Why do licensees need to focus on occasions?
The days when the pub was the natural leisure choice are long gone. Whether it's coffee bars in the morning, shops and sandwiches at lunchtime or cinemas, restaurants and even the living room sofa in the evening, the fight for the so-called 'leisure pound' has never been fiercer. Pubs can ill afford to cater solely for one occasion as the pub-goer now has an assortment of different needs which, if not met by their local, can be fulfilled elsewhere.
What is an occasion?
In the past, pubs have traditionally been very good at catering for annual occasions such as St Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve as well as one-off events like the Jubilee or big sporting events.
However, it is the 'occasions' that crop-up on a daily basis that licensees need to increasingly focus on. Although by no means set in stone, Category Development devotees have identified five distinct occasions around which licensees can shape their offering:
- Big night out: A celebration which is pre-planned by the customer, usually on a Friday or Saturday night. The pub visit is an important part of an up-tempo and high energy evening that may culminate in a nightclub or party.
Sociable get together: Regarded as the biggest on-trade occasion. Less hedonistic than a big night out but still upbeat - usually driven by young drinkers in modern outlets during both the week and weekend.
Meeting friends: Not hugely dissimilar to the sociable get together, but takes place more often in more traditional and community style pubs.
Quiet drink: Less consumption but more often. Usually regulars and spouses popping in to traditional and community pubs for a swift half.
Eating out: When food is the principal reason for people visiting the pub. Food-led pubs usually attracting families and older customer.
How do I cater for these occasions?
Not every occasion will be relevant to every outlet and it would be an error to dilute your strengths by targeting an occasion that doesn't sit comfortably with your pub. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't become what is referred to in the trade as a chameleon venue. In other words, a pub that caters for a broad customer base and maximises as many opportunities as possible throughout the day.
Having identified the occasions that are to be targeted, take the opportunity to speak to the customers during the particular occasion to find out what brands they like and when they like them.
Also, sit down with suppliers to see whether they can offer new brands, new formats or new ideas to help you cater for your customer more effectively. For example, a number of brewers have recently introduced wine-style bottles of beer to cater for the so-called 'eating out' occasion while wine companies are going in the other direction and introducing single serve bottles in an attempt to target those on a big night out.