Thursday, 21 April 2016

Desert Spoons?

Opening again soon. One day. Probably. Possibly. Maybe.

If you live in a reasonablly large town, you may have noticed a certain phenomenon occurring. You had a local Wetherspoons, and it was doing well. And at the same time, plenty of high-footfall retail space was opening up on the streets due to recession-related business closures.

And the largest of these units? Well, JD Wetherspoon snapped it up to increase their presence, and hopefully profits, in your town. Where I live, Preston, now has two. The Greyfriar we've had since 1996. But in 2014, after a long battle, Tim Martin finally got permission to open a second Spoons (known as The Twelve Tellers, as it's the former main TSB Bank) in an otherwise dilapidated part of town.

Timbo is having second thoughts, however.  Many towns, apparently, don't have the custom to support two Wetherspoons. And as there is insufficient differentiation between the two in any town, they will basically rob custom from one another.

As far as I can see, this isn't quite what it happening.  If you open two pubs at either end of town, even if they start identical, then, given time they will find their own specific identity and clientele. I can see this at both the Greyfriar and The Twelve Tellers. The former is more "down to earth", attracting the older generation and people stopping over for an hour or two (it's 5 minutes from the rail station). Whereas the Twelve Tellers you tend to find young people, and on football match days, fans from the Away team. If nothing else, the TTs charges more for club meals than the Greyfriar, which can't be explained by the supply chain.

Ironically, today I'm visiting a place (Lancaster) that has had two Spoons for a long time, The Green Ayre and The Sir Richard Owen. The dreadful floods in December 2015 have ensured the Green Ayre has remained closed ever since, so their clientele has been forced to travel uphill to the City's other Spoons.

The results are interesting, as you can see in the Dickie Owen people who would never previously drunk their (it was where the studenty types used to go). The beer is cheaper than it was a year ago, and it's certainly busier.

I don't think Timbo Martin needs to worry. His dual-pub towns will eventually find their own niche in their respective pub ecosystem. It just depends how much time he's willing to give it, and how much effort Spoons put into differentiating the offers between the town's two respective pubs.

Plenty of room for more Spoons, I say.


  1. I'd give my right arm for a chain like Spoons in the US.

  2. I've rarely been in a quiet Spoons (apart from Chichester and Newbury on Sunday night); Spoons must have tight margins if they need 90% occupancy rates to survive.

    Cambridge lost its second Spoons, the one with few tourists but plenty of students and real people, in a fire last year. No sign of any re-opening. Grrr.

  3. One day it will be the criteria of whether a town should become a city. Has it 2 spoons?

  4. There must be some kind of algorithm to work out whether a place is big enough to support two Spoons without them cannibalising each others' trade. I'm sure McDonalds have it off to a fine art.

    As you say, it helps if the character of the two is differentiated. Shrewsbury has two just across the road from each other, but their atmosphere is very different, one trade, one modern. Hard to see Stockport getting two, though.

  5. Gloucester's got three. One of them's alright.