Pub Website of the Year

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This award, sponsored by barbox, aims at recognising the pub that has shown the most imagination in exploiting the marketing opportunities of the...

This award, sponsored by barbox, aims at recognising the pub that has shown the most imagination in exploiting the marketing opportunities of the internet during the past year. Judges are looking for quality of the web design, useful information and whether new trade has been developed Baja Beach Club ­ Gateshead, Tyne & Wear When you are running one of the most successful nightspots in the area, what else can you do to promote your business? That was the dilemma facing Scottish & Newcastle Retail pub manager Steve Bleur, who runs the Baja Beach Club on the Quayside at Gateshead. His answer was to set up a website that would highlight what potential customers were missing if they didn't visit the club. That was two years ago and during that time the site (www.bajabeachclub.co.uk) has proved an enormous success, especially the web cameras showing live pictures of guests enjoying themselves. Steve explains: "The website has played a huge part in our success and the 16 web cameras allow our evening entertainment to be watched live by customers. And on Fridays, we host our own live radio show, so guests can listen on air at the same time. We also actively take digital pictures of our guests three nights a week so they can remind themselves the next day on the website what a good time they had." The site took just one month to get up and running and the biggest expense was the 16 web cameras and computers, which cost £3,500. It involved a lot of hard work positioning them around the club, although the installation was carried out free of charge by staff, a DJ and one of the customers. A lot of time was spent making sure the site came out high in any online search engines. Web address cards were given to customers and the site was promoted on the live radio shows. The success has been evident in many ways, including the fact it has helped to attract record numbers and increase takings by an extra £5,000 for the Friday live radio shows. Steve says: "The site is renowned for its superb collection of photographs of our guests enjoying themselves during the nightly fun sessions. It highlights to others just how good the atmosphere is at Baja's." A classic example was the recent New Year celebrations, with the site helping to sell 2,000 tickets for the big night. Steve ensures the site is used to the full, advertising, for example, the club as a venue for office parties and fund-raising events. He adds: "Our site gives details of every operation in our club and is a key link for our customers and guests to communicate with us and express their views. "Once customers have enjoyed a night at Baja, they can go home and see their pictures on the website, which they can then download and e-mail on to family and friends. It's all business building. "Even when guests are unable to make it to Baja's, they can log on to our website and watch our 16 web cams around the club and, on Fridays, enjoy the bonus of live radio. "Our website has just as much impact as coming into our club and gives a new dimension to our special venue. But we are still determined to make the site even better. "We are putting together a new site that will go on line in early March and will be even bigger than the present site." Hollybush Inn ­ Salt, Staffordshire The internet has become a part of our everyday lives these days, and ensuring you have an effective website is of paramount importance if you are to boost your business. That is why Geoff Holland, licensee of the Hollybush Inn, at Salt near Stafford, took lots of professional advice before setting up his website (www.hollybushinn.co.uk). His objective was to attract new customers through search engine enquiries and offer easily-accessible information on the pub, its history, menu, food awards and special events. Geoff felt the site would also be an ideal vehicle for advertising his unique loyalty card scheme with the added facility of interested customers being able to join on-line. Before setting up the site, he carried out considerable research, not only about the Hollybush Inn, but also about the village of Salt, tracing its history, collecting old photos and chatting to local historians and residents about their memories. Geoff was determined the site would focus just as much on the village as the pub. He also checked search engines to find out how other pubs and restaurants were ranked and noted any information that would help ensure his site attracted plenty of hits. The site took six weeks to design and set up and was officially launched in May last year. Geoff explains: "The investment is ongoing as we constantly change and upgrade aspects of the site, but the initial cost, not including time spent by myself and staff, was only £600, which was paid to the website designer. "We placed information posters in the pub to inform customers of the site address and started e-mailing existing and potential new customers with details of our special events and menus, using the pub logo." He adds: "We've been able to keep abreast of the number of hits received, but the best measure of success has been the diversity of people who have responded, having visited the site. These have included e-mails from a former resident of the village now living in America and application forms for the loyalty cards from Pakistan and the Shetland Islands. "The website has greatly improved the image of my business and has given me the opportunity to compete with the multi-nationals. A prospective tourist is just as likely to discover my details on the web as of a conglomerate that spends a fortune on PR and marketing." Geoff intends to further develop the site. "We wish to publish a bulletin board that will allow customers or past residents of the village the chance to remain in contact with each other. There will be a page dedicated to events in Salt and the surrounding villages and it will take the form of an electronic newspaper, which we intend to call the Bush Telegraph." He also plans to sell the pub's marketing items direct from the site ­ including own-labelled bottles of wine. The Hollybush has just experienced one of its busiest festive periods ever and Geoff would like to think his site helped generate the extra trade. "We had the choice of using snail mail (the Post Office) or our website to offer our Christmas facilities to local firms, and it appears using our website proved the most effective. We had numerous companies book for Christmas lunches and parties, many of whom were new customers. "The site not only promotes the pub but offers information about the locality. It is linked to the Staffordshire website and promotes local attractions, including Alton Towers. There is no finer accolade for the site than when a group of visitors arrive at the pub clutching downloaded route directions from our website," he comments.

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