Pubs should take advantage of customer occasions, says Peter Segal of srcg, a consultancy specialising in retail strategy, category development and training.
First of all, I think we need to be clear what we mean by making the most of occasions. To my mind this is about breaking the on-trade week into parts and being clear on how customers' needs are met in each. A pub is likely to accommodate more than one occasion and often will be considering multiple occasions in any given week. Take the Dog & Duck for example.
A typical week pans out something like this:
- Monday: Quiet drink (football)
- Tuesday: Quiet drink
- Wednesday: Quiet drink (football)
- Thursday: Quiet drink
- Friday: Social get together
- Saturday: Social get together
- Sunday: Lunchtime eating
The first thing that strikes me is the number of days where the key occasion is a quiet drink. Can we really influence this occasion? Well yes. You can get current customers to spend more or you can get more quiet drinkers in.
To get people to spend more the focus is likely to be around quality, whether it be the drinks, the service, the food or even the snacks. I would argue that quiet drinkers would be prepared to pay a little more if you were to demonstrate better quality to them.
Encouraging more quiet drinkers into the pub could come through quality but it is more likely to be through TV screens and quiz nights to name two. Things that are more tangible and meet a specific need.
As the weekend approaches, new occasions present themselves and the opportunity for new custom increases. On Friday and Saturday the Dog & Duck attracts groups of people who are keen to have a good time. More of a social get together than a big night out but definitely an opportunity to increase sales.
This occasion is less about quality and more about the atmosphere and the range of products offered. The Dog & Duck would be advised to get the music right and to ensure the barstaff are upbeat and actively selling. In terms of product, the chiller must be fully stocked with the key lines in the most visible spot as many males are drinking bottled lagers and females premium packaged spirits. It may be worth considering a special price on pitchers of beer for the larger male groups.
The food offering is also going to be different from the rest of the week with snack meals such as burgers and chips more likely to be the order of the day. This is something the barstaff could be selling and perhaps even incentivised to do so.
The third occasion in the Dog & Duck is Sunday lunchtime. This occasion is dominated by food so clearly getting the food offer and all the accompaniments right is key. Having a menu that includes something for kids (in my experience chicken dinosaurs are a winner!) can be a stand out factor as can an out door area for them to play. The latter point is very weather sensitive but given the right circumstances the garden and garden facilities provides many opportunities for increasing weekly sales.
What falls out of all this? The key message for me is that the sales drivers all have a part to play in each occasion, it is more about the degree of emphasis you place on them, ie.
Social get together
Range of drinks
It is important that suppliers are familiar with the different occasions in any given outlet and support the outlet with relevant products, promotions and merchandising material. While it is not possible to fundamentally change the way the pub looks it is possible to give customers some clear messages as to the offer and its suitability for the given occasion.
Finally a word of caution. While meeting customer needs across a number of occasions can be fruitful it can also lead to pubs trying to be all things to all men and actually not making the most of any occasion. Therefore it is important to prioritise the occasions, choose the occasion you wish to be known for and then really make the most of it.
Case study: JD Wetherspoon
JD Wetherspoon recently secured a licence to serve alcohol from 10am onwards. Not surprisingly, it was the fact that it could sell beer, wine and spirits that hit the headlines but permission to sell alcohol in the morning was not the sole factor behind its decision.
Two years ago, the company recognised that pubs were losing out to the burgeoning coffee bar and café sector before midday. While licensees were running a vacuum cleaner round the pub and stocking up from the night before, the likes of Starbucks, Café Nero and Pret à Manger were doing a roaring trade selling good quality coffee and pastries to people on the way to work.
Having identified an untapped occasion, Wetherspoon invested millions of pounds in state-of-the-art coffee machines and even brought in Egon Ronay to improve the state of the Wetherspoon coffee offering. Although the short-term return on investment was nominal, within 10 months coffee sales had tripled and customers could get a hot drink for half the price of the coffee chains next door.
srcg is a consultancy specialising in retail strategy, catgory development and training. srcg facilitates collaborative working between retailers and manufacturers in the On-trade, Multiple Grocery and Convenience. Tel: 020 8948 4048 or visit www.srcg.com