Issue 104 Autumn 2023 £4.95 magazine.inapub.co.uk
2023 Piecing together a picture of the pub trade
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Stock up with your favourites this Christmas
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e asked… and you answered! A big thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to this year’s Inapub Indies’ Choice survey, our annual look at what’s hot and what’s not in the world of pubs. The current financial crisis has thrown up enormous challenges for licensees over the last year but yet again it is heartening to see that as the market fluctuates, enterprising licensees pivot with it. Our readers have been working overtime to offer something that punters just can’t get at home. Pub-goers are increasingly seeking out venues that can offer entertainment, activities and experiences beyond just a pint and a packet of crisps. The proportion of pubs offering some form of entertainment has grown this year, and the big winner is live music, a casualty of lockdown that has well and truly bounced back since. Elsewhere, pubs are focused on what they do best. Wet-led pubs have grown drinks sales and embraced trends such as the espresso martini. Food-led sites are growing food sales by broadening their appeal – local produce, and more options for those with “free from”, vegetarian and vegan diets. Pubs with letting rooms continue to build that side of their business with more rooms, shrewd marketing and packages for events such as weddings, on the rise again this year. Dotted throughout this issue you will find interviews with licensees themselves, telling us about their own experiences over the last year. And of course, as we look ahead to what we hope will be a bumper Christmas, we offer a run-down of the festive drinks trends and product launches you need to know about. As we move into the busiest part of the pub year, we wish you a cracking winter season this year – may all those hours of hard work pay off. Happy reading!
what’s new Indies’ choice highlights • Pub profiles
drink Drinks Trends • Christmas drinks
eat Christmas for all budgets • Snacks
play Indies’ Choice results • A sports pub for all
stay Two licensees with a lot of laundry to do
ideas Elton Mouna finds some things for you to try
46 time at the bar Richard Molloy • Conkers • Last Orders
Editor Caroline Nodder
Contributors Richard Molloy, Claire Dodd, John Porter, Mark Ludmon
Production editor Ben Thrush Chief executive Barrie Poulter Sales manager Katy Robinson
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INDIES’ CHOICE 2023 By Caroline Nodder & Mark Ludmon
Thank you to all our readers who took the time to respond to our Indies’ Choice Survey for 2023, where we asked you about the products and brands that are flying out of your stock cupboard, what trends you are seeing in the different parts of your business and how 2023 trading compares with last year. Here, we bring you some of the highlights from this year’s results and look at the top performers in each category and what’s changed since 2022. Elsewhere in this magazine, we take a more detailed look at the results in our Eat, Drink and Stay sections. accommodation pubs maximising letting opportunities – 14 per cent said room lets were a bigger part of their business than in 2022.
Timothy Taylor’s Landlord takes number one from long-time Indies’ Choice favourite Doom Bar this year as the best-selling ale on our surveyed pubs’ bars. Elsewhere, Carling, Birra Moretti, Beavertown Neck Oil, Old Mout and Heineken 0.0 remain at the top of their respective games, but we have movement in the cider category with Thatchers replacing Strongbow as our 2023 favourite, and the Espresso Martini making its first appearance as our best-selling cocktail this year, taking up the mantle from the Pornstar Martini. This is likely the result not only the drink’s huge growth in popularity with drinkers who experimented with it at home during lockdown, but also some shrewd upselling by our surveyed pubs, as the Espresso Martini seems to have become an after-dinner favourite among diners in the post-pandemic world. t
Overall, our 2023 Indies’ Choice Survey suggests pubs are choosing to focus on the most profitable part of their business and grow it. This is no doubt the result of the pandemic, combined with the financial crisis, leading our surveyed pubs to play to their strengths, depending on what their customer base and local area want. So we see wet-led pubs growing that side of their business – 26 per cent said the proportion of drink sales has grown this year – food-led operators focusing on that – 23 per cent reported food sales had grown in the last 12 months – and
Wet-led pub The Falstaff Normanton, Derby
Steph Briggs and Jim Hallows are celebrating 20 years as licensees of The Falstaff in Normanton, in the south of Derby. Known locally as the Folly, it was named CAMRA’s Derby pub of the year for 2023. What are the main challenges you’re facing as a wet-led pub? Energy bills: the increase in the price of gas and electricity is without doubt the biggest challenge right now. What is the most popular beer style at your pub and have you seen any change during the cost-ofliving crisis? Our customer base drinks across the range of our real ales – each style has its own fan base. If everyone liked the same beer we’d only need to brew one. That’s the beauty of real ale: it has a wide range of tastes and styles to reach a wider audience. We haven’t seen a change in tastes due to the cost-of-living crisis. What qualities do you think are most important when recruiting a new team member? Personality. Everything else can be taught. Having the right personality makes customers feel welcomed and valued. What aspect of your pub business are you most proud of? Our customers. We have a lovely, friendly regular customer base who make newcomers feel welcome and who look after each other and are willing to help each other out. What is the best thing about your job? The people we meet and the friends we have made. The regulars refer to the “Falstaff family” and we love being part of their lives through their highs and lows. It’s more than a job, it’s a lifestyle, and we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Best sellers Ale brand Timothy Taylor Landlord Lager brand Carling World beer Birra Moretti Craft beer Beavertown Neck Oil Draught cider brand Thatchers Bottled cider brand Old Mout Cocktail Espresso Martini No/low beer Heineken 0.0 Brands reported as the number one seller by the most pubs in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
Who ate all the pies? Apparently, it was the nation’s pubgoers because in a shock development, fish & chips has been blasted off the top spot as the best-selling dish on our surveyed pubs’ menus by that pastry-encased delight, the pie. Pies are a super-flexible option for pub chefs and come with an ever-growing choice of fillings that can appeal to diners of all stripes – meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians alike – while that aforementioned pastry can be made gluten-free these days too. Perhaps it is this wider appeal that has led to the pie’s meat-eoric (geddit) rise? Overall, our survey this year paints a picture of a pub sector placing more emphasis than ever before on food. One in five of those surveyed said food made up a larger proportion of their sales than last year, and this is likely due to a number of factors. First, the financial crisis is very obviously affecting consumer spend, so diners are looking for value, something pub grub is synonymous with over its bistro and restaurant cousins. Second, licensees are
Best sellers Food dish Pies Crisp brand Pipers Nut brand KP Brands reported as the number one seller by the most pubs in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
well aware popping down the local for a quick pint is now considered a pricey option when a can of beer in front of the telly is also on offer, so they are pulling out all the stops when it comes to encouraging punters to come out for a meal and make an occasion of it.
Food pub The Ship Inn Elie, Fife Graham and Rachel Bucknall of The TBC Pub Company took over The Ship Inn in the seaside town of Elie in 2014. After refurbishment, the pub has six bedrooms as well as a first-floor restaurant with bay views. Serving 100 per cent Scottish seafood and meat, it has been AA Pub of the Year for Scotland and finalist in the Scottish Thistle Awards. Have you seen any sdifference in customers’ eating habits over the last year? They are more conscious of cost but happy to pay for quality. If it was possible, they are quicker to complain! It’s much harder to upsell: people have in their heads how much they want to spend before they walk in. What challenges are you facing on the food side of your business? There is a ceiling people will not happily go over but our costs keep climbing. Our chefs have to be a lot cleverer. We have customers who still expect to see lobster and fresh seafood on the menu – but are not necessarily happy to pay the price for it. Getting that balance is like walking a tight rope. Is there a dish you would never take off your menu? We have lots of other fantastic dishes but fish and chips outsells everything. Cullen skink would be a close second.
How often do you change your menu and what’s new for autumn? We change the menu fully three times a year with lots of smaller tweaks and changes in between. For autumn, we’re launching new flatbreads and sharing boards for the bar and invested in a new pizza oven. We have warming winter dishes such as steak pie with bone marrow alongside steak tartare and, showcasing our local seafood, we have a delicious brodetto – fish stew.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and it certainly seems like pub-goers missed live music when everything was shut during lockdown because it is now enjoying a boom time in pubs. Our survey found 71 per cent – almost three-quarters – of our pubs put on some form of live music, up from 67 per cent last year, making it the
most popular form of pub entertainment and beating TV sport into second place. In fact, all forms of entertainment seem to have grown in popularity this year – or at the very least stayed as popular – which underlines the growing consumer trends for competitive socialising and seeking out “experiences” rather than just going out for food and drink occasions.
