Background music 'driving customers mad', publicans told
Pub-goers have named background music as the most likely spoiler of a quiet pint - alongside badly behaved children - in an annual guide.
The Good Pub Guide 2017 has warned publicans to "turn off the music, it's driving your customers mad", revealing it has been a main source of complaint throughout the survey's 35-year history.
The guide's editor, Fiona Stapley, said: "Piped music, canned music, muzak, lift music, airport music - call it what you will, it's there and our readers loathe it in any shape or form.
"It enlists bitter complaints from our readers and has done so ever since we started the guide 35 years ago.
"It's such an issue that we have always asked every Main Entry pub since 1983 whether or not they have it, and then clearly state this in each review."
One pub-goer who contributed to the guide wrote: "At best it's bad manners foisting a random choice of music on you that you have not chosen and do not want to hear, at worst, it interferes with people's hearing."
Another said: "Somewhere in the past, someone has persuaded publicans that canned music relaxes customers and encourages them to spend more. It doesn't.
"People go to pubs to meet their friends, be sociable, have a drink or a meal and discuss the problems of the world."
But the guide found publicans were split over the issue, with some saying they refused to spoil the atmosphere with background music and an equal number believing that it played a large and positive part in their business.
Earlier this year Marks & Spencer switched off background music in stores in response to feedback from customers and staff.
Ms Stapley said: "In the end it comes down to the question we've been asking for years.
"Do good pubs need piped music and do the majority of good pubs' customers want it?
"And hand on heart, of all the thousands of pubs we have visited over the many years of producing The Good Pub Guide, it's pretty rare for us to feel our pub experience has been heightened by what is being played through the speakers above our heads.
"It's clear our readers agree so surely it's time for all publicans to take note and turn it off."
In happier news, the national survey found the average price of a pint had increased by just 1p to £3.47 compared with 15p last year.
But there was still an 87p-a-pint difference between cheapest county Herefordshire and London, which is the most expensive at an average £4.08.
It also found that the increasing number of pubs brewing their own beer typically charged £2.99 a pint - 48p less than the national average.
The guide named the pub of the year as the 300-year-old Horse Guards in Tillington, West Sussex, noting its "beams, panelling and open fires in rambling rooms, inventive food, local ales and a charming garden".