Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Learning Adventures in a Pub Servicescape: Are you pulling my pint ?

Are you really pulling my pint ?


Services Marketing students from Royal Holloway were taken by surprise on Monday when halfway through their workshop they were invited to pack up their stuff and head out into the big, wide world.  




With a significant storm passing through the idea of intrepid adventurers is perhaps only modest puffery.   Having engaged in MBA Director Justin O'Brien's flipped classroom lecture, that had considered service quality and the service environment (or Bitner dubbed 'Servicescape'), students were invited to put their learning directly into action with a nearly spontaneous field visit to the university staff's little known drinking hole, The Happy Man.    


This innovative servicescape seminar experience took place on Chinese New Year, so the MA Marketing students were not really being cheeky monkeys by engaging fully in a  multi-sensory experience that took in all five senses of the ambience.  One of the locals, bemused by the swarm of mid-afternoon customers, was overhead lamenting "I wish my university lectures had been like this."


Working in small groups the highly motivated masters students were challenged to put learning from the preceding lecture directly into action, seeking out examples of  signs, symbols and artefacts, assessing the service layout and evaluating the ambience,  from inside the warm and cosy pub (it was blowing a gale outside thanks to Imogen).  


Most students were unaware of the Happy Man, it is rather tucked away, but literally just around the corner from the students favourite 'Monkey's Forehead', which is also managed by landlord Dave Lacey. Both pubs are located just a few steps beyond Royal Holloway's imposing Victorian campus walls, but the mostly international student group were quite unfamiliar with the myriad of rituals that accompany English pub consumption.


Students toured the modestly sized, traditional pub searching out signs, symbols and artefacts. From pump ring logos to branded Guinness drip maps, Kozel beer signs and the last orders bell (see above photo) this authentic cottage bar offered much more than initial impressions might have suggested.  What does it mean, some pondered, to have charity collection containers nestled amongst the pumps ?     


Justin's favourite element of the Happy Man servicescape is the beer label murals, carefully and consistently fixed on top of the flocked wall paper to create a visual history of the many and varied guest beers consumed by regular customers.  Whilst perhaps a little quirky and unusual, each cask of new, guest beer is promoted using these modestly produced plastic laminated signs.  




Pragmatically even sometimes just a hand written sign on any old spare piece of white paper (see example above, centre photo).  To the cognoscenti the wall decor, which covers most of the vertical surfaces in each of the four separate rooms, provides a clear symbol of a "proper beer" pub, championing the CAMRA inspired grass roots craft beer movement, which seeks to celebrate small scale, local beer production by encouraging consumers to vote with their spending power.




The Happy Man is popular with local residents and regularly hosts beer festivals, where a wide range of different craft beer, often sourced from all over the country, is available to taste. The staff's favourite pub secret is now out, will Justin ever be forgiven ?