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UK Pub chain JD Wetherspoon shuts its social media accounts (bbc.co.uk)
43 points by blowski 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments



I suspect this is more to do with not wanting to handle or let others see the negative comments against wetherspoon e.g. about their Brexit stance or quality of their food. They are a notoriously difficult place to complain to and usually tell you to take up any complaints with the local manager. I found this out first hand when it was the branch manager himself who served me the worst scrambled eggs on toast I have ever seen! Head office was not interested.

Trade at wetherspoon will not be affected by moving off social media and, indeed, others will not see criticisms directed against Wetherspoon e.g. in replies to their social media messages.

Plus this is a good bit of advertising for them by coming off social media.


That sounds about right. The one place I went where the burger was solid as a rock after sitting under a lamp for 20 minutes. Complained and was told that I just needed to chew it more. Asked to see the manager and was told she was the manager.

No twitter to whine about this on means more complaints silenced.

Just don't go there.


On the other hand it is very cheap. If you pay £2.50 for scrambled egg on toast with a refillable coffee then you're not so put out if it isn't that great.

If you've paid £5 that's another matter.

My worst pub food experiences have always been in far more expensive places.


Yes true. At the bottom end of the price range it’s not bad.

I prefer these days to eat somewhere I pay afterwards however as the motivation not to serve you a plate of crap is higher.


They're facing some backlash over campaigning for Brexit too which might have something to do with this.



Every quarter in their magazine they publish very good articles 5 pro and 5 against brexit.


That seems unlikely. The Brexit vote is almost two years away now, and if anything, the negotiations have never looked better (not that that's a high bar). Why only now, and why in a so weirdly unrelated way? If they were sorry about Brexit support, just, uh, say it? Perhaps do some Europe-themed promotions?

It seems much more likely that social media simply isn't a very high ROI marketing channel for them, and they're capitalising on general unease following the CA debacle.


> negotiations have never looked better

In the sense that we're going for "no substantial change but lose our vote" Brexit, rather than one of the various flavours of "disaster Brexit"?

At least the UK has conceded that there must be no border in Ireland and that EU residents have a right to remain. It's the non-EU immigrants that are getting it in the neck this week, including the "Windrush generation".


No. The UK has said there must be no hard border in Northern Island.

But what they are basically proposing is a soft border with number plate recognition etc. Which everyone at the EU working group literally laughed at. Because it is a ridiculous and dangerous suggestion especially when you think through the scenario of what happens if cameras are destroyed over and over again. Police will be required to protect the cameras and then you have an armed borer.


You're absolutely right that the soft border is ludicrous.

The draft agreement: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/d...

"A common regulatory area comprising the Union and the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland is hereby established. The common regulatory area shall constitute an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and North - South cooperation protected in accordance with this Chapter"

They're free to submit daft proposals all they like but until then this is the one that's been agreed on.

(That document lists Gibraltar and the various islands, but also one nobody's mentioned in the news so far: "Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus").


It doesn’t matter what the U.K. says, that outcome is not grounded in reality.


There are ongoing investigations into the leave campaigns (which Wetherspoons was a part of), new evidence was published last week and a few people are appearing in front of a HoC committee this week.

So the timing isn't really odd and I don't think they're doing it because they're sorry about supporting Brexit. There's a reasonable chance that they've shared data or spent funds in a way that would find them on the wrong side of the investigation.


It's equally possible that every story in the news isn't always a Brexit conspiracy?


And equally possible it is.

We are all just speculating since there isn't any concrete facts.


A couple of months ago they were still using beermats pushing for a harder Brexit.


> the negotiations have never looked better

Of course. Because all of the really tough decisions e.g. Northern Ireland border, Financial Services passporting rights, Channel and Dover customs checks etc have been pushed down the road.

The political environment in the UK has never been worse and every day people are starting to realise that Brexit isn't what they bargained for. Especially when May tells them they are going to need full regulatory alignment without any say.


Yeah this is a huge part of it, also the public nature of complaints on social media wasn't helping them. They were referred to as the mcdonalds of pubs elsewhere here but the food quality is much worse; its all microwaved packets from filthy 'kitchens'.


> filthy 'kitchens'

Where are you getting that from? I know lots of people who've worked there and the stories of the over-the-top cleaning were constant from all.


93% of weatherspoons have a 5/5 food hygiene rating


Also having eaten there I'd say mostly not microwaved.


I used to know people working at their branches, and it's mostly microwaved. The exceptions are a few items like steak, of course.


Yeah – I mean, the food is generally _awful_, but that's because it's bargain-basement stuff, not because of any inadequacy in food safety.


At Trowbridge, a rat stole someone's food off a table a couple of years back.


Meanwhile, in the other just under 1000 locations across the UK, nothing untoward of merit occurred.

One sample does not data make.


