Monday 20 February 2023

Greene King Goes Cashless

On Saturday I attended the Oxford Freedom Protest, see:, and afterwards went for a drink with my friends. We chose The Port Mahon, a traditional urban pub on St Clements owned by Greene King, one of Britain's biggest and oldest breweries, founded in 1799. It has over three thousand pubs across the land. I was dismayed to learn from the staff that all Greene King pubs are phasing out cash payment. If you search for "Greene King cashless" your first hit will be this page: I'm not sure what Chef and Brewer's relationship is to Greene King; maybe they're a merger or acquisition. Either way it is maddening to see the pride and enthusiasm with which they announce: "We're going cashless!" This will effect some of the loveliest pubs in the country, the little old village ones with stone walls, horse brass and wood fires. It's heartbreaking! One pub in Bath, the Hall and Woodhouse (est 1777) accepts cash as payment but gives out no change. This caused some understandable tension, see: It reminds me of what the barman in The Port Mahon said to me: "It's such a fuss to get float from the bank and keep it clogging up the till!" But retailers have been doing that since money was invented back in prehistoric times! Why is something that has always been a simple and routine practice suddenly become so burdensome? (A bit like the Northern Ireland protocol, see: To cheer ourselves up afterwards we went to The Swan and Castle in town. That is a JD Wetherspoon pub. I honestly cannot believe there will ever come a day when 'Spoons goes cashless. One of my friends said that "Tim isn't really based, he just says and does these things to make money." I replied that didn't matter. Even if Tim Martin's motive for Wetherspoon's philosophy is not sincere, it proves that there is a big enough market for it. Dissident drinkers are a fertile sector of clientele and that is a healthy sign. If there wasn't he would just make 'Spoons all boring and normie-friendly like so many other pubs. It will be very difficult indeed for government to coerce private companies into abandoning a good customer base.
See here for more information:


Anonymous said...

I think a large amount of 'chain' pubs will go 'cashless' sooner rather than later. I would much rather have a choice of how to pay but in all honesty paying in cash in pubs is turning into a rarity in these type of establishments compared to independent pubs (though there are certainly plenty of micropubs that are cashless). It's led by consumer demand more than the pubs themselves surprisingly. If you survey pubs it's now running at 30-50% of all transactions in pubs that accept both forms of payment including spoons. At Christmas week is was up to 80-90% in some pubs which might be explained by more people finding it more convenient at that time of year at works parties etc.

I now tend to avoid all chains of pubs, spoons included and stick to the indy pubs and pay by cash where I can in them. I have completely boycotted spoons for years however. This wasn't to do with the owner originally it was because they were absolutely awful. Poor range of beer, often badly kept, sticky carpets, general cleanliness of a dive bar, demoralized grumpy staff, unhealthy menu's with a lack of choice for any dietary requirements beyond instant coronary! Then Brexit happened and although I didn't agree with some of Tim's nonsensical views it was Covid that finished spoons for me. He treated his staff abysmally making them redundant and closing his pubs with no notice unlike every other employer who made use of the furlough system. His knee jerk reaction to events destroyed the livelihoods of many people from staff to the supply chain of his pubs. Never forgot and never will. Many others didn't too which is why he is closing pubs 'ham over fist' presently.

Do yourself a favor and find better pubs, with better beer, and stop lining his bottomless pockets for some misguided sense of 'loyalty' as I'm sure he doesn't care about his punters either.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

I'm not going to do so on your word alone, Anon. I think Tim deserves a fair hearing of both sides.
As for the cashless revolution being driven by consumer demand; it's true. It only works because most people don't care! That's a pity because they may not be aware of the danger their apathy causes. I am not against card payments literally. I realize that it's far easier and more convenient. All I insist on is that cash payment should always be there as an option, even if a pub only has one customer a week who does it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand 'my word alone' Everything I said regarding the owners actions during covid were well reported in the press and by MP's at the time following a social media campaign by the employees not being paid and made redundant.

We can both agree on having the option of cash however if only one customer uses cash per week it's the business choice not to offer that option. It costs them time and money to collect a float, check it, count it at the end of the business day and deposit it agin in the bank (which may involve an element of travel due to lack of branches which is again a cost) speaking from my experience of working in a family owned coffee shop in a small market town.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

It's very simple, "Anonynous". It is your word alone in that you represent the prosecution. The very title of that article contradicts your point before I've even read it.
As for cash being an option; it may well be up to us to persuade more people to pay with it so that it is NOT just one person a week.