How Wetherspoons is so cheap, weighing drinks, manipulating customers and dress code

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Wetherspoons has become a national institution – and there are some good reasons we can't stop going back.

The popular UK pub chain, which has more than 800 venues across the country, uses some clever tricks and processes to make sure the booze is cheap and constantly flowing.

Tim Martin, who founded JD Wetherspoon in 1979, built his business up from the ground and manages to make huge profits despite the incredibly low prices.

New Channel 5 documentary Wetherspoons: How do they Do It? has given a special behind-the-scenes look at the company to find out the secrets to its success.

They used impressive tactics to stand up against their rivals and have altered their own strategy to deal with the changing times.

Here's a look at some of the secrets behind Wetherspoons

Cheep booze

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin started the business in 1979

Unlike most other pubs, Wetherspoons are free houses and are not owned by breweries.

This means that the company owns their own buildings and they do not have to buy alcohol from specific breweries charging high prices.

Therefore they are free to look around to find the best price going for booze – and pass the savings on to customers.

Speaking in the Channel 5 documentary, retail expert Kate Hardcastle explains: "That means they can buy from anyone they want to and as you can imagine, the quantity that they sell, everyone wants to supply them."

Many of the pubs are listed buildings and Wetherspoons has a reputation for turning anything and everything into a boozer.

These unconventional premises include former banks, post offices, cinemas and even The Opera House in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Weighing beer

Staff are trained to make sure there is no wasted alcohol
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

To make sure nothing goes to waste, staff are kept to strict pouring and serving techniques.

They don't want to give customers any more booze than necessary and have minimal wastage to maximise profits.

Each pint needs to have a very specific 5% head on it – and to make sure this is accurate the managers are able to weigh the beer.

Ex-bartender Sophia Nasif says: "They weigh a glass first and then I think they’re told by head office what the weight should be with a 5% head."

To make this an even more precise art, staff empty the drip trays at the end of the night and get and "accurate account" of what has been spilled from each line.

Every ounce counts and staff are taught it's in their best interests to get this right as "the minimum amount of wastage equals best profit".

Making you buy more

Bar staff are there to get you drinks – and how they speak impacts your decisions
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

How you're asked what drink you want can play a major role in what you purchase.

Peculiarly, you may have noticed staff at Wetherspoons ask if you want a "double or single?" and never "single or double?".

It's all to do with the psychology behind the question, as punters are more likely to pick the first option rather than the second.

With the promise of getting a bigger bonus if they get more cash in the tills, staff are taught to "try and add an item on to every order".

A former bartender explains: "We say the word double so it sticks in your head first. It works most of the time."

The company originally had a strategy of upselling their food, but have since got rid of that strategy.

Previously, staff would ask whether you wanted "six or 12 onion rings?" rather than asking if you wanted any at all.

But they have since abandoned the practise in favour of being quicker and using their cheap meal deals and much-loved 'club nights'.

Dress code

Mollie Wood and Amy Lee ay they were told they were dressed 'inappropriately'
(Image: Triangle News)

There have been some recent controversies surrounding what people are allowed to wear in Spoons.

Not many people are aware there is actually a secret dress code on the website, which states: "All customers must be fully clothed throughout their visit. The company does not permit the removal of shirts or footwear."

Last month, a woman said she was left embarrassed after claiming she was kicked out of a Wetherspoons for wearing an "inappropriate" top.

Mollie Wood said she was told by a male manager she would not be served because her cleavage showing was "equal to a man being shirtless" and she and pal Amy Wood wouldn't be served because they were dressed "unsuitably".

Eddie Gershon, spokesman for J D Wetherspoon, said: "Shortly after entering, the customers were politely asked to leave the pub as, on consideration by the pub's management team, their dress was not, in this particular case, in accordance with the company's guidance to pubs on appropriate customer dress.

"What may be considered appropriate dress is invariably a matter of individual judgement and whilst no offence was intended to the two customers by the request to leave the pub, we support the approach of the pub's management team in this instance."

Speed rail

It's a very speedy process
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

If you want to sell your drinks cheap then the bar staff have to shift lots of them to make big profits.

So the secret to Wetherspoons success is speed.

One way they achieve this on busy nights is by using the 'speed rail' – a small metal compartment attached to the bar which contains the most sough after booze.

This means the staff don't have to keep going back and forth to pick up bottles they are regularly using.

Former bartender Sophia explains: "The speed rail is for you most popular alcohols for busy nights so that you have quick and easy access so you can make the drink at the bar rather than having to go to the back or running from side to side to find the drinks that you need.

"Speed is important as the faster you are the more you will sell."

Ex-pub manager Craig Henrys adds: "It's about that speed of service. The general turnaround is the key."

Kitchen

The food comes out remarkably quickly
(Image: Wetherspoon)

Anyone who has ever been to a Wetherspoons knows the food comes out almost as quickly as the pints.

Chefs have very tight deadlines and need to get the food out no longer than 10 minutes after it was ordered, which is remarkably fast.

They manage to do this using microwave meals which are not made fresh to order.

One of the big selling points are the famous breakfasts – and the company realised getting customers in early would be key to success.

Each day of the week is a different 'club night' where a certain cuisine is cheaper than usual, including steak, fish and chips and curry.

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