WITH their impressive venues, bargain booze and hearty food, Wetherspoon pubs offer almost everything you need for a budget night out.
And when alcohol is that affordable, it can create an absolutely cracking time for customers – but also chaos for the staff who work there.
Joe Oxley, 32, worked behind the bar at a Wetherspoons in his early twenties.
He says: “My role involved serving drinks, running food, collecting glasses – and cleaning up sick basically!
“You get all sorts of drinkers on the other side of the bar, most of whom were very pleasant and fun to talk to.
“However, the people who stick in my mind were memorable for all the wrong reasons.”
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Here, Joe shares a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it was like to work for the pub chain – from the secret behind the food to the customers he always dreaded…
If you’ve ever ordered a breakfast fry-up at the bar, only for it to arrive at your table just minutes later, there’s very good reason.
Some items of the breakfast come frozen and are then cooked in just under four minutes, while others like sausages are kept in something called a ‘hot hold’ so they’re ready to be plated up and served immediately.
Joe says: “Even the poached eggs were microwaved – they came pre-poached and are simply popped into the microwave, which we nicknamed chef ‘Mike’, to heat up.
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“Now as a customer I really don’t like the idea of pre-poached eggs, so I don’t tend to order them – although I still happily enjoy their chicken wings, burgers and cheap drinks, of course!”
Bacon and booze for breakfast
The specific regulations can vary from place to place, but all Wetherspoon pubs follow strict rules for those wishing to drink before a certain time.
Joe says: “Where I worked, you could only consume alcohol with food before 10am.
“However, all this meant was customers were forced to order a bacon sandwich with their beer or whatever.
“Many bacon sandwiches would remain uneaten, as they were never intended to be consumed by the customer.
“This meant a free breakfast for the staff though, which is a bonus!”
Perks of the job
While the hours working behind the bar could be long, there were perks if wanting to nab cheap food.
Joe says: “We got 50 per cent off food while on shift, making lunches very cheap.
“However I have worked in a fair few pubs and restaurants since, and found the meals for your break are usually free.
“A real perk was the social life which comes with the job.
“With so many staff, there is often a birthday party or leaving party or just a party for no reason to enjoy.”
‘I wasn’t ready for how rowdy it would get’
As with any customer-facing role, particularly when there is booze involved, there were some particularly memorable moments.
Joe says: “The majority of customers were nice and just there for a good time.
“However, there was a particular incident during a football match which was shown on TVs throughout the pub.
“I knew it would get rowdy but wasn’t ready for how rowdy it would get.
“Towards the end of the match fans of both teams were chanting team songs back and fourth.
“This got increasingly aggressive, until the manager made a decision to turn off the beer taps and lock the fridges, and finally send all the staff down to the cellar to wait out the madness.
“We resurfaced when the noise stopped to clean up the aftermath.
“Thankfully, someone made a wise decision to only allow plastic cups and not to serve spirits!”
Some customers were worse than others.
Joe says: “The stag parties were always the hardest to deal with, smashing drinksand being rowdy early on Saturdays usually.
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“Some customers would be there, first thing every day without fail, drinking wine – with a bacon sandwich of course.
“Thankfully we always had bouncers on shift so if anything was beyond our pay grade – which was a lot of things – we could radio to the doormen to sort it out.”
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