FOR pub landlord Terry Groves it could all have gone terribly wrong. His local paper ran a story online listing the Cross Scythes at Totley as among 11 Sheffield eating places which got a big fat zero in the city council’s Scores on the Doors hygiene ratings.
Within hours it was on social media across the city. The Sheffield Forum website linked to it under the heading ‘Sheffield food places to avoid.’ There among a group of grubby looking takeaways was a pub with a gastro reputation in a posh suburb. So did trade slump? Quite the opposite. “A lot more people know about us now,” he told me.
The ratings run online all year but get an annual publicity boost in January. It’s part of a national scheme. Newspapers use it as a hook to run stories and while some of the places on the list might not raise eyebrows the inclusion of the Cross Scythes, which had a reputation as a gastropub under a previous head chef, Simon Ayres, certainly did.
In better times The Star would have told a reporter to ring up and find out what was going on. Instead it ran a series of 11 photographs, online only, with brief details, requiring users to click through to discover each one. As one disgruntled person commented on Sheffield Forum, this is ‘clickbait’ which would have exposed him to numerous adverts, according to his adblocker. It’s a deliberate way to earn the website money from more ‘clicks’ but lazy journalism..
So what was the story which The Star failed to find? Terry, aged 63, and his wife Glyn will be well known to local pubgoers. They ran a couple of Beefeaters, including the Mossbrook at Eckington, which they opened, as well as the Bradway Hotel and the Nelson on Furnival Gate, re-opening it as the revamped Grape Treaders and Hop Pickers.
They took a break from the trade to raise a family but were running the Shepherds Rest at Lower Bagthorpe in Nottinghamshire when they took over Enterprise Inns’ Cross Scythes last October. They now look after both.
“We knew about the zero rating. The previous tenant had said the chef had taken home the paperwork and forgotten it. Hmm. I suppose it was partly my fault I didn’t tell Environmental Health we had moved in but we were running two places and Christmas was coming up,” Terry said.
When the story went online (it hasn’t appeared in print) Terry went on Facebook to complain The Star was being unfair and to explain the situation. He’s asked, twice, for a new inspection but the council has a backlog. Terry is sanguine. The pub’s Facebook page has had plenty of hits and shares and comments have been “90 per cent positive. Until this happened I hadn’t realised the power of social media. A lot more people know about us. Some have given us five star reviews out of solidarity.”
Terry believes the rating was a paperwork problem: that gets an automatic zero. The kitchen was reasonably clean when he arrived but some equipment needed replacing. Staff training has been improved and he is happy for anyone to inspect the kitchen.
As he and Glyn moved in the previous chef walked out. Local boy Connor Lightfoot has moved up from sous to head chef. These days the Totley boozer isn’t going for gastropub status but is happy with pie, tapas and curry nights with a new specials and a la carte menu just being introduced.
Locals have rallied round on Facebook. “You’re my local. The food is always spot on,” says one. Terry reflects: “You know, there really is no such thing as bad publicity!”