Entertainment pub The Saddle Inn Chester, Cheshire
The Saddle Inn in Chester is owned by Leigh and Rebecca McClelland, who took over six years ago on a Star Pubs & Bars long lease. In 2022, it was best pub for entertainment in the Great British Pub Awards and was a finalist again this year. Alongside a hotel with nine rock-themed bedrooms, the pub hosts a wide range of live music, especially rock. How have you improved your entertainment programme over the past year? We have had more tribute bands as they are such a hit. Our Sunday sessions normally have four different artists playing for donations but now we will pay them for the gig as well. What is the key to a successful live music programme? Our success comes from listening to customers and doing something different – not following what everyone else is doing. What events have been most successful for you this year? Our customers like rock, so our programme of tribute bands includes tributes to Pantera, Anthrax, Queen, Nirvana, Metallica and the Foo Fighters. Les Carter from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, who plays with Abdoujaparov, was a good gig.
everyone as a human being, not just a cash sign. It’s always free entry. We don’t have any preconceptions about who can come in.
What are customers looking for in a good night out at the Saddle Inn? People come here because we treat
Are there any changes or new initiatives you are planning? We’ve finished a major refurb but
want to create more of a chill-out space outside. We do events like poker nights and life drawing classes for stags and hens but I’d like to do more, maybe using our beer garden. We’re already programming bands and artists into 2025: we want to get in more big names.
Most popular pub entertainments 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
c usi m e
Based on responses to the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
Accommodation pub The Royal Oak Oak Winsford, Exmoor, Devon The Royal Oak in picturesque Winsford Winsford in in the the Exmoor Exmoor National Park was taken over by local Jayne Jayneresident Davis last year Davis last year on a long free-of-tie lease. The thatched on a long free-of-tie lease. The thatched Grade II-listed Grade II-listed pub offers four-star accommodation, with pub offers four-star accommodation, with 11 en-suite 11 en-suite bedrooms and a cottage 50 metres away. bedrooms and a cottage 50 metres away. Jane is pictured here with co-owner Stevie Thomas. Have you seen the accommodation side of your business change the last months? Have youinseen the12 accommodation side of your busiYes, quite considerably. of the first things I did was to ness change in the lastOne 12 months? revamp theconsiderably. rooms, adding in of some and Itextures, Yes, quite One the colour first things did was to bringing in the natural colours of Exmoor. The had been revamp the rooms, adding in some colour andpub textures, pretty much closed since lockdown. When I took over there bringing in the natural colours of Exmoor. The were literally no bookings on the system. We had to start pub had been pretty much closed since lockdown. When I from the beginning. took over there were literally What is your most successful way to marketnoyour rooms? bookings We tend to use Booking.com and Expedia. They have been on the system. very successful but my intention is to expand with our own We had to website and delve into the social media side, which we are start from the just beginning to do. beginning.
Accommodation & Functions
Pub weddings are on the up, with 37 per cent of our surveyed pubs now hosting such nuptials, up from 35 per cent in 2022. This is doubtless going to rise again over the coming year as the financial crisis has forced couples to look at value-for-money alternatives to big fancy hotel venues. Venues that also offer accommodation – 18 per cent in our survey – are on to a winner when it comes to wedding packages too. Function space may be an issue, though, as there has been a drop in the number of pubs offering marquees or covered outside areas (maybe less of a priority with customers now confident about sitting inside) and 28 per cent offering a separate function room (down from 30 per cent last year). This latter number may well be a symptom of the increasing cost pressure licensees find themselves under – every part of your premises now needs to pay its way! And why have a function room sitting unused most of the week when it could be turned into an extension of your bar or restaurant space?
What is your most successful way to market your rooms? We tend to use Booking. com and Expedia. They have been very successful but my intention is to expand with our own website and delve into the social media side, which we are just beginning to do. What extras extras do What do guests guests staying staying at at your your pub pub get? get? All guest rooms come with complementary tea/coffee, fresh All guest rooms come with complementary tea/coffee, fresh milk, water and biscuits (Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers) and the milk, water and biscuits (Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers) and the rate rate includes full English breakfast. As much as possible is local. includes full English breakfast. As much as possible is local. What’s the What’s the most most common common problem problem you you find find as as aa host? host? Hospitality has been hit so badly since lockdown Hospitality has been hit so badly since lockdown and and being being in aa very very remote in remote location, location, it’s it’s been been aa constant constant challenge challenge to to find the the right find right people, people, which which we we now now have have in in hand. hand. What’s the What’s the key key to to aa great great pub pub breakfast? breakfast? Fresh local produce, which we Fresh local produce, which we have have in in abundance abundance here here on on Exmoor. A good hearty breakfast, homemade breads Exmoor. A good hearty breakfast, homemade breads and, and, of course, a lovely smile from ourour team. of course, a lovely smile from team.
AUTUMN2023 2023 AUTUMN
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drink ZERO TO HERO MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF MODERATION
Don’t start by selling to your customer that it’s a nonalcoholic gin & tonic or something similar. Sell it in as its own category
Moderation is not a trend, it’s a habit and it’s something that is here to stay. From pacing a night out of drinking with a lighter option, to just taking a night off, there are a billion reasons why a large proportion of your customers might opt for something lighter. According to Kantar, 47 per cent of UK adults switch between alcohol and low- and alcohol-free drinks at the same occasion, and 40 per cent say they want to moderate their drinking. So, we watched with interest this month when another big-name brand entered the non-alc spirit market. Diageo just debuted its very first non-alc dark spirit, with the launch of Captain Morgan Spiced Gold 0.0%. It’s a big step forward when it comes to choice, as – much harder to make – dark spirits are still pretty under-represented. Following two years of development, the brand says it has worked out how to deliver those layers of flavour, from rich caramel and molasses to vanilla and a bit of spice, that you’d expect to find in a spiced rum. Which got us thinking. There may be a plethora of products out there, but when it comes to ranging, explaining and promoting non-alc spirits, where do you start? Though there’s demand for non-alcoholic drinks, many customers still don’t quite understand what non-alc spirits are, how to drink them, or even why they cost what they do. “Don’t start by selling to your customer that it’s a non-alcoholic gin and tonic or something similar,” says James Stimson, senior brand manager at Franklin & Sons. “This approach often sets the wrong expectations and can lead to disappointment. “Instead sell it in as its own category, and treat cocktails with a no- and low-
focus the same as the rest of your range. There are huge advancements in taste and new challenger brands coming to market all the time across this category, so regularly review your range to stay on top of these.” Having the right products changes not drinking into “a positive choice and far from being a distress purchase”, adds Ed Fryer, drinks marketing manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner. “It’s really important to ensure that customers know what you’ve got – so make sure you have alternatives across your product range and make sure you promote them, for example by having a lowand no-- section on your back-bar, or keeping them on the same shelf of the fridge and calling them out on the menu. Don’t just assume that people know that a brand is alcohol-free.” Finally, serve them right. Balloon glasses, garnishes – throw the works at them, if you want customers to pay a premium price.
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Time for a change (again) by CLAIRE DODD
You wouldn’t only stock one red wine, so why would you only stock one type of ale?
How does the saying go again? ‘The only constant is change’ or something like that? Anyway, some wise old sausage said it better than me when they parsed the meaning of life. And nothing is more true if you’re running a pub. Change is constant and fast. How different the world looks from just 12 months ago. Customers can be fickle in their tastes, new drinks launches are plentiful and purse strings are getting drawn ever tighter. These are tricky waters to navigate when it comes to knowing what to stock to make sure you can sell the most. That’s where our Indies’ Choice survey comes in. Our annual yardstick takes a look at what is working for our readers and which products are in high demand. Read on to find out and take some advice from our experts on how to maximise sales and where things might go next.
