ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Wither Spoons?

So, another round of Spoons Bingo comes to an end, and scoopers all over the land, me included, will have successfully ticked off another 50 beers. (Or, at least, as many of the 50 as they needed - there were some very 'everyday' ales on the list this time around.)

There has been another thought on my mind: Was this the last Wetherfest? Or at least the last as we know it?

50/50 (not a rating!)
Things are changing in JDW land. New openings have slowed to a trickle, while they have been quite aggressively selling off pubs over the past six months, including several where I've spent many happy hours.

For the first time, the overall size of the estate is contracting rather than expanding, and at an alarming pace.

Customers are reacting negatively to this, particularly in areas that are losing their last or only Spoons. Then there has been the huge backlash over their plans to stop serving Sunday Roasts.

(The 'roasts' were truly awful, so I'm not bothered, but a lot of people seemed to enjoy spending their Sabbaths eating slimy pre-sliced meat and microwaved bags of vegetables.)

There are whispers - nothing concrete, mind, but certainly speculation and rumours - that the company is making a few adjustments ahead of a substantial change to its operations. Does this mean a sell-off? Is Tim Martin preparing to step down as Chairman? Are we going to see the estate broken up into smaller chunks, some of which won't be Spoons as we know them?

And what would any of this mean for the beer policy?

I hope Spoons continue. I hope the biannual Wetherfests carry on. And I hope they can get back to acquiring new premises and expanding once more.

But nothing lasts forever, and I'm getting a vibe that the end may be nigh.


  1. We've discussed this a fair bit on Twitter, but I do get the impression that Spoons have rather lost their way. I've made the comment in the past (although I can't find where) that any move to formally segment their estate, although it may be hailed as a sound move, will signal that the writing is on the wall.

    My guess is that once Timbo decides to take a back seat, the company will end up being carved up amongst its major competitors, although one may keep a diminished Wetherspoon chain just consisting of the most profitable High Street venues. But that will probably turn out to be entirely wrong!

  2. I see today that this has triggered a substantial debate across the Tweetosphere, and that's probably a good thing. I like to provoke discussion, and while I might be overreacting to a few closures, I'm a regular Spoons drinker and there is a real sense of uncertainty amongst managers and customers alike.

    Obiouvly, I wrote this before Martin's speech at the CAMRA AGM; maybe he managed to assuage some concerns. But pubs are still closing across the country, some of them at just a few days notice, and entirely separately to the job lots that were put on the market a few months ago.


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.