Business support

How one community local beat the big guns to win an award

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Ray Thompson won a national marketing award for his Ale Trail
Ray Thompson won a national marketing award for his Ale Trail

Related tags Rural pubs East riding of yorkshire Humberside Inn

Marketing can be tough for small or single-site operators, who often don’t have the budget to compete with multiple site operators or the big managed pub chains.  But one Yorkshire licensee has scooped a major marketing award and driven more trade to his business with a budget of just £150. The Publican’s Morning Advertiser takes a closer look at how he did it and the lessons other pubs can learn.

Ray Thompson, licensee of the Wrygarth Inn, Great Hatfield, East Yorkshire, first knew he had a problem when his pub was visited by an angry holidaymaker. The customer said he’d had no idea about the rural pubs in the area, despite visiting for several years, until his satnav took him in the wrong direction.

“As soon as he said it, I knew exactly what he meant and I had a flash of inspiration,” Thompson said. “He was really angry - we’re a very, very rural pub and despite having a caravan five miles away, he had no idea there were pubs in the area apart from the one in the town centre.”

Ray's top tips

  • Work with other local pubs and not against them
  • Take the initiative - try to get local radio stations, newspapers or blogs interested in what you're doing
  • Reach out to prominent local figures who might be able to help  

Concerned that he- and the other rural pubs in the area- were missing out on vital trade, Thompson started the Holderness Ale Trail, the Ultimate Disloyalty Card, which encouraged customers to visit all six pubs and collect a stamp at each one. Customers who successfully collect all six stamps then received a free beer. To Thompson’s surprise, the idea went on to beat more than 1,000 other entries - including Lloyd’s bank and the University of Glasgow - to win second place at the Scoot Headline Awards for British Businesses.

“I went to all the local pubs and said 'look, you want my customers and I want yours, but we’re all losing out if people don’t know we’re here and aren’t coming to us'.

“I got local radio station BBC Radio Humberside​ involved by basically walking in the front door and telling them what I was doing. At first, they looked at me like I had two heads, but then there was a lot of interest in the story and eventually one of the presenters did the ale trail on the radio. That got us about 20 minutes of free publicity for each pub and attracted the interest of our local MP, who was listening.”

He also approached local caravan parks, councillors, tourist attractions and stately homes and asked them to stock leaflets advertising the Ale Trail, which he says has proved “well-worth the effort”.

“We had 50 people from one of the caravan parks alone. It’s proved very valuable, not because they necessarily visited all the pubs but because many of them of them keep coming back.”

“Companies like Lloyd’s have huge budgets and do national campaigns. We were in complete shock when we came second in the whole of Britain because all it had cost us was £150 and the cost of the train ticket to London for the awards. Compared to how much we spent, the return has been huge.”

Thompson urged other pubs to work with rival businesses in their areas to work out ways of encouraging more trade.

“You’ve got to work together, rather than fight each other.  I don’t want to be fighting the other pubs. We all want to have a good business and go on holiday once a year which we’re not going to be able to do if we just keep discounting. I’ve seen pubs nearby advertising some pints at £1.65 and by the time you’ve taken VAT off that you’re only making about 30p.”

Related topics Marketing

Related news

Show more