When Paul Newman starred as The Hustler, in the 1961 film, there were virtually no pool tables in Britain’s pubs. By the time he made the sequel, The Colour of Money in 1986, there were an estimated 45,000 tables in pubs and clubs in the UK.
A pool table costs a fair amount of money to rent and takes up a significant area of floor space – so you want to make it work for you as much as and as often as possible.
The first thing you should remember is to keep it clean, well lit, stocked with cues, chalk and extra set(s) of balls – no one likes paying a pound for a game of pool on a rubbish table with split pool cues and a chalk that’s gone through in the centre!
If you don’t have a pool team then start one up. They are a great way of involving your customers in your (their) pub and giving them a sense of belonging. If you can run two teams, all the better – during the pool season you will stand a good chance of having a home match every week as opposed to every fortnight!
First of all publicise that you are looking to start a pub pool team – the usual routes of chalkboard/posters/word of mouth – and hold a team trials night.
Hold the night on a quiet night so that you have time to spend with the team and host the event. The best way to assess your potential teams pool prowess is to organise a knockout competition – not only will the players get to know each other (don’t forget that although many people use your pub they don’t necessarily socialise together that much) but you instantly create a core of people who may make up and support the team.
Offer the players some food, a prize for the winner and runner up and pay for all the games – you can always reclaim it from your machine operator. Have a sign-up sheet for the team and collect names and phone numbers and decide there and then (whilst you have their collective attention) on when the first meeting of the pool team will be held.
At the first meeting you will need to select a captain and a vice-captain – it is they who will administer the team and organise players etc. It is at this meeting that you can lay down the ground rules for your business’ interaction with the team. These are some of the things I would recommend you agree with any team:
- collecting any monies due (team subs, league fees etc) are the responsibility of the team and they always hold the money – not you
- the team and its members will (potentially) be representing your pub and your business in the wider community and as such you expect the same level of behaviour in other pubs as you would expect in your own
- your business will only support the team (financially and otherwise) to an agreed level – all other expenses must be met by the team – I would expect to give a team of 8 players £20 a week (in marked coins) for free games, provide a simple food offering for home matches at cost but with a contribution of £20 per match (get the team to do a football scratch card game and have a weekly sub to raise this sum) and lastly I would expect to make a small contribution to taxi fares for away matches if needed of, say, £5.
- if for any reason a member should have to be excluded from the pub then they will automatically cease to be a member of the team
- in the event of any internal dispute between team members then you as licensee must remain impartial and that you will not arbitrate
Get them to sign up for the local league and register a team, if the start of the season is some time off then you can maintain interest by holding practice nights (say on a Tuesday or other quiet night) where the team come in and play pool to match standards, set up a pool ladder to keep the competitive edge. To encourage them in you might give the team their £20 in marked coins to pay for the games or you could reserve the table for the evening for their exclusive use then do so.
The way the easiest way to mark coins is to paint a large dot on each coin using a brightly coloured nail varnish.
Remember that a well run pool team will add value to your business both in season and out of season so look after them; buy them a round every now and then when they win; have an end of season party for them – buy some medals/player of the year cup/karaoke or other party with food – thank them for supporting the pub during the year.
In order for them to feel they belong then you will need to make a fuss of them from time to time to show that they are an important part of the pub (for instance on Monday nights when our local league played we would have the quizmaster/mistress keep quizzers up to date on the score and if the team came back victorious we would announce their win to the pub – mostly to enthusiastic applause)
Get the team to organise at least one charity event a year – not only will they be raising funds for your (or their) favourite charity but they will become further embedded into your pub culture.
So that’s the pool team match nights taken care of …. What about the rest of the week?
You can encourage increased use of your pool table by running in-house pool competitions.
They are all easy to organise and cost very little.