Not so sure. Check the lowest bidding suppliers as well https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2018/16850/action-...

They pulled half the menu at 900 locations due to that.

Also it’s pretty easy to get a 5 food hygiene rating with a static menu. It’s mostly procedural stuff which is easy on large scale places.


Wetherspoons phone app is excellent. You can order food/drinks and they arrive at the table immediately (quicker than going to the bar!). This would seem to be a more effective use of modern technology, rather than a me too social media presence.


My employer (http://www.zonal.co.uk/) is responsible for the backend for that. It's wired into the same point of sale and kitchen screen systems as if it had been rung up at the bar.


Oh, now that's interesting. So does that mean the app gives full access to all the products and deals available at the bar? Does it include guest beers/ciders?

The reason for asking: I drink real cider and Wetherspoons fairly consistently sells it (most pubs don't), out of a bag-in-a-box in the fridge. But the majority of Spoons meals are now sold on a "meal+drink" basis. How you buy this with a real cider is something that perpetually perplexes their staff, and seems to vary from pub to pub.


It's a subset of the products, because they need to have extra information set up for them like product photos.

There's two ways it could be set up, which are either "promotions" (if the two things appear anywhere on the same bill, they're automatically grouped) or "recipes" (choose one item from column A and one item from column B). I suspect the real ciders are simply left out of the right categories by whoever does the data maintenance, maybe because they change frequently.


Interesting - thank you. Will try it next time I'm in a Spoons and find out what happens!


What distinguishes ‘real’ cider from something else?


I actually find myself unable to use the app a lot of the time. Just this week I tried to order drinks that didn't show up in the app, but were only available at the bar(?)

Also you can't leave any comments/requests with your order, for instance asking for a Coke without a slice of lime.


+1 kudos to the Wetherspoons digital team. The app is so good.


I doubt anyone has ever based a decision to go to 'Spoons on what they saw on social media.


Previously they deleted their entire customer email database [1], so they certainly have a history of making bold decisions when it comes to digital marketing.

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/wetherspoons-email-database-g...

Edit: grammar


They basically decided they weren't going to pay to secure and maintain the data and since GDPR is coming in to effect it makes such a DB a liability to the company.

In which case the appropriate course of action is to simply delete rather than pay some peanuts and act surprised when the DB ends up in the public sphere. I can only commend them. Too many businesses decide to hold on to private identifiable data as though it were a prize bond waiting to mature.


Exactly. GDPR is around the corner and any private data without explicit consent to be targeted for marketing is going to be useless at best, a liability at worst.

Explicit consent means the company must be able to prove the user consciously agreed to receive marketing. Which is excellent. 1) the burden to prove it lies with the one holding the data and 2) you can't tuck it away in legalese fine print.

I bet a lot of companies are going to do like wheterspoons and just purge the data rather than attempt to make it legit.


> "It's becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion," Mr Martin added.

This coming from a chain of pubs known for people arriving at 9AM, and spend the next 12 hours buying cheap beer


As opposed to buying booze for a fraction of the price at a supermarket and drinking for 24 hrs?

If there is a national drinking problem, it’s not caused by pubs...


It's a social activity


Somewhat counter-intuitively, closing social media accounts can have a positive effect on one's business. Young people of today increasingly are valuing word-of-mouth and social cachet more and more. The value proposition of a 'secret' or 'underground' pub quickly becomes apparent.

The latest trend that I've experienced is the use of private ephemeral messaging in the form of Snapchat accounts that are given out at bars. This makes it possible to get both the community benefits from social media as well as the mystique from being part of a 'secret club'.


> The value proposition of a 'secret' or 'underground' pub quickly becomes apparent.

It's Weatherspoons, its the McDonald's of pubs.


I think that's rather generous to Weatherspoons.


Very popular with students


I think that maybe geographically dependent.

I went to uni in Nottingham and the clientele was a mix of middle-age stag/hen parties and the older working class - I never saw or heard of students going other than as a toilet stop.

But that's a city with a selection of good and reasonably priced pubs, whereas in say London it makes sense due to just how much cheaper it is.


They are incredibly good at targeting their pubs. In Leeds there are ones that are aimed at students, ones aimed at day-time drinkers, ones aimed at night-life and dancers - all based on where the pub is located.


Sam Smith’s for the win in London. In Bath, Wetherspoons had one of the better real ale selections for a while, but there are now plenty of craft places (albeit more expensive).


Wetherspoons is very popular with students in Nottingham. Every time I go in the Gooseberry Bush it's half students.


I should've added that my observations were only from the city centre pubs, Uni of students (not Trent) and are a fair few years old.

Maybe the 9k fees have really taken a toll, but I struggle to get why anyone would go to a spoons when you've got The Organ Grinder and The Hand & Heart only 8 minutes away...


It's interesting that there's no mention of the targeting of children, which has recently got a bit of attention in England.




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