company, based in Barlborough, Derbyshire, is also working on a new format whereby a landlord can download the quiz on a laptop and entrants play along on a television screen with a multiple choice fob, making speed as important as general knowledge, and where the Google app in your pocket does you no favours.

Redtooth also runs an annual Great British Pub Quiz challenge. Last year, more than 600 pubs took part, with the eventual winners coming from the The Black Bull in Shepley, near Huddersfield.

But for some the pub quiz is rather more of a cottage industry. Marcus Berkmann, an author, sets a weekly pub quiz at The Prince of Wales in Highgate, north London. “Oh you can tell they are on the rise,” he says. “Landlords tell me that quizzers drink a lot. You start at 8.30pm and by 11pm everyone’s drunk. Quizzers knock it back. People say football is the thing you have to have in a pub, but people watching football will often sit there and nurse a pint. They are really not always that profitable, given how much it costs to show the matches.”

So what makes a good quiz?

“Well I can be a bit pompous about this, but it’s a writerly craft,” adds Mr Berkmann. “If it’s well written it’s good. If it’s not it’s boring. You need interesting questions that are not too difficult. It’s a matter of making things interesting. A journalistic skill, like writing jokes, or tweeting.  You need the exact amount of information, that will guide people to the answer but without giving it away.”

Traditionally, the pub quiz was established in the 1970s to get people to come drinking on quieter nights. Monday to Thursday are the most popular evenings, but Redtooth sells about 50 quizzes for Fridays and Saturdays, which you would imagine attracts a special type of contestant.

“Oh, pub quizzes are all about showing off,” adds Mr Martin. “Look at me! I’m the cleverest person in this pub. People love to win pub quizzes. They’ve never gone away, and I can’t see that they ever will.”

Brains of Britain: Three of the best

The Black Bull, Shepley,  West Yorkshire

Venture here at your peril. This is the Lions’ Den. A team from here, named after a lion once reported to be on the loose in the village, near Huddersfield, won last year’s Great British Pub Quiz contest against teams from 600 pubs.

The Ancient Mariner, Brighton

Licensee Lillie Murdoch takes her Monday night quiz seriously and it is heavily promoted on the pub’s website. Recently, when the weekly accumulator had got a little out of hand, the winner took home more than £100 and 18 bottles of wine.

The Prince of Wales, Highgate, north London

Written and hosted each Tuesday by author Marcus Berkmann, who freely admits to having “got slightly addicted to writing quiz questions, if you can imagine such a thing”. “Perfectly difficult” and “joyfully frustrating” are among the many praiseworthy comments from his contestants.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas