Pubs take on the in crowd

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Flavoured alcoholic beverage, Alcoholic beverage

Reports have suggested that consumers are turning their backs on pubs. By Jackie AnnettStaying in is the new going out - well, that's if the media...

Reports have suggested that consumers are turning their backs on pubs. By Jackie Annett​Staying in is the new going out - well, that's if the media hype over the last few weeks is anything to go by. Consumers are turning down good conversation and a pint at their local for the comfort of their sofas, a take-away pizza and a game of interactive Who Wants to be a Millionaire?But rather than abstain from the drink completely, they're pouring themselves a glass of wine or sipping on a flavoured alcoholic beverage which they've bought from the supermarket or local off-licence.So what does all this mean for the pub industry? No-one could blame licensees for being concerned, especially after the events of the last year which have cost many publicans their livelihood and eaten into many others' profits. But the good news is that it's not all as bad as the papers are making out.The Publican Newspaper/Britvic Soft Drinks Pub-goers Survey was the first to prove what everybody suspected when in November 2001 it showed that there was a move towards home consumption of alcohol back. Nearly half of those surveyed (46 per cent) said they drank at home, compared to 41 per cent who drank alcohol in a pub, bar or club. What worried the industry most was that 32 per cent of people said they were going to the pub less, compared to just 18 per cent who said they were visiting the pub more.Now another survey, conducted by NOP on behalf of Mintel, has confirmed that this is the case - people are indeed going to the pub less. But operators in the late-night bar and club sector, including Chorion and Luminar Leisure, disagree. They have reported better results than ever. Like-for-like sales at Luminar's Jumpin Jaks, Chicago Rock Café and Luminar Dancing Division rose by 8.8 per cent in the first 26 weeks of last year.Chorion, which owns London's Red Cube, Sugar Reef and the Tiger Tiger brand, has also reported a rise in like-for-like sales of 4.4 per cent over the Christmas period. Robert Cohen, managing director for Chorion bars, said that although times were changing he didn't believe people were going out less. "People's ideas of going out have changed," Mr Cohen said. "They are more educated about the different drinks that are available and where they can go. At the end of the day there is more choice and this applies whether people are going out or staying in."We expect business to continue to thrive and the results of this survey don't worry us. We aren't aware of any slowing down in the market."The pub trade is also confident it can fight back. JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told thePublican.com that people would always want to go out and enjoy themselves, even if there was a recession. This is reflected in the fact that Six Continents Retail has done extremely well with its Ember Inns brand and Inventive Leisure's vodka bar concept Revolution has gone down a storm. But even where companies denied times were bad, all spoke of a shift in alcohol consumption patterns led by younger adults. People are drinking less beer, preferring to reach for a fashionable flavoured mixed drink. Wine drinking, however, remains relatively popular across all age groups.One thing worth bearing in mind is that pubs can take advantage of the arrival of the internet, text-messaging and interactive TV. Some have already jumped on the marketing bandwagon by signing up for email or text services which inform their customers of any special offers or promotions. Pubs that provide food are also increasing their chances of survival. The eating-out market has done extremely well over the last 10 years and pubs seem to be benefiting from this. Expenditure on pub food alone has risen from £3.02bn in 1991 to £5.33bn in 2001. Despite all the doom and gloom in the papers and on television over the last week or so, the Mintel/NOP survey insists that pub visiting remains a primary leisure activity for many adults, even though some people are going out less.It's worth remembering that people still spend three-and-a-half times more money on drinking outside the home, than they do on a night in. And let's face it, drinking a beer while watching a DVD or playing interactive Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is never going to fully replace good conversation and a pint in the local, or a trip into town with friends!Frequency of visit

More

Less

Difference

Foreign travel

31%

17%

+14

Restaurant

32%

20%

+12

Home ents

22%

20%

+2

Take-away

26%

25%

+1

Coffee-shop

22%

24%

-2

Pub

18%

32%

-14

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