Feed off big boys' ingenuity

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags City pub company Ice cream

Charity: pubs can learn from each other
Charity: pubs can learn from each other
Pubs can capitalise on the fact that it's good value, and more convenient, for punters to venture out to eat than dine at home, says The PMA Team.

Part of the Brave New World for licensees involves learning from the marketing skills of others. There are plenty already doing it. Phil Davison, former BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) Licensee of the Year, has a sizeable database of customers — and kept his pub full during the quiet January and February months with a 'two courses for £12' offer. Very large parts of the pub market can capitalise on one simple fact — it's often cheaper to drink at home than at the pub, but it's often very good value (and far more convenient) for customers to eat in the pub compared to home (even with the advent of Marks & Spencer meal deals).

Punch's managed division has found it can add £1 to the price of its carvery offer at its embryonic Roast Inn concept, upping the price from £4.99 to £5.99 without affecting demand. Town & City Pub Company's high-street chain Yates's is out-discounting JD Wetherspoon on food — there's a £1.99 banger-and-mash offer at lunchtimes to draw in the office crowd on a budget.

Over at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), there are a host of live examples of how price-points can flex — and customers can be upsold with a bundled offer. Other offers draw customers in during quieter trading periods — and the company exploits the very strong demand on Sunday by boosting prices, albeit with "disguise" by adding a bit of extra value. The company's cheap-as-chips carvery offer Crown Carveries knocks out a carvery meal for the unbelievable price of £3.69 during the week. On a Sunday, the price shoots up by £3.30 to £6.99, although this now includes a self-service ice cream. Its margin will have expanded dramatically on Sunday thanks to the increasing reluctance of people to cook their own Sunday roast (the mid-market Toby Carvery is replicating the ice-cream trick by offering punters extra value rather than reduce price — there's a free ice cream sundae on offer to keen collectors of newspaper vouchers).

At mid-market Harvester, the Early Bird special, at £4.99, now has only a few items at this price — price-points have migrated up in the past 12 to 18 months. I spent £6.19 on the spit-roast chicken — it still feels like good value and would be even better value if the chicken hadn't been so dry (again).

And at the 60 Premium Country Dining Group sites, there's currently a 'two pizzas for £10' offer between 4pm and 7pm. Prices have flexed down at this premium-priced brand to fill three quiet hours. Likewise, M&B's premium brand All Bar One has a £6 lunch offer to induce lunch-time spend.

The independent and tenanted sector is, by definition, more fleet-of-foot than the big managed battalions. There's plenty of sharp marketing going on already. But it pays to keep an eye on the big boys — and pinch and adapt their ideas whenever you can.

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