• The number of handpulls has stayed the same for 80 per cent of respondents • The most common number of handpulls is four, with 26 per cent of respondents having this number. This is followed by the 18 per cent of respondents who have just two • Almost 50 per cent of pubs surveyed sell just one small independent/local craft beers, 13 per cent have two and 23 per cent say they sell more types of these than last year It’s no secret cask sales have had a tough time of it in the wake of the pandemic. Taps have been disappearing as throughput dwindled. According to data from CGA, volumes plummeted as much as 37 per cent in the two years
Top-selling cask ales 1. Timothy Taylor Landlord 2. Fuller’s London Pride 3. Sharp’s Doom Bar 4. Harvey’s Best Bitter 5. Wadworth 6X Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
to April 2022, with a 20 per cent drop in the number of pubs that stock it. Ouch. It’s heartening, then, to see this year has brought a little more consistency, with you telling us your tap numbers have remained largely the same, with the majority of you still maintaining an impressive four taps. “Cask ale is still a compelling reason for many people to come to the pub,” Ed Fryer, drinks marketing manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner, says. “You can’t get it anywhere else and cask drinkers do spend more per visit, visit more frequently and have the ability to drive pub choice for a group of drinkers.” That’s right. Cask drinkers (raises hand) are bossy, demanding people who will often be the one in their group to choose a pub based on its beers, so even if you don’t have many taps, you need to make sure you pick the correct beers for your customer base. CGA’s
Top-selling lagers 1. Carling 2. Fosters 3. Carlsberg Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
Top-selling craft beer 1. Beavertown Neck Oil 2. Brew Dog Punk IPA 3. Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropica Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
UK BrandTrack survey also shows nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of cask ale drinkers are aged 55 or over, a figure that has risen four percentage points in just two years. So, as well as old favourites, if you’re to pull new consumers in, picking exciting, more dynamic brands for your rotating guest tap might be a shrewd choice. “Cask ale sales were in decline even before the lockdown and all of us as cask brewers are having to look at how we make it relevant to the new generation of consumers, while still maintaining the support of our core customers,” says Rupert Thompson, managing director of Hogs Back Brewery. “We’re particularly pleased operators are not just stocking [our flagship] Tongham TEA, but are prepared to try other cask ales including our seasonals, like Big Squeezy, an aromatic 3.4 per cent IPA, brewed with real lemons. These kind of beers appeal to consumers who have come into enjoying beer via the craft route, for whom local and traditional branding cues may not have the same appeal as they do to established cask ale drinkers.” Range, of course, is key. “You wouldn’t only stock one red wine, so why would you only stock one type of ale?” Ed says. “Quite often I go into pubs and see all amber ales on the bar – and that’s just so
Top-selling world beers 1. Birra Moretti 2. Madri 3. Estrella Damm 4. San Miguel 5. Amstel Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
boring. I would always suggest you have a brilliant core of well-known staples such as London Pride, supplemented (depending on throughput) by recognisable twists on classics such as seasonal beers from wellknown brewers or well-known styles from smaller brewers. “Depending on how big the range is, if your sales can support it, next I would go for a good local brew. The key is to offer enough rotation to keep the range fresh, but not so much that if a customer loves a particular beer they can’t come back and try it again later in the week.”
• 96 per cent sell cider on tap Cider is one of those categories where the new products, the new flavours and the seasonal launches have long come thick and fast. From passionfruit and raspberry ripple jostling for fridge space to scrumpy on tap, it’s also a category that reaches a pretty wide range of consumers, with its superbroad range of products. It’s no surprise, then, to see the vast majority of you continue to stock it on the bar, nor that your best sellers on tap are premium cider brands and your best-selling bottles are dominated by flavoured brands. But, this is cider, so things are set to shift yet again. “Over recent years consumer tastes have shifted away from traditional brands and
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flavour combinations into contemporary styles and flavours,” James Palmer, head of on-trade at Thatchers Cider, says, “resulting in the need for operators to review their cider range and ultimately benefit with more cash in the till. The cider category needs to be given the same consideration that’s given to lager and ale when reviewing ranging and value – ensuring the right category of cider is selected for the outlet.” Keeping pace with new launches is the key.
Top-selling draft cider 1. Thatchers 2. Aspall 3. Inch’s 4. Strongbow
5. Weston’s Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
Top-selling bottled cider 1. Old Mout 2. Kopparberg 3. Rekorderling 4. Bulmers 5. Thatchers Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
• 70 per cent have a wine list • 48 per cent have 10 or more wines on their list • The most popular wine-producing countries are Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France and Australia Haven’t you heard already? English wine is cool. Customers like local things and the prices are pretty reasonable, so why aren’t you stocking English wine yet? Our survey shows your top sellers currently come from a blend of new and old world regions. But if the weather keeps shifting like it has, it won’t be long until we’re producing robust Spanish-style riojas, right? The industry has come a long way in recent years, with many English brands now globally recognised. In fact, Gusbourne (which sources grapes from Sussex, Hampshire and Kent) recently swept the
Top-selling cocktails 1. Espresso Martini 2. Bloody Mary 3. Old Fashioned 4. Margarita 5. Cosmopolitan Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2022
board with multiple gold medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Sparkling producer Chapel Down recently went to the lengths of taste testing its fizz against champagne and found 60 per cent of consumers preferred Chapel Down. If you’re not confident, set up a tasting with a local producer to try their range. “Try before you buy. Most vineyards will offer tasting samples and this is a great way to understand what you’re buying and learn about certain wine styles,”says Josh Donaghay-Spire, Chapel Down’s head winemaker.
• The most popular single-serve spirits are vodka (45 per cent), gin (43 per cent) and rum (5 per cent) • The most popular cocktails are Espresso Martini, Bloody Mary, Old Fashioned, Margarita and Cosmopolitan Oof, would you look at those numbers. While it’s incredibly interesting vodka has overtaken gin as the top seller, there’s a staggering difference between the two top-selling spirits and lovely rum, which is coming in third by a long, long way. “Vodka has very quickly risen to become the most popular spirit, following the gin aissance of the 2010s and recent slight decline as consumers look to explore other spirits,” says James Stimson, senior brand manager at Franklin & Sons. “Because vodka has such a clean taste, you’ll get more out of cocktails and highballs if you treat it differently from botanical gins. While the classic highballs work well – your vodka and cola, vodka, lime and soda, or vodka and tonic as a tasty alternative – to elevate vodkas and create some exceptional serves, mixers and modifiers that impart complex flavour are vital.” He recommends mixing a good-quality vodka with a couple of dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters and Franklin & Sons Guava & Lime Soda: “It doesn’t take any longer to make than a gin and tonic and packs in the flavour you can lose with a vodka-orientated range of serves.” So, rum. Tasty, accessible, easy to mix…
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why isn’t it a top seller for more of you? That might be down to range and how you’re promoting it. Because consumer demand is there. “Across the board, we’ve seen the rise of rum – generally, every type of rum is becoming more popular,” adds James. “Flavoured, light and white rums are great as an easy-drinking introduction to rum and mixers for consumers that are new to the category, and moving over from vodka or gin. Aged and dark rums are equally growing in popularity, both as a more complex alternative to lighter rum-based cocktails and as a sipping spirit to serve neat. As such, stocking a variety for every price point is vital, especially as the category continues to gain share of spirits.”
Because vodka has such a clean taste, you’ll get more out of cocktails and highballs if you treat it differently from botanical Non-alc • 65 per cent are serving gins
zero-alc spirits • When it comes to non-alc beers, 32 per cent stock two, 16 per cent stock three, 15 per cent stock one, 13 per cent stock five and 4 per cent stock eight, while interestingly, 3 per cent stock 10 or more • For beers, 53 per cent said they stock more than last year
• 59 per cent say soft drink sales have remained the same, 37 per cent say they are up Confusion. Horror. Disgust. Disbelief. Those are the kind of reactions you lot (yes, you) and, we have to say, a massive chunk of consumers had to the concept of non-alc spirits not all that long ago. So we’re glad to see times have massively changed. A whopping 65 per cent of you now serve non-alc spirits. And for beers, no longer do poor abstainers have just one to choose from. A massive 53 per cent of you said
you’ve added to your non-alc beer range in the past year, with one-third of pubs stocking at least two and a few of you even stocking more than 10. “With moderating alcohol now a mainstream habit, it is no surprise venues have increased their alcohol-free range – they are an important part of the early week and lunchtime takings,” says Laura Willoughby MBE, co-founder of mindful and low- and no- drink advocate Club Soda. “Good alcohol-free drinks are about more than having something non-alcoholic. They are healthier, lower in sugar and ensure the customer has an equal experience. They are not a compromise option and they help everyone feel included in a social occasion, keep customers loyal and also help increase group bookings in venues.” It’s now also becoming clear most of your customers will opt for a non-alc serve at some point, if the right options are there. “It is more important than ever to have an inclusive drinks menu including low- and alcohol-free options – with nearly half of UK adults (47 per cent) switching between alcohol and low and alcohol-free drinks at the same occasion, and two-fifths (40 per cent) of adults saying they want to moderate their drinking,” says Alex Haslam, head of category development for on-trade at Diageo.
