Ye Olde Inne, The Public House or the ‘pub’ as we know it today, has a longstanding place in British culture. Our earliest and most celebrated writers and poets mentioned them in sentimental terms and in modern times they have attracted foreign visitors in their multitudes. For locals they act as landmarks to aid location and as hubs for all important rest, relaxation and association.
And yet, the British Pub as we know it is in decline. According to leading pub newspaper, The Morning Advertiser, “Two pubs close in the UK every day.” Why is that?
In reality, pubs have been in decline for decades, but the fate of these well-loved institutions was well and truly sealed with the introduction of England’s No Smoking Ban in 2007 which prohibited smoking in public places. Realising that one of the main draws to punters regular visits was now removed, these traditional drinking venues had to reinvent themselves. Many went the way of the ‘Gastro-pub’ offering well chosen family menus and homecooked food. Others focused on providing overnight accommodation in unused rooms, whilst a small proportion went the corporate route offering facilities for local business meetings and venues for training.
In addition to this there has been a change in drinking habits across the board. Not only do we have an upcoming generation less inclined to drink (26% of UK 16 to 24 year olds) but there is a decline in taste for beer. In 2016 almost half of all drinks sold in new pubs are wines and spirits which folk tend to drink less of. Since wine, beer and spirits are now easily obtained from supermarkets, many choose to drink at home. The regular evening visit to’ the local’ is now very much a thing of the past.
To make matters worse, the competition for providing this service has amassed now that restaurants and cafes can also obtain licenses to serve alcoholic drinks.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
The pub owner has had to pull out all the stops to secure a place devoted to the pure appreciation of fine alcohol. Pubs are dynamic and provide a completely different experience to restaurants in terms of décor, purpose and atmosphere. In 2016 The Guardian made an interesting observation in stating “The pint and traditional boozer is in decline and, to survive, your local must become a family friendly, food-led pub.” This view is affirmed by the fact that 90% of all pub visits now involve food. But is this the only way to lengthen the longevity or your local’s lifespan?
The country is blessed with many creative landlords inventing novel ways to attract new punters and keep their businesses thriving.
Small bars in London offer fine wines and comfortable seating with a small, incidental menu. Micro pubs have popped up providing boutique, no frills accommodation, serving up craft beer and high-quality unusual drinks. Cooperatives or locals have joined forces to save their village pub, drawing on funding and grants from non-profit organisations such as The Pub is the Hub.
A Landlord in Devon encourages locals and new customers to visit his pub with a book in hand to sell or loan out for a few pence. This money is then put back into the community to fund different projects.
Pubs with unused rooms have opened convenience stores, cafes and post offices in the property with resounding success, giving testimony to the role of the pub as village cornerstone.
All it takes is a little imagination and thinking outside the box. But if you are a landlord or pub owner with limited budget what can be done to augment the success of your business?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There may not be the cashflow to go all out with an internal conversion or to buy in professional marketing services, but you can do the basics well. There are four areas you can focus on to create awareness, draw in new custom and to hang on to regulars.
- On Site
- In house
- In the community
On site – the first port of call is to ensure the property looks the part, especially from the front which the visitors will judge before they set foot inside. Could it benefit from a little lick of paint? Hanging baskets? Is the car park in good order and neat and tidy? Moving inside, does the lay out and decor achieve the image you have in mind? The whole idea is to entice customers in and to make them stay so create a calm ambience which oozes charm and offers comfort.
Provide additional benefits for the customer such as wheelchair access, a smoking area, appropriate play equipment and activities for children, or vegetarian options on the menu.
Make every night special by advertising special deals, new menu items and seasonal drinks on highly visible banners, posters or boards. Generate extra business at quiet times with ‘Happy Hours’,’ Afterwork Deals’, and large group discounts but beware over discounting as you could find the profits dwindling. Offer samples, invites to special evenings and vouchers from the pavement.
Online – Social Media is an ideal way to establish your brand image and to keep your customers informed. Build up your pub’s online presence by creating a website and using social media regularly. For example; Have a Twitter account and tweet about special events, new drinks or news stories. Start a club or interest group on social media channels encouraging customers to join and incentives to invite their friends. On LinkedIn create a group for pub staff to get people in the industry talking about your team. Make sure your business is easily found on line through Google Local which pulls up all information from your website, directory listings and customer reviews.
In house – start with yourself as owner or manager. Are you willing to get your hands dirty and participate in menial tasks? You are better placed to instruct others if you are familiar with the task yourself and you gain the respect of your employees.
Only employ staff who are either qualified or experienced or better still, both. Do not allow someone else to run your business as no one else has greater interest than the individual who invests in a venture and so will run it vigilantly and thoroughly. Even if you can only manage it for the short term you can ensure the pub is up and running before you divulge responsibility to someone else.
In the community – A great way to keep your pub’s name to the fore is to share the love locally. Sponsor, fundraise and participate in local events to gain the trust and empathy of locals. Reach out to your community by offering a home for events, entertainments, refreshments and socialisation. This is a sustainable strategy in your marketing planning as the result is mutually beneficial; you help the community and they help to keep your business running.
Arrange a business breakfast for local companies to get together, network and to learn about your business. Ensure you hand out cards, brochures and vouchers to provide greater depth of information and to enable them to make contact in the future.
Most importantly of all cherish your customers – make sure you listen to what your customers think. Facebook provides easy access to regular customer feedback which you can save and apply in future event and strategic planning. You can also check customer satisfaction ratings on Trip Advisor or Top Table. Never the less do not miss out on the opportunity to talk to your punters whilst serving them to find out what they like or dislike and to run new ideas by them. Keep a fish bowl on the bar or easily accessible noticeboard for customer’s comments and an email address so you have opportunity to personally invite them to special events or to offer rewards for their loyalty.
Keep in contact with your public through Social Media to advertise an event or special offer and keep your website up to date with information and interesting news.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE BRITISH PUB?
There are signs in the industry that the number of pubs closing their doors in perpetuity is slowing down. Added to this there is positivity generated by a law change to give pubs more protection from being converted. This said we live in challenging times for a publican who have the unenviable task to convince younger generations of the assets of keeping traditional pubs at the heart of the community.
Roller Banners UK can take care of all your promotional material needs to keep your punters informed and well looked after. Call the studio today on (02380) 700 111 to discuss your design requirements or browse our for more details, prices and blogs.