Project update 7: Could do better?

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Two-thirds of the way into the project, Barcena is showing some great results.The bar in Burgess Hill, West Sussex - representing the high street in...

Two-thirds of the way into the project, Barcena is showing some great results.

The bar in Burgess Hill, West Sussex - representing the high street in our Sell More, Save More project - has managed to hang on to many of the new customers pulled in by its relaunch night back in June.

Sales at the bar, led by licensee Richard Podesta, are now consistently higher than they were earlier in the year - running an average 30 per cent up on what they were before the relaunch. And that's despite the introduction of the smoking ban and the terrible weather that has besieged the industry this summer.

Eight months into life as a licensee, Richard is upbeat - although wisely, he's not celebrating just yet.

"I always worry that our sales increases have been a bit of a fluke!" he says. "We will need to see these sales consistently over the course of a year before we can start congratulating ourselves."

One of the factors in the bar's recent success has been an improvement in beer quality, and a rationalisation of its beer range, highlighted by the Brulines data (see box below).

Spirits have also performed strongly, with Richard putting advice from Diageo - such as switching from house spirits to brands and simplifying the cocktail menu - firmly into practice.

The spirits category is often responsible for as much as 35 per cent of the turnover in the bar. "One of the differences is that we now offer a double-up for £1 more," says Richard. "We have done a lot of work on getting the price right."

Another reason is the success of the summer menu, developed with the help of our food champion Brakes, which has increased food sales, particularly on a Monday night - taking average monthly covers up from around 1,000 to 1,300.

Sales early in the week continue to account for a tiny fraction of turnover - but that proportion is growing.

Our entertainment champion Mediatheme will be working closely with Richard to bring customers in throughout the week. Among other uses, Mediatheme's Entertainer system is currently showcasing the different promotions on offer today by day.

Banking it

Our business development expert Carl May has warned Richard that the challenge now is to push the increased turnover through to the business's bottom line.

Carl says it is imperative for Barcena - and all pubs - to look closely at the areas that can pull down their overall gross profit, including:


stock control

selling price.

"For the relaunch a totally new structure was introduced, which saw key prices tumble - this has increased turnover through offering a better-value product," says Carl.

"With tighter stock control and monthly audits the overall wet percentage has increased and is now showing results well above average."But performance will only be maintained if stock control is kept under scrutiny, he counsels. "Wastage can be a key issue as well as staff training," continues Carl.

"If you have an EPoS till system, use it to its full potential and let it pinpoint any areas that can pull down your profitability.

"Don't bury your head in the sand and think that deficits will sort themselves out; a total team awareness is paramount to success."


Brulines' figures on Barcena tell a great story about one of the contributing factors to the pub's rise in sales.

"For a number of reasons we are getting an increased footfall, and they are drinking the beer as a result!" comments Richard.

Over six weeks to mid-August, the Brulines figures show the volume of draught beer dispensed was up 37 per cent on the previous six weeks - a tremendous result, particularly in a category which has not shown a strong performance this year.

"The data also underlined how one brand was particularly low, so Richard has stopped selling it to concentrate on his higher volume brands," comments Brulines brand quality monitoring account manager Peter Cockerill.

"This ensures the throughput of beer is sufficient to maintain top quality for all his draught beer."

The Brulines data has also clearly illustrated that Richard is now cleaning his lines regularly, and this is clearly having a direct impact on sales.


Brakes' development chef Mark Irish recently popped into Barcena to find out how the new summer menu had been received. And he found it had been one of the main contributing factors to the recent uplift in sales at the venue.

Mark comments: "Alongside Barcena's head chef, I devised a new summer menu for the bar, full of seasonal ingredients and recipes.  "The summer menu has proved to be very successful and has been extremely well received by Barcena's customers."

With Christmas fast approaching, Mark and Richard have now started discussing winter menu ideas and potential finger buffet foods to cater for private functions, in order to make the most of the busiest time of the year.

"The summer menu has been a big factor in us increasing our daytime trade. Strong sales in the daytime really set us up for the evening session," says Richard.

"The professional look and feel of the printed menu have made a huge difference."


Pubs should make more of the opportunity to use reps.

That is the message for high street bars from our soft drinks champion, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), following the experience of Barcena this summer.

"Spare just one thought for the reps from the drinks companies this summer who get across the doorstep into the UK's pubs and bars," says Pete Johnson, shopper marketing manager - social occasions for CCE .

"It's been a difficult season for business building, particularly where there is a 'wait and see' attitude towards the smoking ban and the sunshine. But what the Sell More, Save More test venues show us is that when a supplier is invited in to talk in depth about a category of drinks, some real, lasting changes can be made to profitability."

At Barcena, Richard has welcomed the suppliers through his door and this has resulted in staff training and new packs that more closely fit the needs of his customers.

"Many licensees just want the free aprons and the umbrellas. But when these are faded and dirty, where is the benefit?" continues Pete.

"Staff training means cleaner bars, better drinks, less wastage and happier customers.

"Reps from Coca-Cola, Diageo or others can be used as an extension of your business brain, like a consultant, a friend or The Publican magazine."

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