Top-selling low and no 1. Heineken 0.0 2. Becks Blue 3. Peroni 0.0 4. Erdinger Alkoholfrei 5. Old Mout Ranked by popularity reported in the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
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Fill ’em with
by CLAIRE DODD
We love us some Christmas spirit. We love crying at the John Lewis advert, eating more crisps – especially those odd festive ‘pigs in blankets’ or ‘prosecco’ flavours – than any human really should and finding the tackiest Christmas jumper we possibly can. But it’s fair to say this year might be a little different for most. We’ll skip the rant about the mismanagement of the economy, the lack of meaningful support for businesses, regulation of energy prices, soaring inflation and unsustainably high food prices and just say… we may be rich with seasonal spirit, but we’re all a little bit poorer than we were 12 months ago. That makes having a successful Christmas all the more important for you. But it also means consumers are going to have to think about and justify their spending like never before.
“We’ve seen drinking behaviour impacted by the cost-of-living crisis,” says James Palmer, head of on-trade at Thatchers Cider. “But the quality of drink choice is largely protected. As drinkers choose to reduce their spend by reducing the number of drinks they purchase and not compromising on quality, making sure you stock brands that maximise your revenue opportunity is key.” So, let’s begin.
“Customers will spend if you give them a good reason to do so – and enticing them in often starts online these days,” says Ed Fryer, drinks marketing manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner, who adds that organising online bookings is key. “The use of technology to get pre-bookings in is crucial and you have to plan in advance and make sure your online journey is quick and easy.” Lock in that spend. This year it’s not just about confirming bookings early, but upselling at the point of booking too. Pre-sell everything from a welcome bottle of prosecco, bucket of beers or a cocktail to start. Sarah Gandy, marketing manager for Luxardo at Amber Beverage UK, recommends: “Start off or end a Christmas group get-together with something memorable which everyone around
the table can share in enjoying. A tray of popular espresso martinis is the way to go. We launched Luxardo Espresso Liqueur in the UK earlier this year to make it easy to create an espresso martini that has the true, deep flavours of dark espresso coffee – and it is made in Italy, the home of espresso coffee.”
62 per cent of consumers spend more during the festive season, Upsell Offering the opportunity for people so this is a to trade up is key. “People are continuing to look for ways to create great time of memorable moments when out in pubs and bars, with 71 per year to stock cent of people saying eating and drinking out is ‘the treat and review I most look forward to’ and 47 per cent considering it an premium mixer ‘affordable treat’,” says Alex Haslam, head of category development for on-trade opportunities at Diageo.
James Stimson, senior brand manager at Franklin & Sons, adds: “62 per cent of consumers spend more during the festive season, so this is a great time of year to stock and review premium mixer opportunities across the bar. “Ensure all your post-mix and value mixers have a premium option on bar to make the most of any upselling opportunities. You’ll see lemonade drinkers upgrade to a Franklin & Sons Hedgerow Elderflower Lemonade, ginger beer drinkers opting for a Franklin & Sons Brewed Ginger Beer and G&T drinkers rediscovering their preferred gin with the dual-flavours of Franklin & Sons Elderflower & Cucumber Tonic Water or Franklin & Sons Rhubarb & Hibiscus Tonic Water.” Add signage on the bar for recommended pairings, and upgraded serves. This goes for everything on the bar. Add a premium festive cask ale, and festive favourites
like port, champagne and English sparkling wines, and advertise them on menus and at the bar.
Xmas flavours and seasonal spirits
Festive serves and flavours help boost spend – and Christmas spirit. “Enticing consumers into the on-trade with new and exciting experiences will be critical to driving footfall and spend and we have increased our investment in the Christmas occasion by over a third since 2019 to support this,” says James Bremner, on-trade channel director at Pernod Ricard UK. This year it is concentrating on its growth brands Absolut, Jameson, Havana Club and Malibu for festive serves. These include the Absolut Polar Espresso Martini, served with a festive golden ticket, Absolut Merry Kissmass, with a rice paper lipstick kiss topper, Havana Club Golden Swizzler, with traditional chocolate gold coins, Malibu Baubellini, with edible glitter, and a Jameson Black Barrel Gingerbread Old Fashioned. Thatchers Cider has introduced Spiced Apple Cider as a seasonal addition to its Fusion font range, which adds cinnamon, cloves and ginger to its 4 per cent ABV
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You need to make sure you can cater for those people who want to come out, have a great time but still get up clear headed in the morning
Somerset cider. It can be served cold straight from the font or heated as a mulled cider. The Thatchers Fusion Font serves three different flavours from one font. “We have a whole range of seasonal cocktails on our website, that make exciting additions to your cocktail menu, such as Thatchers Toffee Apple or Cloudy Vespa,” James Palmer adds.
The importance of cocktails
Speaking of cocktails, consumers now expect pubs to have them. “We expect people to be searching for drinks they would not necessarily make themselves at home,” Alex says. “The cocktail market is worth £686m and cocktails are regularly consumed by 20.4 per cent of the adult population.” James Bremner adds: “The value of the cocktail market has continued to rise over the past 12 months, growing 8 per cent in value, and 57 per cent of consumers are choosing cocktails ‘as a treat’.” If you’re challenged for time or skilled staff, draft or premixed cocktails are an option. “We recently expanded our draught cocktail offering with the addition of Captain Morgan Strawberry Daiquiri (10 per cent ABV), created with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold, GB’s number one rum-based spirit,” adds Alex. Diageo’s wider draught cocktail portfolio – which take less than 10 seconds to serve – also includes Gordon’s Pink Martini Cocktail (10 per cent ABV), Smirnoff Passion Fruit Martini Cocktail (12.5 per cent ABV), and Smirnoff Espresso Martini Cocktail (12.5 per cent ABV). Franklin & Sons has developed Christmas serves with three tiers of complexity – from simple to more involved – as part of its Moment to Mix winter series. Recipes are available as single serve or carafe recipes. They include a low-strength
Cosmo with Everleaf Mountain non-alc spirit, Triple Sec, cranberry, lime and the brand’s Guava and Lime soda, or a Mandarin Crush with Cazcabel Tequila, grapefruit cordial, and Franklin & Sons Mandarin and Ginger Soda. Or, stick to simple serves such as the G&T, but add festive garnishes such as berries, dried orange wedges where appropriate, and serve in your fanciest glassware. And make sure you take pictures and promote your cocktail serves on social media, with regular pushes to boost awareness.
Low and no are no afterthought
“Not drinking is no longer a synonym for staying at home,” says Ed. “You need to make sure you can cater for those people who want to come out, have a great time but still get up clear headed in the morning to complete Wordle in less than three goes before breakfast.” He recommends bars stock low/no alternatives across most categories from beers such as Lucky Saint and Big Drop on tap to Crodino, an alcohol-free alternative for Aperol Spritz lovers. “When it comes to merchandising these products, visibility is key,” adds Alex. “Ensuring these liquids are placed on the backbar, options are promoted on chalkboards and listed higher up on the drinks menu will help customers.” “And do you need an alcohol-free cider in the fridge at Christmas? The answer is definitely yes,” James Palmer says. “With 46 per cent of consumers saying the non-drinker in the party influences venue choice, the alcohol-free choice at Christmas is as important as ever. Half of Gen Z visits to restaurants do not include alcohol.”
