Sue Says

susan 2

Boy oh boy since the middle of December the alcohol industry has been getting a real bashing. Dame Sally Davies said 1 daily glass of wine can put you at risk of cancer and as Chief Medical Officer she announced the latest advised alcohol limits and of course they were revised downwards! She went on to say that alcohol is a danger to health, however little you drink. ‘There is no safe level of drinking.’ But her dire warnings were balanced by a lengthy article in the Daily Mail by Tony Edwards, an award-winning science journalist and former BBC producer. He wrote, “She is simply wrong. Her motivation may be admirable, but her knowledge of the scientific and medical evidence is decidedly not. The irony is that if people who already drink within the old guidelines do follow her advice and completely stop drinking, their risk of disease and premature death will increase. Medical studies now running into many hundreds and published in the world’s top journals say that, providing you don’t go overboard on the booze, drinking will help you live a longer and healthier life.” So for once my mum is right…“Everything in moderation.”

Anyhow I’m hoping for an alcohol bashing pause now the health gurus are turning their attention to sugar…So if you thought cutting back on booze and opting for a soft drink was a better idea, you might be doing more harm than good. Apparently sugar is more addictive than Cocaine!

I would like to give the Scottish Licensed Trade Association a New Year’s Resolution suggestion – try and be more positive about the trade. Its first epistle for the new year was all about rural pubs having a disastrous Christmas, but when I asked about city centre figures they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, supply them. Could this be because most people I have spoken to had a more positive festive period than last year with sales up? Some people did very well with a 5% increase, others had more modest figures of 1-2%. However if you compare the licensed trade figures to retail figures actually we did compete favourably. A fact borne out by the recent Greene King Leisure Report – which states, “In December, the average British household spent £220 on out of home leisure, a 5% (£10) increase year-on-year and a 17% (£32) increase on the previous month.” So a huge pat on the back to publicans and their staff for delivering increased sales in a very competitive market.

BDO in its predictions for 2016 suggested that the end of tips, service charges and gratuities could on the cards. In it’s Pub report it said, “Following the lead of Danny Meyer in New York, we believe the recent excitement over tips in the UK, as well as the introduction of the national living wage, could result in a fundamental rethink and in some cases the removal of a service charge entirely. Food for thought?

BDO also heralded the continuing growth of social entertainment venues. Saying, “Be it table tennis (Bounce and Ping), darts (Flight Club), or crazy golf (Swingers and Plonk) the rise of social sports combined with contemporary décor, great food and a full range of drinks is set to continue into 2016 and beyond. So Glasgow’s Proud Mary is right on trend! Anyone for Ping pong?

Last year tourists spent more than £1.84bn in Scotland, making it another record year. In fact the figures show that tourists spend more money per person in Scotland than the UK average. Each visitor spends an average of £681, compared to a UK average of £635 per visitor. Total expenditure exceeded £5bn for the first time – a rise of 8%. More good news for the hospitality industry.

Buzzworks are one of the best companies to work for in the UK and that’s official. They have made it into the Sunday Times Top 100. Well done, and well deserved. In fact Gary Ralston writing in the Daily Record summed up their ethos having visited the new Mill House in Stewarton. He said, “…hats off to Buzzworks – one of Ayrshire’s leading restaurant groups – for a stunning job all round, as style meets its match in substance.” He went on to say he was served by a “youthful waiting team who are a credit to the business – friendly, engaging, motivated and well trained.” Enough said!

I am looking forward to seeing the new-look Lochside Hotel on Islay, which is currently being refurbished by owner Neil Morrison. He has engaged the talented Ranald MacColl, who must think he has died and gone to heaven. Ranald is a real whisky enthusiast and to have an extended period, doing what he does best, creating a contemporary Scottish vision, and being able to reside on a island famous for its whisky – must be his perfect job! It will re-open at the end of February.

Talking of which I actually am going to stop sitting at the bar when I go out for a drink. Because it is very hard to switch off. Recently I was in a city centre bar, on a Friday night when two staff behind the bars toasted themselves and then knocked back a shot each..Now at the end of the night I might have thought well OK. But this was 7.30pm! Later the same night I witnessed staff failing totally to catch any customers eyes, and so distracted with each other’s company that service was compromised. So please if you see me coming in for a drink guide me to a seat in the corner!

The Wine & Spirit Association have created a Scottish Gin Trail. It’s a great initiative and will have a positive impact on all those included. It also highlights a few good gin bars too. We need more pro-active initiatives like this.