Meet the man who visits 600 Wetherspoons a year
His name is Tim Martin and he’s worth £350m
Oh, and he’s also the founder and owner of Britain’s favourite pub chain. Come on, who else would have the time to visit 600 of the near 1,000 establishments?
Running late, we rushed into the Shakespeare’s Head in Holborn, London where we had arranged to meet Tim Martin, Apologising profusely to the staff for being late, we asked if they could show us to where Tim was. The bemused barman replied: “Tim who?”
After consulting a manager, the barman said that they didn’t even know he was in, but that he’ll probably be near the back.
Sure enough, we walk through the crowds enjoying a post-work drink and spot Tim. He’s hard to miss, a great hulking figure with long straggly hair, wearing shorts and a blue polo shirt – not dressed like your stereotypical multi-millionaire.
Admittedly I haven’t met many millionaires, but I imagine Tim is one of the most life-affirming ones. Wildly loud and hilarious, you can’t imagine him having a bad day. Put a lab coat on him and he’d basically be Rick from Rick and Morty, albeit the mad scientist of public house conglomeracy, tinkering with the idea of traditional British drinking as he sees fit.
Blending into the background, he could just be any other punter in any other Wetherspoons across the country. Apart from the fact people don’t come up to shake hands with most regular punters.
Tim is having a cup of tea when we arrive – he tries not to have a proper drink in every pub he visits for obvious reasons – and before we have a chance to turn our dictaphone on we’re already chatting away about how Wetherspoons is having a moment. It’s a phenomenon that even Tim can’t really explain at great length.
With Wetherspoons becoming sacrosanct amongst young people, we had come armed with the most burning of questions from our readers and writers to put to Father ‘Spoons himself.
What is your favourite ‘Spoons meal and drink combo?
My favourite is fish and chips, which I have two times a week, with a glass of merlot.
I’m healthy at lunch so I have a jacket potato with tuna and salad. For breakfast I never change, I always have the Wetherspoons breakfast wrap, which is a great delicacy.
Have you ever had to send the food back?
My PR guys said not to say this, but I’ve occasionally complained about the cutlery, but I’ve never sent food back no.
If you could only keep one of the weekday clubs, what would it be?
It’s a toss up between the Curry Club and the Steak Club. But I couldn’t choose between them because they’ve both been sensationally popular.
What are your opinions on Strongbow Dark Fruit?
I was convinced that no one would ever drink a cider of that colour. I’m glad that a lot of people are drinking it, but I don’t!
Everyone always talks about the carpets, is it true that every Wetherspoons has a unique carpet?
Well, it certainly used to be true and years ago we said we were going to create new carpets for every pub. But I had forgotten that we’d agreed this until the book came out. Also, I’m slightly colour-blind so it’s the one thing I never notice in our pubs but my wife has always said she doesn’t like our carpets, they’re too swirly and twirly. But since the book came out I’m going to pay more attention. A lot of our carpets are individually made with our own patterns that’s for sure. Whether they all are I actually don’t know.
What’s your favourite one?
Any that are blue.
In Nando’s they have something called a black card that gives the holder free meals, would you ever introduce that at Wetherspoons and if so which celebrities would you give it to?
Well since I don’t have a black card myself I’d be determined that no one else is going to have one before me!
You have to pay?!
Yeah I pay! That’s one thing I get all the time, when I go to the bar when I’m going around the country a lot of people ask “do you actually pay?” and a lot of people actually think i started the company in order to get free beer. What was the question again?
Which three celebrities would you give a black card to?
William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela. But they are the only guys. And Winston Churchill, but they’re the only guys.
For short, some people call it ‘Spoons, some people call it Wethers, which one is it?
Most people I know call it ‘Spoons.
Do you have a favourite pitcher?
No I don’t.
Have you ever tried a Woo Woo?
No I haven’t, the last cocktail I tried was when I was at uni and my old man worked in Jamaica and they had something called a ‘Devon Duppy’. It’s basically rocket fuel made with white rum. I had two or three and only barely survived.
Would you ever sell Buckfast at your pubs?
I’ve heard of Buckfast but I’ve never tasted it. Where are they drinking Buckfast?
It’s a fortified wine made in Devon.
And is it mostly sold in Scotland?
Yeah I think so. If you found it to be popular would you think about introducing it at your pubs?
I would try not to encourage people to drink lethal amounts but if they acquire a taste for it then yeah I’d sell it. I’d be interested in tasting it myself actually.
What is your favourite Wetherspoons pub?
I was asked this question a few years ago giving a talk to a business school in Exeter, and three guys in the front row fell asleep in this great talk of mine. But they all woke up when I was asked the question of what my favourite pub is. I said it was a bit like asking Tiger Woods who his favourite woman is, there are so many how could I possibly choose?
What about your one of the moment?
We’ve just opened a pub in Ramsgate which is truly stunning, but we’ve got a lot of stunning pubs. The Counting House in Glasgow, The Standing Order in Edinburgh, Hamilton Hall in London, The Velvet Coaster in Blackpool, The Bell in Norwich, where my old man used to have drinks before I was even born, The Prince of Wales in Cardiff, I could go on.
Could you list every Wetherspoons pub?
I’d probably forget a few but I could list a lot!
Are there any you haven’t been to or have you been to every single one?
Well we’re opening one a month, and I visit 12 pubs a week, 600 a year, so it can take 18 months for me to make my first visit or even a bit longer.
Sometimes do you just sneak in and sit there as a normal customer before you announce your presence to the staff?
Yeah, short skirt and high heels, they never recognise me!