For Diageo serves and product info, head to www.diageo-one.com
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eat WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN JOHN PORTER COUNTS THE COST How many chips constitutes a portion? It’s a question that helped to revive the art of conversation between my wife and I when we visited a managed pub operated by one of the UK’s biggest pub groups, on a recent trip to the West End of London. While we didn’t reach definitive agreement on the exact number, we both firmly agreed that it should be more than 19 skinny fries. That was the quantity supplied, as an additional side order for which we were charged £3.75. That works out at just shy of 20p a chip, a GP margin which would make a Michelin-starred chef weep with envy. It all goes to the heart of the issue of value for money, which is occupying the pub trade at all levels as the cost-of-living crisis continues. The results of Inapub’s Indies’ Choice 2023 survey show that independent pubs are
Value for money is, to a large extent, decided by who is paying for the meal
holding their own in food terms. Around 60 per cent of pubs say the wet/dry split is the same year-on-year, and more than 20 per cent say food’s share of sales has increased. While classics such as burgers, pizzas, fish & chips and pies are most likely to be named by pubs as their most popular dishes, there were also those that identified more unusual pub fare such as Thai food or chicken parmesan as their top sellers. Others said more premium dishes such as steak or locally sourced fish topped the list. All of which tells us that value for money is, to a large extent, decided by whoever is paying for the meal. Some customers are definitely looking for low-cost deals, and pubs are flexing their offer with tactics such as mid-week meal deals in response. For others, it’s about perhaps going out less often, but being ready to pay a bit more for locally sourced steak or freshly landed fish fillet when they do. I am, however, fairly confident that none of them would say that £3.75 for 19 chips represents good value. Pubs that hope to simply cost-engineer their way out of the current situation would do well to think about how that looks to the customer.
Flexible festivities by JOHN PORTER
The Talbot aims to make eating out a treat at an affordable price
Pubs approach their busiest trading season of the year, the run-up to Christmas and new year, with a finger in the wind, as they try to gauge not only the numbers of people who will be coming out to eat this year, but what sort of budget they’ll be on. The good news is that the results of the Indies’ Choice 2023 survey show that there is still a huge amount of diversity within the business models of independent pubs when it comes to food, which gives them the opportunity to be flexible. The majority of pubs are wet-led, which supports the rule-of-thumb definition that the essential difference between a pub and a restaurant is that a pub needs to be
somewhere you can walk into and order a pint without being asked whether you’ve booked, or being invited to peruse the à la carte menu. Fewer than 10 per cent of pubs responding to the survey said that wet sales account for below half of their turnover. Around 60 per cent of pubs say their wet/dry split is the same as it was a year ago, with just a quarter saying food sales have increased as a share of total sales. The majority, almost 70 per cent, have also kept the number of dishes the same as a year ago. A quarterly menu refresh is the most popular choice, opted for by 22 per cent of pubs, while 16 per cent change the menu twice a year. All of which suggests that the trade is in cautious mode, and with some justification. Research for Bidfood on attitudes to eating out shows that 44 per cent of consumers plan to go out for food and drink at least once a week this autumn and winter, which could be worse, but is still below half. One in three say that food and drink is typically their main way of socialising and catching up with friends and family during the festive season, so tapping into this will be essential. While 57 per cent of people say cost is the biggest factor in their eating out choices, 47 per cent also say quality is high on their priority list when decision-making. Little & Large Pub Company operates three pubs: The Queen’s Head and the Running Horses in Surrey, and The Talbot in
Fish & chips and burgers fly out with walkers and tourists. But our regulars, those who come back time and again, want to see something different
Brockley, south-east London. Co-founders Richard Brown and Manu Bhatt are just about to take on their fourth pub, The Leicester Arms in Penshurst, near Tonbridge, Kent. Like the Running Horses it will be a tenancy with Brakspear, and like all the pubs will be food-led.
Score for less than a score
Richard says: “With food, we’re all about offering a great product at great value for money. We’re very conscious that everybody’s feeling the pinch at the moment, so we’re trying to offer the best quality, well-sourced, creative menus we can, at a price that’s affordable. Yes, going out to eat is a treat for
people, but at the same time we’re offering a wide range of dishes sub-£20, which I think in this market is very reasonable.” Examples include pork, fennel and chilli ragu for £16 at The Talbot, and a Dry Aged Steak & Chuck Burger for £15.50 at the Surrey pubs. “At two sites, on a Wednesday night we’re offering a three course, £30 Steak Night Special. It’s a very structured set menu, but it offers great value and an incredible experience for our guests.” In general, it’s the pub classics that sell best. “Fish & chips, and burgers, just fly out. In Surrey there are a lot of walkers and tourists, and they want that classic British pub food experience.” This tallies with the Indies’
Premier Foods’ apricot, lentil and cranberry bake. Vegetable roast-style dishes of this kind can be given a premium feel and are easy to make ahead
Over half of gravy enthusiasts are willing to pay extra for an endless supply of gravy
Choice responses, which show that pies and burgers top the best sellers list for pubs. However, Richard adds: “Our regulars, those who come back time and again, want to see something different. We change the menus regularly; our chefs are very creative and keep up with food trends as well as following the seasons.” While weekends, and particularly Sunday lunch, are the busiest trading period, “we’ve found putting on events such as a wine evening, are good at getting people out. You create experiences where people want to come and spend money, because it feels a bit special.” In terms of offering plant-based dishes, “to be honest, it’s a surprise when people ask if we have vegan options. Of course we do, you can’t really operate in the industry without them, and it’s still growing year on year,” says Richard.
More than half of pubs serve Sunday lunch. Sarah Robb, foodservice marketing manager at Premier Foods Foodservice, says its important to get the basics right. “Gravy will always hold a cherished place in the hearts of British consumers and is a staple of the much-loved Sunday roast. “According to our latest independent research from Bisto, over half of gravy enthusiasts are willing to pay extra for unlimited or an “endless supply” of gravy,
highlighting an additional profit opportunity for pub operators. “With 83 per cent of customers preferring gravy to be served separately, consider selling gravy as a refillable side.” The Tickled Trout in the village of Barlow, Derbyshire, is owned by chef Chris Mapp, and combines a destination food trade with the appeal of a local pub. General manager Lauren Whie says: “We’re finding that people are coming out more as a treat. We do a pizza deal from Tuesday to Thursday, but we’re not finding that’s any busier as a result of people looking for cheaper deals. “What we are getting is plenty of larger parties, functions, and special celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries. We have an upstairs room that can be rented out, and I’d say that’s even busier than usual this year. “Those customers are spending decent money on à la carte dishes. Our blade of beef, at around £25, is probably our most popular dish. Seafood dishes are also selling well. ” Friday and Saturday nights remain the pub’s busiest trading times in terms of food bookings, but beyond that “it’s quite random, it’s hard to see a pattern. Wednesday nights were crazy busy for a while, but they’ve gone quiet.”
Rise of the herbivores
In terms of special dietary requirements, “we
Customers may have several Christmas meals out, and turkey fatigue can set in quickly
have a dedicated gluten-free menu which we are finding we’re giving out a lot more. We have quite a lot of vegan options; we can make all the pizzas vegan, and we’re definitely noticing a lot more people coming through with dietary requirements.” There are almost no pubs without a vegetarian or vegan offer of some sort on the menu, with a quarter offering 12 or more vegan options. The number of gluten-free options is also increasing. Rachel Dobson, managing director of hospitality buying specialist Lynx Purchasing, says: “To appeal to customers looking for vegan and plant-based choices, dishes such as vegetable roasts or wellingtons can be given a premium feel, and are relatively easy to make in advance and freeze for use when needed, saving time during the busiest trading period of the year.” Overall, says Rachel, as operators plan their Christmas menus, “it’s important to remember that value for money isn’t the same as offering the cheapest turkey dinner in town. “For independent operators in particular, fierce competition on price alone is best left to the specialists.
