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.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
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

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits