Friends of The White Horse

01/08/17 – UPDATE ON THE WHITE HORSE (aka “The Sloaney Pony”)

The General Manager appointed last year, who has carried out a number of welcome improvements and was listening to customers’ requests, sadly appears to have already “fallen by the wayside”. Hopefully his replacement will continue endeavouring to restore this pub’s hithertoo lost iconic reputation and resist further relegation of this pub by M&B to just another one of their ubiquitous Castle brands epitomised by uninteresting ale selections and national food purchasing. Watch this space!

18/04/16 – UPDATE ON THE WHITE HORSE (aka “The Sloaney Pony”)

A new General Manager has recently been appointed at The White Horse whom it is hoped will be allowed to restore the hithertoo lost iconic status of this renowned pub, especially as it may possibly now be realised by owners, M&B, that they may have gone too far in their standardisation and ubiquity thereby relegating this, their flagship pub, to yet another one of their Castle pubs. Watch this space!

THE WHITE HORSE (aka “The Sloaney Pony”)

In the past five years brand obsessed Mitchells & Butlers Plc (M&B) have sadly insensitively relegated The White Horse on Parsons Green, London SW6 to just another of their branded Castle Group pubs with corporate menu and stipulated ubiquitous real ale range (apart from two hand-pumps). M&B’s corporate policy is very surprising in a climate where most customers these days want individuality, not corporate homogenisation, and where the major expansion in the pub industry has been in the unique ales from 1,285+ micro-breweries in the UK.

M&B’s approach is especially shameful, as The White Horse was a pioneer in the days when good real ale pubs were hard to find – from which it built its reputation for a wide selection of real ales from micro-breweries rarely seen elsewhere in London. It also built an enviable reputation for its individual menu with a high standard of cuisine. Over the past five years this has been reduced to national purchasing by M&B of both food and drink.

Commercially one would expect the cost saving of national purchasing to at least have been passed on and reflected in lower prices for the consumer – but no, exactly the opposite occurred with M&B ratcheting up prices well in excess of inflation in order to maintain their excessive and unrealistic confirmed target gross profit percentage (on real ales) of 73%. Furthermore it has also been confirmed that, in order to save wastage, M&B dictated the cessation of the past best practice of clearing the real ale lines each morning. This past best practice ensured that the first customers were not served stale ale that had been lying in the beer lines all night. Discontinuance of this accepted practice is a disappointing example of declining standards of past excellence by M&B as well as being an insult to the skill of the brewer and displaying contempt for the customer – although management have stated that they will replace any first pint in the morning that a customer complains about!

It has also been noticeable that the cellar management deteriorated with a seeming reluctance to replace real ales once they have sold out on the bar, especially on a Sunday evening in preparation for the weekly line cleaning on a Monday morning or in preparation for a forthcoming seasonal beer festival. This never used to happen under past management who one must assume were therefore far more experienced in timing the purchasing, stillage and rotation of ales, as in most other reputable real ale pubs.

Although M&B finally renewed the real ale beer lines and coolers after months of consumer representation it is feared that the stipulated limited ubiquitous real ale range and high prices have deterred a number of customers, especially if they are the first to be served in the morning!

M&B agreed however, again following customer representation, to review the position with a view to possibly increasing the two unrestricted “cash” real ale lines and thereby restore some vestige of the freedom of choice of the past iconic White Horse – but how many customers have “voted with their feet” in the meantime?

2nd OCTOBER 2014

I’ve been going to The White Horse on Parsons Green, London SW6  since the 60s. I’ve seen many changes since the legendary Sally Cruickshank established a superb beer orientated pub with an iron hand and earned my respect and loyalty.  Now that there are more than 1,285 flourishing micro-breweries in the UK one should be spoilt for choice – my glass should floweth over.  But does it?

 There are ominous signs of retrograde changes afoot. In common with other long-standing customers I am disturbed by the loss of the past qualities of the iconic White Horse which made the pub unique with an established and enviable reputation. I have written a number of times to the owners, Mitchells & Butlers Plc, regarding my concerns, but whereas I was reasonably optimistic of the outcome of my last meeting with them on 4th February 2014 I am now in fear of the corporate standardisation of the menu being extended to the selection of real ales. On the week beginning  10th February 2014 there was a noticeable dominance of widely available real ales on the bar in replacement of previous ales from micro-breweries. This in a pub which was renowned for its excellent selection of real ales from micro-breweries which were seldom seen elsewhere in London. Now it is losing its USP (unique selling point).

 I fear that The White Horse is threatened by the insidious creeping homogenisation of pubs by corporate entities under the guise of economies of scale – a classic example of companies knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing in  effectively culling the individual character and the identity of pubs within their community. Accordingly in order to emphasise to management the importance of maintaining past traditions and restoring the unique historical qualities of The White Horse I am encouraged to form a customer focus group entitled “Friends of The White Horse”. If you have similar concerns regarding developments at The White Horse on Parsons Green, London SW6 and wish to become a “Friend” then please e-mail with your name and address.

(See also Real Ale Pubs page)


Membership:  “Friends of the White Horse” will be a focus group of regular customers of the White Horse, Parsons Green, London SW6.

Concerns:  Over the last five years the White Horse has seen a number of changes – of management and style.  Some positively welcomed by the regulars, and others which give cause for some unease.

Pub owning company, Mitchells and Butlers Plc (M&B), have previously allowed the White Horse to establish its individuality and not be subject to corporate imprinting.  However it has been observed that, in conjunction with a change to M&B Board of Directors, there are signs that this freedom has been slowly eroded at the White Horse.

One such indication is that, following a corporate decision to minimise costs, apparently through the implementation of national purchasing on food, whilst at the same time increasing gross profit margins, there has been a noticeable downgrading in the standard of food available and at an increase in price.

Similar insensitive corporate homogenisation has occurred in respect of the choice of real ales and wines which have seen massive increases in prices way above the rate of inflation.

Objectives:   To be alert to retrogressive changes imposed by M&B who appear to be brand-obsessed and following a corporate homogenisation policy in bringing the White Horse in line with their other less iconic pubs under their “Castle” banner. To encourage M&B management of the White Horse to maintain and restore past best practices that made the White Horse unique and thereby established its enviable reputation over many years. To support the loyal staff who work hard and especially the longstanding talented head chef whose past freedom to create a distinctive affordable menu has been curtailed by recent M&B policy. To signal to M&B that the regular customers of the White Horse value its reputation and are anxious to help maintain high standards.




29 thoughts on “Friends of The White Horse

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  4. Well written and thought provoking Tony. I concur with all your comments and observations. I despise the money grabbing and greedy ethics of the corporate world and the attitude of top brass who run these PLC businesses. Let’s hope the Friends of the White Horse can influence matters for the future and try to avert the slide in standards coming from M & B and their greedy policies!

  5. Reading this reminds me of the old and very true saying “ignorance goes in cycles.” M & B’s policy follows the mistaken paths which large brewers followed in the 60’s & 70’s until consumer pressure made them give up and become property companies.

    Best of luck with the Friends campaign.

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