A modest proposal for helping pubs

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Related tags: Licensees, English-language films

Last man standing is the phrase on the lips of many pub bosses these days. They mean that if you can just hang on in there, chances are your rival...

Last man standing is the phrase on the lips of many pub bosses these days. They mean that if you can just hang on in there, chances are your rival pubs will be closing and you'll clean up with all the local trade.

Seeing who can hold their breath underwater for the longest is a similar phrase doing the rounds.

To make sure their pub is the last man standing, or has the strongest lungs, some companies are stepping up the help they offer their licensees.

Shepherd Neame, for example, has spotted the massive potential in coffee and is hiring top-of-the-range machines to licensees at cheap rates. And offering to pay half the sub for Sky is another idea some are considering.

At Admiral, the management is asking its licensees to come up with business-building tips to share across the estate.

And brewers like Carlsberg, Coors, InBev and S&NUK are training their sales force to be able to offer customers advice on how to grow their business.

The message that's being pushed to licensees these days is that customer expectations are rising all the time. Any licensee who's just standing still is actually losing ground. Fast.

At a presentation by the marketing consultancy him! last week, pub delegates were told that pubs need to be different and stand out from the bland sameness of the high street and other national retailers. And the way to do that is to understand the needs and desires of your customer and then satisfy them.

If you do that, your business will thrive.

If you don't, your customers will go elsewhere. There are plenty of convenience retailers who will look after them better.

However, it's one thing licensees being told they must up their game and focus much more on customers. It's quite another actually putting advice into practice. Often, licensees will need someone to help them through the process of improving their business practices — someone like Ali Carter, say, who's written another SWOT analysis column for us this week.

Not every pub can be visited by Ali. But wouldn't it be great if a pubco licensee could get more in-depth business-building help from his BDM?

Our columnist Francis Patton, ex of Punch, certainly thinks so. Writing inside, he calls for a really radical measure to help pubs: double the number of BDMs serving in each estate so they have 25 pubs to look after rather than 50 to 60.

He argues that by cutting back on central support teams and switching the resource to help at grass roots, licensees would get far more value from their pubco. And have a far better chance of surviving these terrible times.

Radical, yes. But it's surely better than just hoping you'll be the last man standing.

Related topics: Other operators

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