3 Reasons Why I Drink Only At Wetherspoons

JD Wetherspoon (LSE: JDW) was founded in 1979 when mullet-man Tim Martin opened his first pub in north London. Named after a teacher that couldn’t control the class, Wetherspoon has matured into a well-oiled machine.

Paul Hickman, an analyst at KBC Peel Hunt, once said during an interview with The Independent that Wetherspoon was “absolutely obsessive about operating standards.

He adds: I see Wetherspoon as an operator of retailing systems rather than just another pub company. It has more in common with Tesco and Domino’s Pizza, in terms of having a well-defined and coherent set of systems.

Indeed, the chain’s recent annual results revealed encouraging figures. Operating profit climbed 4%, or £4m, to £111m while earnings rose 13% to 47p per share.

A solid 6% sales increase and a tidy full-year dividend of 12p per share make the colloquially termed ‘Spoons’ a healthy purchase for shareholders.

From sales to ales, below are my personal top three reasons why I drink only at Wetherspoon:

1. Design to be proud of

Steeped in British nostalgia, Wetherspoon pubs generally possess a charming, endearing quality that can be attributed to old-wood furnishings, homages to bygone owners — often taking the form of large plaques or paintings — and a very calm and social ambience.

One thing I really can’t stand is a pub that’s cramped and funnels you to the bar as cattle while you bump into other disgruntled patrons. Wetherspoon pubs always sport open-plan layouts, which really help to minimise the herding and are generally far more pleasant to socialise in.  

The chain is also renowned for refurbishing old local landmarks, offering a splash of character and heritage to every pub. Previous sites include cinemas and theatres, as well as a post office in Southend and a swimming pool in Sheffield.

2. The price tag

Sure, grandiose and lavish bars can be nice but they’re usually accompanied by a hefty entry fee and a premium on everything from coat hangers to a glass of tap water.

Wetherspoon’s free entry is an edge over the competition which, as you’ll find out below, comprises mostly of nightclubs and the odd independent pub. 

A 900-strong chain of properties can never boast the ‘cheapest’ goods — especially when shareholders have a stake in the business — but I’ve never seen a Spoons that isn’t bustling with customers during visits. In 2009, Wetherspoon served 1.5 million meals a week, including 254,000 breakfasts and 75,000 curries, in addition to half a million cups of coffee.

3. Late opening hours

If alcohol ceased to exist, one thing to remain would probably be the stories — audacious tales that involved late-night escapades and a few too many pints of the pub’s own brew.

Late-night openings give Wetherspoon two benefits: a trump over most of the local pubs that don’t carry a late-closing license and a benefit to local customers who’d like to sit and chat just that little bit longer.

Beyond midnight your options are typically ‘Spoons’ or a nightclub, so if you’re not a fan of body-pumping clubs with an entry fee of between two and twenty quid, take a seat in a Wetherspoon for some good food and good atmosphere — most of the time.

A worthy mention

No dramatic pub tale begins with “…and then I began to shout loudly across the table“. I find music to be one of the quickest ways to end an engaging conversation.

So the lack of music, particularly in the evening, is really welcome — no one is alienated by song choices and there’s no struggle to hear what the other person is saying — dialect depending.

Tim Martin was also going to receive a worthy mention, but that hair..!

Disclosure: Douglas does not own any share mentioned in this article.