Wetherspoon was founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, who is the current Chairman. In 1992 the company floated on the Stock Exchange and became J D Wetherspoon PLC. In 2016 the company owns 52 hotels, accounting for just 1 percent of sales, and 926 pub’s in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Annual sales exceed £1.59 billion, with almost £57 million profit. The company employs 36,678 staff and has a head office in Watford.
Tim Martin opened his first pub, a former bookies, in 1979 in Muswell Hill, north London. For the first month, it was called Martin’s Free House, but was renamed Wetherspoon’s early in the new year, after a former teacher “...because he was too nice a fellow to be running our particular class and he couldn't control it. So I thought: I can't control the pub, he couldn't control the class, so I'll name it after him." The "JD" part of the name was named after Dr JD Watson.
Wetherspoon pubs offer cask ale, low prices, long opening hours, and no music. The chain is known for converting unconventional, and large, premises into pubs using an open plan layout. Every Wetherspoon pub has a unique carpet, drawing on the location, building and name. Pproduced by Axminster Carpets, they cost almost double stock designs.
For the first few years, the company’s pubs were all located in north London. The oldest surviving Wetherspoon is The Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington, opened in 1983. The Tally Ho, North Finchley, London, opened in 1991 with a dedicated non-smoking bar upstairs. This was the first of many pioneering initiatives from the company, launched before the smoking ban in July 2007.
By 1994 Wetherspoon had opened 100 hundred pubs across England, including Liverpool Street train station in London and Heathrow airport. Manchester’s The Moon under Water on Deansgate was opened in 1995 and is the largest pub in the UK with 10,000 square feet of customer space.
Expansion outside England
The company’s first pub in Wales, was opened in Newport in 1996. Originally called Wetherspoons it was later renamed The John Wallace Linton. The first pub in Scotland was also opened in 1996, The Counting House, Glasgow. By this time, the company had 150 pubs in total with overall sales of £100 million. In 2000 the first Wetherspoon pub opened in Northern Ireland called The Spinning Mule, in Ballymena, Belfast. In July 2014 the first pub opens in the Republic of Ireland, The Three Tun Tavern, Blackrock, Dublin followed by the second pub, The Forty Foot, Dún Laoghaire in December.
The CAMRA Good Beer Guide, recognises the quality of Wetherspoon’s beer, listing more Wetherspoon pubs than any other company.
In 1990 Wetherspoon pubs hosted their first real-ale festival. It lasted four days and featured six beers. Today, each Wetherspoon pub is involved in the twice-yearly beer festival in March/April and October and a Cider Festival in July.
In 2017 the festival line-up includes thirty new, seasonal and speciality beers, some brewed exclusively for the festival. The overseas beers have been sourced from brewers in Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.
Cider-lovers at Wetherspoon pubs across the UK and the Republic of Ireland can enjoy an unbeatable range of draught ciders during the annual 17-day Wetherspoon cider festival in July. The selection of 30 ciders from across the UK feature apple, pear and fruit ciders, some produced exclusively for the festival.
Wetherspoon’s opens all its pubs early in the morning to serve breakfast and coffee as well as a full food menu into the evening. The company launched their Curry Club in 1998 followed by a Steak Club, Fish Friday, Mexican Mondays and Chicken Club. The Sunday club, with traditional Sunday roasts, ended in March 2016.
1993: ‘Pub Chain of the Year’ award from the Good Pub Guide
2000: ‘Company of the Year’ in The Publican Awards and ‘The Retailers’ Retailer of the Year’.
2002: Supreme Award at the British Institute of Innkeeping Training Awards (NITAs) for the second successive year. Since then, the company has been awarded a total of eight NITAs, recognising the quality of training provided at all levels.
2006: ‘Most Responsible Managed Pub Chain’ in the Responsible Drinks Retailing Awards.
2009: ‘Green Apple Award’ for Wetherspoon's commitment to the environment.
2010: ‘Pub Company of the Year’ at The Publican Awards for the second time.
2016: ‘Top Employer UK’ for the 13th consecutive year by the Top Employers Institute.
2016: The Windmill in Stansted Airport, was named the best airport pub in the world at the 2016 International Food and Beverage Excellence awards.
In 2002, Wetherspoon’s began an ongoing relationship with the charity CLIC Sargent (Cancer & Leukaemia in Children).By 2016, staff and customers had raised £12.6 million.