“Offering high-quality produce, with a focus on the best of British food, gives consumers a genuinely different choice. Showing support for British food producers has proven customer appeal.” Lynx is warning that high demand from supermarkets for turkey this year, including Red Tractor birds, means supplies available to hospitality for the peak Christmas season could be limited and are very likely to be more expensive. Dobson adds: “Remember also that across family, friends, work and clubs, many customers may have several meals out over the Christmas period, and ‘turkey fatigue’ can set in quickly for some. “Offering a buffet choice can appeal to customers whose budgets don’t stretch to the full Christmas menu, while sharing and grazing dishes, which enable groups of customers to order a range of small, tapasstyle plates or larger platters to share, are an opportunity to persuade groups getting together for Christmas drinks to order food. “As always, those that can keep menu descriptions flexible will be best placed to make the most of any changes to supply or unexpected disruption to the supply chain.”
Give them something to
get their teeth into
by JOHN PORTER
Bar snacks at The Vine. Licensee Sue McGrath tried to keep the snacks as home-made as possible to differentiate her offer from the chain pubs
You have to work quite hard to find a pub that doesn’t offer at least a basic bar snack – according to the findings of the Indies’ Choice survey more than 97 per cent of pubs stock some sort of snack. The 2.7 per cent of hardcore holdouts who insist they don’t stock so much as a scratching will have to answer for themselves, but it’s clear that for the majority of pubs, especially those without a substantive food offer, bagged snacks are the solution to making sure customers have something to soak up the beer. For 86 per cent of pubs, crisps are the most popular bar snack, and the premium Pipers brand is stocked in 28.7 per cent, ahead of its Pepsico stablemate Walkers in 24.7 per cent of pubs. KP is the pub trade’s nut of choice, stocked in 30.1 per cent of pubs, followed by Nobby’s at 26 per cent. Ekaterina Petrova, Pipers senior brand manager, says: “Crisps and snacks have continued to be a critical sales driver for operators, despite macro challenges being faced by many businesses and consumers today. There is a large opportunity for operators to offer a premium option like Pipers to encourage customer spend.”
Make your own munchies
Some pubs move beyond the bagged snack to make the bar snack offer a little more substantial. A focus on home-made snacks has helped licensee Sue McGrath broaden the appeal of The Vine, a popular village local in Buckden, near St Neots in Cambridgeshire. Alongside bagged crisps, peanuts and scratchings, the snacks offer at the Vine
Plan your snack attack Merchandising tips from Pipers favourites 1 their Comfort is key when it comes to Offer customers
impulse-buying bar snacks.
Persuade customers to purchase a snack with their drink, boosting spend and encouraging them to stay in your pub for longer.
crisps and snacks 33 Put on the bar Grab customers’ attention to drive extra sales.
Premium crisp brand Pipers is stocked in nearly 30 per cent of pubs
includes home-made delights such as sausage rolls, pork pies, various flavours of scotch egg, and halloumi fries. A bowl of roast potatoes with gravy is offered as a Sunday bar snack for those not indulging in the Vine’s popular Sunday roast. Proving that the best pub snacks can compete with hospitality’s finest, Sue’s sausage rolls made her the highest-placed pub entrant in the 2023 Great Sausage Roll Off. She says: “When I took over the pub, which was just six weeks before the first lockdown, there was no kitchen here at all. I managed to get the kitchen up and running and I try to keep everything as home-made as possible, which keeps it different from the chain pubs. I make most of them myself and I have a friend who makes some for me when we’re very busy.” The bar snacks offer does double duty as a small plates option alongside the main pub menu, which includes favourites such
Promote at events such as sports matches Sports screenings, drinks and snacks are a winning combo. Give customers something to look forward to and yourself an opportunity to make more incremental sales.
as pie & mash, scampi and fish & chips. Along with popular events such as its pub quiz, bingo nights and even a regular line dancing group, The Vine also runs coffee mornings, for which Sue bakes a selection of cakes. Of customers such as regular pool players, and building tradesmen who pop in for a pint or two at the end of the working day, Sue says: “They’re really not going to order food, so they‘re the ones who go for the bag of crisps, peanuts or pork scratchings.”
play THE GAME KEEPS GROWING MORE PUBS SWITCHING ON TO SPORT This year’s Inapub Indies’ Choice survey found that female footballers are not only winning on the pitch, but in pubs too. Our survey showed that more of you than ever before are showing TV sport as a way to pull in the punters, with 64 per cent of pubs surveyed showing some form of televised action, up almost 10 per cent from 55 per cent in last year’s survey. This is not, perhaps, surprising in a market where licensees are having to pull out all the stops to create an entertaining experience and give customers a good reason to leave their sofas. What is perhaps more surprising is when we take a look at what sports fans are watching in pubs in 2023. While last year there was an almost even split between football and rugby when it came to the top sport screened in pubs, this year football has stormed ahead, with 61 per cent of our surveyed pubs naming it as their most popular sport, compared to only 25 per cent for rugby. Could the Lion-
What is the most popular sport you show?
esses perhaps be behind this significant swing? Certainly pubs were packed out during the Women’s World Cup tournament this summer, and the matches were bringing in a whole new breed of sports fan to the pub to watch, which is a huge positive. Meanwhile, only 24 per cent of pubs reported that the rugby Six Nations was their most popular competition this year – compared with 38 per cent last year – whereas 37 per cent said the Premier League remained top, up from 22 per cent in 2022. Is this perhaps partly due to the timing of the survey compared with the 2023 sporting competition schedule, or is the football fanbase on the rise? Looking at the broadcasters favoured by our surveyed pubs this year, terrestrial TV extends its lead as the top provider, with 63 per cent of pubs using the service – this is undoubtedly the effect again of the Women’s World Cup, with all matches available through free-to-air channels.
What is the most popular sports competition you show?
What broadcasters do you use? 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
European club Rugby Club cup football 4% World Cup 2% football 8%
1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0
International Football 12%
30 20 10
Football Premier League 37%
n Sky azo NT Am rt / T po S BT
Rugby 6 Nations 24%
Game-changer by MARK LUDMON
For 10 years, Paul Eastwood ran The Famous Three Kings in London’s Fulham – five-time winner of Best Sports Pub in the Great British Pub Awards. But in May, he became general manager of another Stonegate Group venue – Clubhouse 5, a new state-of-the-art sports pub in a former Slug and Lettuce off London’s Leicester Square.
The sports pub has been moving on, accelerated by Covid. A lot of people don’t want the rowdy, standing environment with beer spilled all over them 36
Spread across two floors, it has a multitude of 4K UHD screens showing every kind of sport from football and rugby to netball and skiing. “People are coming here to get something they can’t get at home, and the coverage we have here with the screens and the sound is absolutely fantastic,” Paul says. “The sports pub has been moving on over the past few years, accelerated by what happened during Covid. A lot of people don’t want the rowdy, standing environment with drink spilled over them.” Thanks to zoning controlled via a tablet, screens can switch between different programmes on channels such as Sky Sports, BT Sport and Viaplay Sport. Sky Q technology provides past games on demand while Sky Sports Recap offers highlights alongside live action. A viewing area with a bank of eight screens can show one giant image or eight separate ones so customers could simultaneously watch a race in Formula 1 alongside cockpit cams. The line-up ranges from Champions League and the Rugby World Cup to London NFL, boxing, snooker, horse racing, darts, swimming, athletics and All-In Wrestling. “We want to show as many different sports as possible,” Paul says. “If someone asks if we show a sport, we will do what we can to do
it.” Games have been boosted by activities with beer partners such as Jubel, Asahi and Heineken, plus the perambulating Sax Man playing saxophone to a backing track. Paul uses temporary event notices (TENs) to capitalise on fixtures such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup final which kicked off at 11am UK time. “We got a TEN for every single women’s game, which nobody else in the area did,” Paul says. “For
Clubhouse 5’s eight-screen viewing area allows punters to watch the action in comfort
the final, other pubs were open but serving only coffee and soft drinks.” For the Australian Football League grand final, it opened from 4am, while TENs will be needed for the Cricket World Cup final in November and Super Bowl in February. The interiors, created by Pembroke Design, aim to replicate a stadium feel, such as brickwork and locker room-style wooden panelling, along with a mix of low and high seating, all pre-bookable. The beer list on the wall is based on a traditional wooden cricket scoring board ,while the venue is dotted with retro sports paraphernalia from balls to boxing gloves. “We’re trying to keep things modern but with some nostalgic touches,” Paul explains. Kit tops on display feature number-five players such as baseball player Joe DiMaggio and Jude Bellingham from Real Madrid.
