Author: Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye Solutions Ltd
The food and beverage sector has had to evolve to meet changing consumer demands, where pubs have perhaps felt the biggest impact. But those that have been able to adapt are turning the tide.
That was the message at The Pub Show
, held in London’s Olympia last week, attracting thousands of pub owners, operators and decision makers, who were keen to find the best ways of engaging with consumers.
Despite record closures denting sector growth in past years, as consumers diversify discretionary spending to delivery and staying at home, mindful drinking, coffee and food to go, the Show highlighted good news too.
Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures found the number of UK pubs and bars increased for the first time in a decade during 2019
. The key Show takeaways confirmed improving fortunes by keeping up with demand:
Following customer trends
Many operators and suppliers highlighted the importance of diversifying to keep up with the increasingly rapid pace of changing consumer demand as a central factor in the recent uptick in the fortunes of the pub trade.
Mark Robson, British Institute of Innkeeping
Chairman, said: “With pub numbers on the rise, we need to tell that good news story and focus on the positive things pubs contribute to people’s lives and communities.”
Market researcher KAM Media
revealed that 95% of pubgoers think pubs are good for their mental health, for instance. Chris Chapman, Hall & Woodhouse
Partnerships Head, also cited health and wellbeing as a key trend.
“When you consider that more than a third of Generation Z [born between 1997 and 2012] don’t drink alcohol, we have to consider what they will want to drink in 5-10 years’ time and adapt or die,” said Chapman.
In response, KAM Media’s research found over half (54%) of pubs plan to expand the range of healthy food options they offer, while two in three have also increased their low and no-alcohol range.
Growing importance of digital
A number of operator-representative speakers also suggested the sector was benefitting from the impact of changes on the High Street and in businesses, including store closures and the rise of remote working.
Robson pointed to the number of rural post offices co-locating inside pubs, while Chapman said following the low and no-alcohol trend meant pubs could compete with coffee shops for local working-from-home trade.
The role technology has to play in supporting business diversification and differentiation also emerged as central to both brand and operator strategies, where digital connectivity emerged as a core requirement.
The PUB Trends report
, released at the Show, revealed Wi-Fi was the most popular technology consumers would like pubs to install, followed by wireless charging tables in second and loyalty apps coming third.
As a result, interest in off-the-shelf white label apps to drive added returns from wireless network investments – particularly in rural areas where mobile coverage is patchy – was high on the agenda of operators.
Building customer connections
Pub operator, ETM Group
, was on hand to explain how it was using Wi-Fi and apps to collect more opted-in guest data. It uses this data to refine customer engagement and activate brand campaign promotions.
For brands, the goal of ‘first drink’ is a significant driver behind their willingness to invest in giveaway promotions. Like the operators, they also want to know more about customers who redeem their promotions.
Julian Ross, CEO of Wireless Social
, which is ETM’s Wi-Fi provider and an Eagle Eye partner, stressed how such data can be used to make sure campaign delivery is tailored by interest to drive footfall and increase value.
The Group has used Wireless Social’s Hedgehog service, integrated via its Zonal
point-of-sale connection maintained by Eagle Eye, to trial new promotional delivery capabilities, resulting in high redemption and repeat visit rates.
Using Eagle Eye’s partner and client network, ETM with Heineken to deliver a campaign where customers could claim free pints in return for logging into the Wi-Fi opt into marketing communications via email or SMS.