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The rise of the drinking pub

Steve Perez of Global Brands explains how drinking pubs are bucking the trend and on the rise again

Steve Perez Global Brands

There’s been loads in the press recently about a drop in casual dining. Many large restaurants, such as Jamie Oliver’s chain, are struggling to get customers through their doors and are seeing a plunge in sales. What’s been less reported is we’re seeing the opposite in the UK’s pub scene. For the first time in ages, pubs are recording growth. And I’m not talking about growth in top-end gastro pubs, but growth in drinking pubs.    

According to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the sales of drinks in pubs across the UK rose 1.8 per cent over the Christmas period, whilst food revenues declined 1.4%. Shepherd Neame spotted this trend early and stopped selling food in some of its pubs. It replaced dining with drinking and saw sales grow 8.1 per cent.

So, what’s behind the return of the drinking pub? Are the bar flies back, keeping tills ringing? Far from it. Ryanair flights might be packed with customers starting their holiday fun early by over indulging in alcohol, but you’ll find drinking pubs full of people who are looking for quality, rather than quantity.    

Proper pub

People enjoy a proper pub. They go for the atmosphere, a chat with friends or a game of pool. They like the casual experience and socialising on their terms.

In the drinking pub, people can enjoy quality time with their friends. It’s informal and it’s friendly, and they know they can take their time savouring quality drinks.    

Find new flavours

The best drinking pubs are those that offer choice. People want to be able to try different drinks and flavours that they won’t have at home. People may buy one bottle of premium gin at a supermarket. At a pub, they can choose from hundreds of different gins. It’s the same with beer. People want a draught pint, and preferably a craft one at that. One quality pint beats a four pack of cheap lager, any day. 

Choosing and tasting the drink becomes part of the experience. People can sit with their friends, sharing their opinions about what they like. It’s one of the reasons our range of premium tonics, mixers and soft drinks, Franklin & Sons, is proving so popular in pubs. People can try new flavours like Wild Strawberry & Scottish Raspberry with Cracked Black Pepper, either on its own or paired with an artisan spirit.

Know your drinks

Customers want to know more about the drinks they’re buying. Provenance and heritage is big business and it brings the pub experience to life. People want to have a chat with bar staff and enjoy learning about new things. This might be why certain flavours work together or finding out how a drink is made.

With many pubs offering hundreds of different drinks, this can be a challenge for bar staff. This is why we make it easy for them. We’ve created crib sheets containing educational and interesting information about Franklin & Sons. Wowing customers with a few facts changes the serving experience from being just a quick sale to a friendly chat. This really helps to boost customer satisfaction.  

Cheers to the future

Camra, the campaign for Real Ale, reported that pub closures have slowed from 50 to 18 per week. Like many things in life, limited availability can heighten demand. The demise of pubs has helped them become popular again. This is a great opportunity for landlords and landladies. If they focus on quality drinks, service and atmosphere, they’ll attract people that are happy to pay good money for a premium drink.

For me, pubs are part of British heritage and culture. It’s great to see them having a revival for all the right reasons – people enjoying them are places to socialise.

2 May 2018