Finger food in the fanzone
Paul has put a lot of work into attracting fan groups, inviting them to the venue and organising special events. The first was Manchester City but others have followed including the Barmy Army of English cricket fans. “We want it to be a hub for sports fans. Because it’s so central, we get loads of people coming here before and after going to games.” To avoid missing a moment of a game, customers can order via a phone app that does not require registration – it can be accessed through a QR code or tapping a near-field communication spot on each table. Food is designed to appeal to all five tastes from sweet to umami, chiefly comprising beef and chicken burgers, wings and
“Messi” fries, with Angus & Oink sauces. Plant-based Tindle is used for vegan alternatives. As the food can be messy, branded bibs and finger wipes are available. Drinks include Black Lines cocktails on tap such as a Negroni and Espresso Martini. A premium food menu is part of Clubhouse 5’s efforts to attract people outside of sporting events. As well as live music, it is used for meetings and by people on laptops during the day, with points for power and linking to screens. “We want to be a good pub first and to be excellent at sport on top of that,” Paul adds.
Sporting chances 5 things you can do to stay ahead of the game
Offer table service with online ordering. People don’t want to leave their seat during the match.
Plan ahead to apply for TENs for games broadcast outside of normal opening times
Connect with supporters and other groups of sports fans in your area.
Offer pre-bookings of tables with a good view of the screen.
Dont’ forget women’s sport. Tap into the #HerGameToo campaign.
GREATT BRITISH STA GREA STAYS Stay in a Pub is carefully curated collection of boutique pubs, traditional coaching inns and affordable pub accommodation across the UK. Here you'll find real places, real people, real stays - Great British Stays. As a member of Stay in a Pub, we will promote your pub to a wider audience on a Book Direct basis avoiding costly commission.
Join our community of 1500 pubs with rooms. We work with you, and for you, to fill your accommodation, all year round. Find out more and get your pub listed by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
No rooms at the inn? Well according to the results of Inapub’s Indies’ Choice survey of 2023, that might well be the case. We have a look at the data and get some input from Michael Collins and Michael Parkin – a couple of licensees who know a thing or two about accommodation in the hospitality industry.…
Michael Parkin Owner, The County Restaurant with Rooms Location: Aycliffe, Durham Number of rooms: 16 Price per night: £75 - £150
Meanwhile, hotel rates in the UK are rising all the time. And whilst this is a pain in the purse for those seeking a break away from the grind of running a business, it does offer opportunities for publicans with unused rooms or outbuildings. We asked a bunch of licensees (we’re not sure what the collective noun for this is; a bar?) whether they had rooms that they used for overnight accommodation for guests. Over 80 per cent said that they hadn’t – so are they missing a trick? The most common operation for those that
do offer accommodation appears to be pubs offering just a few rooms. In fact, 37 per cent of pubs that offer overnight stays have three rooms or fewer, and half as many again have four or five. Nearly 40 per cent make a more significant proportion of their income from accommodation, offering between five and 10 rooms to let. A smaller segment, around 12 per cent, see rental as the predominant part of their business, having 21 or more rooms. Our survey pointed to a decent income being made from letting rooms, with income averaging around 28 per cent of overall takings. It also showed a steady and encouraging market, with 78 per cent reporting takings to be around the same as for the previous 12 months, and 14 per cent seeing an increase. Only eight per cent said they’d experienced a downturn. So how have our two Michaels fared over the past 12 months? Michael Collins: “If anything, our bookings have increased, and we run at nearly full occupancy most days. It has been a good year for our accommodation.” Michael Parkin: “Bookings have gone
Michael Collins General Manager, Mill on the Ex Location: Exeter, Devon
Do you have rooms you use as overnight accommodation for guests?
Number of rooms: 11
Price per night: £120 - £195
Results from the Inapub Indies’ Choice survey 2023
through the roof, so we’ve recently increased our capacity from seven rooms to 16.” As with many businesses, the secret to success can often be down to driving business in the quieter periods. Agree, gents? MC: “We have a centralised reservations team who are based at St Austell Brewery. They do a great job at driving sales, creating promotions and supporting us.” MP: “We use quieter times for prep and keeping on top of things. Once you hit that slippery slope of getting behind on maintenance then it’s hard to get back up.” For independent operators, self-promotion is key and online visibility essential. There are a variety of ways to do this, with most of those surveyed opting for a three-pronged approach of having their own website, using social media, and signing up to online travel agency sites such as Booking.com, Trivago et al. Both the social media and website approach were more popular than the Booking.com method. Clearly operators are getting fed up with paying commission and would rather put more effort into direct sales.
To summarise; the accommodation business within hospitality appears to be steady and can be a vital income stream those able to offer a bed for the night. There doesn’t seem to be any reason this will alter over the next 12 months, at least according to the Michaels… MC: “With high standards, a great offering and, following the pattern of the last few years, I can only see great things happening next year.” MP: “I guess it depends on location. I can see our trade picking up massively because of investment in the local infrastructure and industry. There’s a vast array of factors that need to be considered.” Finally, any top tips for those considering branching out into accommodation? MC: “Consistently fantastic standards, always that warm welcome from a friendly host, and going above and beyond for your guests.” MP: “If you’re going to do something, do it properly. Don’t scrimp, go in at a high standard and give people what you’d expect in return.” Right, where’s that suitcase?
THE COMPLETE PARKING SOLUTION
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Elton Mouna rounds up some more quirky tricks you could try
Would a superpremium, very rare spirit sold at an extremely high price work for you? It would certainly make a wonderful talking point
Allegiant Air is an American airline with a no frills super-low fares business model. Fares are sometimes as low as £30 a flight. But they have recently moved away from their no-frills approach, adding a little optional luxury in the form of Johnnie Walker Blue Label at £25 a shot. And, dear Inapub reader, these polar opposite bedfellows of cheap and cheerful and pricey luxury are actually working. Why is this? It seems that affluent customers appreciate deals on everyday items like a cheap flight ticket or a Lidl middle aisle bargain, but are also willing to splash out on their favourite indulgences, be that a bottle of extra virgin olive oil or, in this case, the indulgence of a premium whisky shot. This phenomenon has a name –it is called “split-brain spending”, and it could work for your pub. Would a super-premium very rare spirit sold at an extremely high price work for you? It would certainly make a wonderful talking point but would celebratory groups be tempted? The splitbrain spending theory says they could well be tempted. Worth thinking about.
planning to spend less time in pubs and restaurants this year as a result of the current financial squeeze. I say this not to bring an air of doom and gloom, but to simply point out the obvious, that you will have to work harder than ever to make sure customers choose you over your competitors. Another finding from the KAM research that piqued my interest was that 46 per cent of customers want to speak directly to the venue they are planning to book and 32 per cent want a same-day response to an online enquiry. Sometimes we can put huge effort in to marketing our Christmas bookings, but if we’re not on the ball when it comes to customer service we can lose the opportunity. What system does your pub have to make sure leads convert to bookings? t
Christmas Day 2023
Christmas Day 2023 falls on a Monday, potentially exposing your pub to a bumper four-day Christmas. What a terrific opportunity, but you won’t need me or respected sector researchers KAM to tell you a high percentage (34 per cent) of consumers are
The pub with a pet gorilla
I deliberately used a quirky headline and a quirky image of a gorilla to draw your attention to an article about guerrilla marketing, and it seems to have worked! Put simply, guerrilla marketing involves creating unique, unexpected, memorable activities that generate a buzz, highlighting your pub to as many people as possible. For an absolutely brilliant example of guerrilla marketing check out the “Campaign For Real Gravy” on YouTube. Here are some other ideas: •V isit local offices with empty wine glasses and beer tankards each with a tag around the stem or handle offering a free fill up at your pub. •S et up mini beer tasting booths at local events or in a local shop offering samples of your pub’s signature beers. •O rganise a silent disco pub crawl where participants wear headphones and dance through the streets, ending up at your pub.
