The Mintel Pub Visiting Report 2015, says 54% of consumers see higher-quality food as the leading enticement for boosting visits in the next year, followed by cheaper drinks (48%), more special offers on food and drink (34%) more locally sourced food and drinks(34%) and more entertainment such as quizzes and live music(32%).
Food growth continues
The report predicts food-led pubs will continue performing strongly, with food sales becoming more important for venues to make up the shortfall from falling alcoholic drink sales.
It says the pub market’s recovery continued in 2014, with total turnover up by 2.7% to £22.6 billion. Growth is expected to continue, with the market predicted to reach a value of £24 billion by 2019.
Food sales in the past year rose to account for a 32% share of total pub turnover in 2014, with value sales surging past £7 billion. Since 2010, pub catering sales have risen by 21%.
Turnover from meals is expected to rise by 20% between 2014 and 2019 to reach £8.76 billion.
In 2014 alcoholic drinks accounted for 50% of pubs’ turnover, meals 32%, soft drinks 11% and other sales 7% including crisps and nuts, amusement and vending machines, accommodation and entertainment.
Chris Wisson, Mintel’s senior drinks analyst, said: ““The quality and credibility of pub food has made notable progress over the past five years as they have competed for consumers’ limited leisure spend. However, that ‘higher-quality food’ is the leading enticement for visiting pubs more often suggests that further improvements would still be welcomed. It also underlines how central food has become to the idea of going to the pub and how important it is in many customers’ decision-making process.”
Mintel's research shows that the rejuvenation of pub food is such that over a third (38%) of pub goers now expect pubs to have a high quality food menu and 36% expect pubs to be venues that the whole family can visit.
When choosing what to order, the report claims it’s handmade, local fare which seals the deal. Almost three quarters (72%) of those who have eaten in a pub say they opt for homemade dishes.
Meanwhile over half (54%) of consumers choose dishes with locally sourced ingredients and 38% pick plates with seasonal ingredients.
Chris Wisson adds: “Landlords are under increasing pressure to compete with the restaurant industry, as many restaurants are looking to gain further business from pubs, for example by boosting their drink ranges. City centre pubs with high footfall may be able to rely on drink volumes to prop up their turnover, with food being more peripheral. However, many other pubs should continue to emphasise their menus to set themselves apart from other pubs and restaurants in the vicinity.”
Visiting pubs to eat is equally popular during the week and the weekends, with just under half of pub visitors doing each and 24% check menus online before their trip.
Drinks remain the engine
Despite the increasing importance of food, Mintel forecasts that alcoholic drink sales will remain the engine of the pub industry’s turnover.
Whilst alcoholic drink sales made up 50% of turnover in 2014, just one in 10 (9%) UK consumers eat in a pub or bar at least once a week, compared to 21% who drink there at least once a week.
The report also highlights the further potential for hot drinks in pubs, with 27% of pub visitors already drinking hot drinks in them.
Other opportunities highlighted are that only 12% of pub visitors used a discount/voucher to save money in the three months to March 2015, these being used to boost trade considerably more widely by restaurants.
The report also cites live events, child-friendly facilities and free wi-fi for workers/students are also additional ways of boosting customer footfall further based on current pub-related activities.
An improved awareness of accommodation facilities (where relevant) could also help pubs to compete more effectively against hotels.
The report shows that Brits’ fondness for the pub remains intact, with 47% of pub-goers thinking that they are an important part of the British way of life.
Location remains a strong influence in selecting a pub, with 31% stating it is the main factor shaping their pub choice, but 45% would be interested in trying a new pub if recommended by a friend/family member.
The research claims that 19% of those surveyed stated that going to them is too costly to do more often.