Mark Hall, retail director for O’Neill’s, told M&C Report the company has so far converted seven outlets — in Blackheath, south London, Kingston and Richmond, south-west London, Solihull, West Midlands, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, and Bournemouth — into “hybrid” sites. These sit between the standard O’Neill’s and the Irish Pub & Kitchen offshoot, keeping the core O’Neill’s offer but evolving the design with an eye on the Irish Pub & Kitchen format.
There’s updated furniture, “softer” colours and an enhanced drinks offer.
Meanwhile, M&B is to open its third Irish Pub & Kitchen at Great Marlborough Street, in Soho, central London, in December. The format, which operates in Oxford and Sutton, south London, has a more premium price-point for food.
Hall said: “The future is built around rolling out the hybrid, but at the same time the evolution of Irish Pub & Kitchen, so we have an offer that sits on the high street in different areas.”
He said he expects work to begin on at least three more conversions in the early part of next year. Hall added there’s been a conscious effort to change the perception of O’Neill’s.
O’Neill’s introduced staff training every two months to build service standards, which along with physical investments, has “allowed us to move from a reputation as a purely late-night operator, and drink-led, to something with more sustainability”.
New menus have brought “credibility back in the food offer” after years of discounting. Another key change has been around live music. Hall said that in the past the pubs would be quiet in late afternoon and early evening while bands sound-checked. Now the company favours smaller bands, which are less intrusive in the early evening while people eat.
Irish sports have also been introduced.