Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who's the best bar none in the pub business?

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The Independent Online
Tony Hughes

Operations Director

Bass Leisure Retail

THE INDUSTRY is at an exciting point. There is a polarisation between the top end where you find large and successful managed pubs of big companies. But smaller pubs are also more profitable. To succeed you need personalised, niche hospitality - a killer category. Tim Martin of Wetherspoon impresses me immensely. I like his focus on delivering quality and value to the customer and leadership of his people.

Mark Jones

Managing Director

Whitbread High Street Brands

THE INDUSTRY has changed massively in 10 years. You almost need to have degree in psychology to be able to look after your staff and determine what your customer wants. It is also important to have an overall vision of what you want to be and even take risks with the way the market's moving. I think Fuller has done great job - The Fine Line really is something good and innovative. And Yates has an extremely professional set-up.

Sheila McKenzie

Managing Director

The Slug and Lettuce Group

OURS IS a dynamic and competitive industry so it is unfortunate that all the talk is of consolidation. It is vital there are small people like us, more inclined to take risks, saving the industry from homogeneity. Although Wetherspoon aims for a slightly different market, what Tim Martin is doing with it is great. It was one of the first to introduce no-smoking areas and is introducing cash machines. We've all thought about it, but Wetherspoon is doing it.

Simon Emeny

Retail Director

Fuller, Smith and Turner

TEN YEARS ago pubs were fairly generic. Now pub companies are beginning to understand their customers better and a wider range and diversity of pubs has appeared. To achieve and maintain success you must understand everything about your customers and you must let nothing divert you from your goals. Two companies impress me. The first is Wetherspoon, because it understands its customers. The second is Yates which I believe is now providing first-class entertainment.

Tim Martin


J. D. Wetherspoon

THE WHOLE pub business has a Sisyphean aspect to it which suits some and not others. I relate to pubs as someone who uses them and who likes dealing with the people who work in them. But working is sometimes like pushing a big stone up a big hill. The domination by brewers leaves only a few big guys. These conglomerates are too busy dealing with their different areas and they will struggle against the specialist pub company. It is important to find out what you're good at and stick to it. To be good, you have to listen to everyone. You also must have a passion about what you do and a persistent, long-term approach. I like how Yates Brothers' Wine Lodges has set up its new Ha! Ha! bars. And I thoroughly admire the way it gets nearly pounds 3 a pint out of people.

Karen Jones

Chief Executive

Punch Retail

WE ARE trying to reinvent the pub for the new millennium. There is a decline in beer drinking and a trend towards more and better food in pubs. The challenge is to reinvent without losing the pub ethos. Pubs are an integral and great part of British life. I am thoroughly impressed by Wetherspoon. They have stuck to their guns about innovations and treat customers and staff well.

Jeremy Blood

Retail Strategy Director

Scottish and Newcastle Retail

IT IS great fun to work in this industry. It is difficult to match the pace of change in the market but it is exciting to attempt to meet that challenge. You must be a translator from the market - your customer - to your business, the pub or bar. You have to admire what Wetherspoon has achieved - they have developed a different economic model from everyone else and offered the customer a different, successful deal.

Colin Stevens

Managing Director

The Ambishus Pub Company

NOBODY IS giving 100 per cent service and that's a problem. To succeed it is vital to react to people's wishes. And it's important to have drive, enthusiasm and passion about the industry. This is where I started; it's what I enjoy and what I love. There is a lot I like about Wetherspoon. The company has got the basics right - its staff are smartly dressed, it serves good, basic food. And Tim Martin, the chairman, is good at keeping standards high.