Mothering Sunday is now more popular than even New Year's Eve for pub visits. But, as Robyn Black finds, licensees should see it not just as a day to bank big money but as a long-term business-builder.
Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable to take one's mum to the pub for a quick drink, let alone a lunch in her honour on Mothering Sunday but pubs have moved on.
The more food-led, female-friendly venues of today are a prime location for a Mothers' Day family lunch, so much so in fact that research shows the day eclipses even New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve in terms of pub-visit popularity.
"We undertook a major piece of research last year, interviewing more than 2,000 consumers to find out what they wanted from pubs," says Carlsberg's David Scott, director of customer marketing. "Interestingly, the research showed that Mothers' Day is one of the most popular days of the year for pub visits. Some 36% said they would visit the pub on Mothering Sunday — 2% more than for New Year's Eve, 6% more than for Christmas Eve and 20% more than for St Patrick's Day."
However, the day should be viewed as rather more than just the chance to bank one bumper day of sales, warns Jeremy Michael, managing director of customer-analysis company SMG UK.
"Luring in customers with discounts and meal deals is a popular short-term panic approach, but pubs should view the occasion as a long-term opportunity," he says. "Many customers might be first-time visitors so it is important not to miss the opportunity to maximise the experience for the whole family. This will have the biggest impact on whether they will return and recommend you to friends and extended family."
Making sure high chairs, a kids' menu and a decent range of soft drinks are all in place are small things that will keep the entire group happy — but, of course, the focus and attention should be on mum.
"The main reason the family is there is for the mother to have a special day and, if she is enjoying it, then the family are more likely to return in the future," Michael explains.
Keeping it traditional
As the day is about treating mums, traditional classic foods are the order of the day. "Think smoked salmon, prawn cocktails and, as it's a Sunday, roasts," says Ron Hickey, Booker's catering sales director. "We'll be running a promotion in the week running up to the event on roasting joints such as beef, turkey and so on, but also classic cuts like gammon and rib-eye steaks for those not wanting a roast with all the trimmings."
Hickey is also keen to get licensees thinking about the profit opportunity in selling puddings and wine, particularly something sparkling, to family groups once they are settled and enjoying themselves.
"Don't forget the extra sales opportunities these categories offer," he says. "This is about treating mum, so get staff to suggest a glass of something fizzy to start and a classic pud to finish. These small treats are very much what this occasion is about."
Getting them through the doors
As with any event, promoting what you are offering and marketing it early will be key to gaining the edge over the competition.
Carlsberg offers bespoke menus, banners and PoS, as part of its We Deliver More scheme to help you advertise your offer — and Booker's Ron Hickey suggests a message that pulls on the heartstrings.
"Where we've seen success is marketing aimed at the correct person — it isn't mum choosing the venue after all, it's more likely to be the older children or even dad. Remember to play on the 'she deserves it' message and even a little bit of guilt — 'book early or miss out!' or 'only 10 days left' are all messages we've seen work well for outlets," he suggests.