Here at Now There’s An Idea! we love a quirky sign. Ballie Ballerson is a brilliant cocktail bar with huge ball pits customers dive into as if they were kids again. Don’t you just love their highly Instagrammable message?
! N I W
a bottle of VELVETISED Chocolate Cream Liqueur
What is this yummy elixir sent from the gods? Well, it’s a blend of ethical cacao, vodka and cream and comes in three variants; original, salted caramel and espresso martini. When my sample bottles arrived at Inapub HQ they made me go all heart-fluttery and weak at the knees, and that is before I started sipping. After sipping it felt like the first time I ever fell in love. How can you win a bottle? Write to me before Friday 27th October 2023 with a pub-related idea on any subject that can be included in forthcoming editions of Now There’s An Idea. The best three will receive a bottle of Original, Salted Caramel or Espresso Martini VELVETISED Chocolate Cream Liqueur. Nice. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Usual competitionT&Cs apply
Artwork created by Feature Design, the pub menu and poster specialists www.featuredesign.co.uk. 01227 743730
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‘Cask Marque’ is an independent scheme that assesses the beer quality in pubs to ensure standards are driven and maintained. Qualified assessors visit pubs to test the beers temperature, appearance, aroma and taste. pubs have increased sales since 88% ofgaining the accreditation accredited outlets said they would 98% ofrecommend the scheme to other licensees Benefits include: n Featured on the CaskFinder app - used 60,000 times a month to find Cask Marque pubs n A Cask Marque plaque – recognised by 77% of beer drinkers as a badge of quality n Point of Sale material – to help promote this achievement to customers n Random inspections – helping pubs to consistently serve quality beer n Access to cellar management training n Regular newsletters Sign Up today by visiting cask-marque.co.uk or calling 01206 752212
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time at the bar
RICHARD MOLLOY Remember those ‘No WiFi – Talk To Each Other’ signs? Didn’t last long, did they? Oh, there might be a few dotted here and there as the most stoic traditionalists cling to the golden era of Ceefax and being stood up outside Our Price. But, for the rest of us, we have embraced, willingly or otherwise, wireless connectivity as a working necessity; our internet-riddled phones becoming vital to our operations and replacing swathes of tools previously required to run our businesses. We all know what they can do and how versatile they are – I often harp back to an argument between my recently postpubescent self and my loathsomely smug maths teacher: “Why can’t we use our calculators, sir?” “Because, Molloy, you won’t be carrying a calculator with you everywhere you go, will you?” Yeah? Well screw you, Mr Dobbs. You get my drift. Unfortunately, with great Swiss Army devices comes great responsibility. And more than a little anxiety when it comes to the constant self-promotion through ever-evolving social media platforms required to remain relevant in the realms of pseudo-reality. Having the ability to constantly connect with customers should be a plus; a free tool to creatively profile your best bits and lure punters away from your rivals and over your threshold. It is, but so it is for all, and it’s easy to feel the need to compete with those who seemingly do it best. But do they? It’s easy to fall for the filtered fun and frolics of Facebook Stories or get wound up by wham-bam-Instagram reels. Especially after you’ve just spent 40 minutes telling your Pages app to sod off because it won’t let you edit the date and time for the Charity Pig Racing and Sausage Eating Competition (which now apparently starts at 9am yesterday). But if we’ve learned one thing from social media it’s
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from social media it’s that the camera often lies. that the camera This altered image of reality can work both ways. Over-promoting your boozer with every often lies. The single thing you do (oooh, you sell chips do you?) can leave you in danger of not only altered image annoying your less prolific rivals, but also pissing off potential punters by filling their of reality can phones with fluff. Poor-quality posts can also be pointless – I work both ways often read badly worded adverts that seem Richard Molloy is director of fourstrong pubco White Rose Taverns
and the microbrewery Platform Five
slipshod or even desperate, or cringe at videos of live bands hastily posted in an attempt to convey the quality of entertainment on show, that merely make a perfectly reasonable outfit sound like a tinnitus tribute act. And I can’t help but feel that, ultimately, it’s only a snapshot of a pub that is formed by its online mutterings and peacocking; that, at the end of the day, a general feel is derived for a business in a not-too-dissimilar way that it always has been. Yes, advertising online can definitely promote events and get faces into your forum at first, but it’s the quality of the fun and the fare that will bring them back. In short; profit lies in product over packaging. Those of us who feel like we’re at the back of the class envying the Millennials as they seemingly seamlessly feed their feeds with digital dexterity should maybe give ourselves a break, have a rest from the keyboard, put the phone away and talk to people.
Summer is served with the UK’s most loved fruit cider brand now available on draught 1
With more customers than any beer or cider brand, Kopparberg is a must stock 2
To check out our new digital font and get access to all the tools and support you need to drive sales in your venue, head over to Behind The Bar, our brand new FREE trade website.
Sources: 1. Savanta, BrandVue’s Most Loved Drinks Brands 2023 Report, Jul ‘22 - June ‘23, n=96,000. 2. Kantar Purchase Panel, Total Market, Total Beer, Lager & Cider, Customer numbers 52 w/e 15th May 2022.
LAST ORDERS In the hot seat this week is Tom Stainer, the head honcho of beery consumer group CAMRA, who took the helm at the organisation in 2018. We learn that Tom is partial to plate of homemade nasi goreng and an after work walk, finds raccoons absolutely hilarious, and is a loyal subscriber to Popbitch – just don’t let him near your fuseboard…
Last pub you visited? Pomfret Arms, Northampton.
Last beer you ordered? Tiffield Thunderbolt (Great Oakley Brewery).
Last song you downloaded? I’m all about streaming, so don’t really download! Last song listened to... Radiohead’s Everything In its Right Place.
Last person you called? Not work related – my mum!
Last thing you ate? An improvised nasi goreng with a poached egg on top.
Last film you watched? Arrival.
Last text you sent? Telling my wife I’d love to go for a walk after work.
Last time you laughed out loud? Someone forwarded me the “just act natural raccoons” video.
Last book you read? Iain M Banks, Player of Games.
Last thing you bought? Duke of Edinburgh rations for my son’s forthcoming expedition.
Last holiday you went on? Snowdonia, Wales.
Last meeting you had? Senior staff team catch-up.
Last exercise you did? 40-minute walk to son’s school to drop off his forgotten PE kit.
Last thing you cooked? That fridge lottery nasi goreng!
Last thing you learnt? My DIY skills don’t extend to replacing a ceiling light – and that a proper electrician luckily lives down the road.
Last band you saw live? Urban Soul Orchestra doing Classic Ibiza.
Last piece of advice you gave? Just worry about the stuff you can change.
Last joke you heard? We have a pet bird of prey, which only becomes active at night and listens to 80s electronica. Our kestrel manoeuvres in the dark (thanks to Popbitch).
Last website you visited? BBC News.
Last thing you did before going to bed? Put out the milk bottles.
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Pic: Geoff Sutcliffe
POSTCARD from the pub frontline
by BEN THRUSH NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017
A cracking time was had by all at The Shuckburgh Arms in Southwick, Northamptonshire, as the pub hosted the 2023 World Conker Championships. Still intact at the end of the women’s final was this year’s champion, serial winner Jasmine Tetley. She went on to smash Marc Hunter, king of the swingers in the men’s event, in a final showdown, as well as captaining triumphant team We Came, We Saw, Jasmine Conkered. The tournament, held in the grounds of “The Shuck”, dates back to 1965 and over the years has raised £420,000 for charity. The pub has recently been taken on by Neil and Hilly
Horton, who are preparing the 17th-century stone building for a relaunch later this year. Neil told Inapub the team of volunteers who run the championships start planning as soon as the previous year’s tournament finishes. “This year the real graft started at the pub on the prior Wednesday,” he said. “On the day itself it’s all hands to the pump from dawn until dusk, with the tidy-away ending late Monday afternoon. This year, the clear- away ended with a team pint in the sunshine on the newly refurbished garden terrace. “This really is a lovely family event, historic, fun and with over 2,000 lovely people enjoying a great day out.”
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A lot has changed over the last couple of years, has your pub website? Contact us today for a free preview website, no strings attached.
0800 160 1986 Option 2 websites.inapub.co.uk email@example.com
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