Creating food and drink offers is an obvious route to take, but the key to success is ensuring you know your target audience, what offer will encourage them to visit you on a weekday and most importantly, the chosen offer must generate revenue.
In the last 12-24 months, offers have been primarily discount driven, but now publicans are focusing on added value incentive offers which are proving less damaging to brand perception. There is a multitude of added value ideas that can be put into action, from offering a free glass of wine with a main course to offering the rest of the bottle of wine for free when two large glasses are purchased.
- Midweek-friendly menus are another great way to encourage visits from those who frequently visit you at the weekend. People tend to have less time and want to spend less money mid-week so consider creating a shorter, simpler and cost effective menu to run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Offering two-courses for a fixed price with just three or four options is simple but effective. Recently we worked with Haworth Old Hall to develop their new menus. As part of this we included a Delicious Daily Deal offering customers a selected dish on each weekday as well as a drink (either a pint, glass of house wine or selected soft drink) for just £10.
- Entertainment, if suited to your customers’ tastes, is an effective way to draw in the crowds during the week. Whether you opt for live music, a comedian or an influential speaker, it can be expensive to start with so it is really important that the events are marketed well using social media, chalkboards within the pub and possibly advertising locally on the radio so that they build a loyal following early on.
If you don’t plan to charge people to enjoy the entertainment then make sure you upsell on food and drink to help cover the cost by offering special cocktails, bar snacks or highlighting your puddings to those who are dining with you. A cheaper alternative to live music or a performer is to host a weekly quiz night. This has worked especially well for The Moorings in Sowerby Bridge and has attracted a great following. They even serve supper on the house to all quiz contestants.
- Weekly themed evenings can work well as a lure for regular and new faces and provide an opportunity to grow weekday sales, particularly food-led sales. It’s important your offering fits with your brand, for example, if you pride yourself on being a traditional English pub serving locally sourced, British inspired dishes, a curry night isn’t for you, but a fish or steak night may well work well. Greaves Park in Lancaster introduced steak nights two years ago to help boost weekday bookings. Offering two 8oz Rump steaks and a bottle of wine for just £30, the evening proved so popular it now runs on both Mondays and Tuesdays. Consider your price point carefully and make sure what you’re offering stands out from simply ordering steak or a fish dish any other night.
- Free food can, believe it or not, work a treat. If a customer spends £10 or more on a round of drinks, think about thanking them with a small bowl of peanuts, pistachios or other low cost snack. The Regent in Balham makes its own popcorn in a retro popcorn machine behind the bar, serving it up in an American style red basket with greaseproof paper. It’s a low cost idea but one that brings a smile to the face of most drinkers. It also leaves customers thirsty, so is a clever technique for encouraging another round of drinks.
- If you have screens and show sporting events, make a big deal of it – especially for those games and matches that take place during the week. Theme your food and drink, for example if there is a Spain vs Italy match why not offer pasta and a glass of Peroni, or Paella for £10. You can then encourage your customer to bolt on bar snacks, starters and puddings as well as drinks. The World Cup is just around the corner providing a great opportunity for sports pubs to really go to town.
Getting your marketing off the ground
Whilst it is all very well considering all of these options, the key to implementing these ideas and getting people through the door is marketing them successfully, across every channel.
- Social media is a tool which should be used to publicise anything you are doing that you believe your customers would want to hear about and come along to. Set up events on your Facebook page, share updates about your special offers, events and menu offering on twitter and make sure you do this regularly.
A picture speaks a thousand words so share photos of what you want your customers to engage with. Remember social media is about conversation so don’t think that simply announcing your news is enough. Build relationships with your customers via social media platforms and their level of engagement is likely to grow.
- E-communication, emailers, e-shots - whatever terminology you use, make sure you are communicating with your customers and letting them know what you have planned. People are very receptive to new opportunities, offers and events if they’re appealing and communicating what you’re doing via email is a great way to ensure people know what’s going on. It is really important that you plan ahead to ensure the content is well thought out and that it helps promote specific times of year that you want to encourage more footfall.
You also need to carefully consider how often you will contact your customers in this way, too often and you run the risk of annoying people, too little and your marketing will appear sporadic and reactive. To manage your database, design a professional e-shot, distribute and monitor the level of engagement ensure you use an e-communication platform such as Mailchimp – it’s easy to use and best of all it’s free.
- Don’t underestimate the power of point of sale marketing materials. It is easier to encourage your weekend customers to come along mid-week than it will be to get new customers coming in so make sure they’re seeing what you’re doing when they come in. Table talkers, tent cards, posters and flyers are all great ways of sharing what you’re doing. To keep costs down, let your designer know at the start that you are having a number of different marketing materials printed so they can ensure the design can easily be adapted.
There are of course other ways of promoting what you’re doing to help entice an increase in weekday footfall but the trick is to start small and grow steadily. Don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one or two ways to market your idea and focus on them and do them well.
Most importantly, don’t forget to speak with your customers to find out what they want and make sure you’re doing the basics well (providing good quality food, the right atmosphere, great customer service) as these are essential to the success of any future marketing campaigns.
Felicity Allen is account director at hospitality industry PR specialists Custard Communications