Late night drinking: Tailor your experience

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Publicans must be clever to make the most of flexible hours.Taking full advantage of flexible licensing after November 24 will involve licensees...

Publicans must be clever to make the most of flexible hours.

Taking full advantage of flexible licensing after November 24 will involve licensees having a clear idea of what kind of customers are likely to want to stay later at the pub, and what kind of experience they are looking for.

Mintel's report has some interesting insights into pub-goers and how they are likely to behave in the new licensed environment.

Most of those surveyed had drunk alcohol in a pub or bar in the previous three months but the period didn't include Christmas, so you can add in a lot of occasional drinkers.

A higher proportion of those who had a drink outside the home were men but, significantly, women were not too far behind.

Public drinkers were weighted towards the younger end of the spectrum but the largest numbers do not come from the 18 to 24s but from the 25 to 44s - more of a pub than a club or late-night bar audience.

In fact, what Mintel describes as its "most intriguing finding" is that 18 per cent of 18 to 24s claim not to drink, a higher figure for any age group outside the over-65s.

Among people with families, 69 per cent had been able to sneak out for a drink and while retired people were rather less likely to venture out, the group the report calls "third age" - those between having a young family and retirement - are also a promising target market for pubs.

For most pubs, exploiting late licensing will not mean targeting the younger customer with a pure drinking occasion. The likeliest people to stay an extra hour or two will come from older age groups and they will probably want to do more than drink.

Income (social class) is another powerful factor. This is reflected in the 76 per cent of ABs who had been out for a drink compared to 42 per cent of Es and the higher figure for the South of England. And you can add the 79 per cent of "broadsheet" readers and the 80 per cent of Waitrose shoppers who had drunk outside the home.

Predictably, social drinkers watched television less - but 78 per cent of internet users had managed to prise themselves away from the screen to go out for a drink, perhaps an argument for pubs to make better use of the web when marketing themselves.

While 39 per cent of social drinkers chose a restaurant in the three months - not far behind the 52 per cent who went to a pub or bar - a mere six per cent said they only drank with a meal.

"A proportion which would undoubtedly be much higher in many other countries," as the report points out.

Open to suggestion

Its conclusion that "a large number of British drinkers are open to suggestion in terms of when and how much they choose to drink" is a particularly important insight for licensees deciding how to play flexible licensing.

The survey also confirms the strong position of the pub in British social repertoires. People who drink in restaurants, clubs and hotels will also drink in pubs. "This means," says Mintel, "that pub and bar drinkers can possibly be lured from other venues" - all the more so, presumably, under the new licensing regime, especially if a pub can offer the right mix of activities and products.

This could mean higher alcohol sales - if, as the report suggests, you tailor your drinks offer to these occasions, encouraging customers to buy more than "the usual".

Drinking habits

In the previous three months...

  • 66% had drunk outside of home
  • 52% had drunk in a pub
  • 39% had drunk in a restaurant
  • 15% had drunk in a nightclub.

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