JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin still makes a point of visiting at least 10 of his pubs every week to ensure head office is never detached from the “frontline”, he has revealed.
His schedule often involves getting up early to catch a train from his home in Devon to visit the company’s 950-strong store estate.
He strives never to fall below 10 visits a week and abides by three simple rules: he always greets and thanks staff; he makes notes of anything that is wrong (“don’t give people bollockings”, he says) and he encourages suggestions for improvements. He’ll then return to the HQ once a week to feed back what he’s found.
“I remember years ago they asked a Japanese car maker why he spent so much time in the factory. He said, ‘we don’t make cars in the office’. I think that’s probably the main thing. The hardest part of the job if you’re running a group of pubs or restaurants is to actually go out yourself not surrounded by an entourage. It is not oppressive; you’ve just got to have the discipline to keep doing about 10 [a week]”.
Martin recounts the story of a highly qualified executive who joined JDW from a major corporation outside the sector and was “aghast” at the idea he should spend his time visiting pubs. “Of course that’s a pretty fatal attitude and the company he came from, subsequently, got into terrible trouble. It’s a bad attitude. The frontline is where it happens.”
Wetherspoons has pubs throughout the country and in Ireland, and it also runs 50 hotels. Martin’s desire to keep in touch with the estate even saw him carry out three pub visits on Christmas Day.
“The first one was shut and the car park was dirty — I took a photograph of it and sent it round on Christmas Day, it really peeved all our people off!” he said.