But, ultimately, it’s the atmosphere on the night that draws people through the doors. Whether it’s delivering a more up-to-date version of the classic pub quiz, or an innovative piece of technology, like a pop-up karaoke booth, if well executed, both have as much potential to drive sales.
It’s never a bad idea to invest money into a new piece of equipment for your pub, it can often bring a breath of fresh air to the site and offer a great form of entertainment to customers. However, as some operators can attest, you can still offer alternative forms of entertainment by relying on a few pub classics.
The Redtooth Keypad Quiz is an interactive quiz where pen and paper are replaced by hand-held keypads. With a £20 weekly subscription, operators can download a pack on a laptop containing three quizzes. It is played with real-time scoring where players gain points not only for accuracy, but also on speed – the quicker you answer, the more points you score.
Additionally, the quiz is updated every week and the content is very contemporary, which helps keep customers interested.
This cheat-proof quiz can cater for up to 20 teams and, led by one presenter, is suitable for all ages and can drive wet sales on the night, something the Ashley (Hungry Horse/Greene King) in Worksop, Nottinghamshire can confirm. Charles Blakemore, general manager says: “It’s been positive, people like the technology, it secures a night of entertainment for us in the pub and attracts extra trade.”
He adds: “We have a younger customer base, so investing in the kit was the right thing to do. It suits our customer base very well and it’s improved the business. We’ve easily gained back an estimated 5% from the quiz.” While the quiz is more suited for younger audiences, the older generation has also embraced it. “Drink sales go up roughly between 10% and 15% while food sales usually increase by 5% to 10%,” says Blakemore.
Operators don’t necessarily have to rely on technology as a way to offer different alternatives to their customers. Owdoo ’s Rock and Roll Bingo caters for a variety of sites and provides a range of packs (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Single) from £65 to £270 with claimed revenue ranging from £400 up to £1,200.
Players listen to a short music clip and cross off the name of the artist and song title on their tickets. Once they score five correct songs in one row, they have won. And because the game is not classified as real bingo, the money sold through the tickets feeds back into the revenue of the pub.
The company aims to provide customers with a unique entertainment experience with a more traditional approach. Phil Larman, commercial manager of Owdoo, says: “Even though we’ve seen a massive surge in technology, Rock and Roll Bingo is more personal and there’s more interaction.”
By providing a more communal spirit to the pub game, the atmosphere is at a high and becomes a key factor in driving profit. “The banter is just incredible,” says Emma Winter, supervisor at the Marston’s-owned Fiveways pub in Bournemouth, Dorset, as she describes a typical Sunday evening in her venue.
“People of all ages come in during the day and watch the football, and tend to stay in the evening to play Rock and Roll Bingo and enjoy some food and drinks.”
Larman adds: “There is still room for traditional forms of entertainment, the anticipation and personality are part of it. The pen is mightier than the sword, the pen-to-paper quiz will never be replaced.”
A trump card
Hosting a poker league in a pub can add significant revue to the site without the use of technology, particularly with wet sales. “People want an activity based around the drinking,” says Redtooth creative director Tim Smithies.
Redtooth Poker offers a poker league of up to 20 players priced at £20 plus VAT as a weekly fee. For the cost, the venue will be supplied with equipment, including two sets of clay chips and folding pro tables for up to eight people, as well as full staff training.
At the end of the 13-week season, the best four players in each participating pub reach regional finals, which are held at different venues across the country – and the overall winner is rewarded with a trip to Las Vegas to play in the big tournament, the Vegas 100.
Smithies adds: “As the players have got to play in the pub to go through to the next stages, the prize package is what makes the people come back.
“If the event is promoted well and, with a little creativity, pubs have been turned into poker rooms.”
Carol Henson, licensee at the Green Dragon in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, has seen the rewards after hosting poker for a number of years.
Henson, of the Leased Pub People pub, said: “It grew from nothing and now it seems to have overtaken everything.
“We’re one of the best poker teams – three or four of our customers have gone on to Vegas.”
The game made a clear difference to profits, often increasing drinks sales by up to £100 each night, she explains.
Hitting the right note
Along with the pub quiz, karaoke is still an all-time favourite when it comes to entertainment. “Because customers want more occasion-led going-out experiences it’s a nice thing to offer either as a main event for a night out for people or a little add-on to the evening,” says Steve Macri, operations director at Electric Star Pubs, which has invested in the £3,000 Lucky Voice Singstation at one of its sites, the Star of Bethnal Green.
The pub has converted space into private-hire karaoke rooms, which can accommodate between 10 and 15 people with “funky” wall-mounted karaoke machine as the “centrepiece”.
The machine has a touch-screen panel with 10,000 songs, which is updated weekly via the internet.
Macri adds: “We rent the rooms out at the weekend for £49 an hour and then we offer drink packages on the night. Getting these groups on a Friday and Saturday night is really key for us, often they’ll come to eat, or stay afterwards and listen to the DJ. It drives a lot of footfall beyond the revenue from just the room hire.”
Nadean Foster, general manager of the Star of Bethnal Green, says: “It’s been great, especially when it comes to planning throughout the week. If we’ve got karaoke booked, we know that we’ll have people through the door with birthday and staff parties, or for Christmas, which is very popular. It’s guaranteed revenue for us.
“The karaoke has helped boost food sales by roughly 15% while wet sales over the week rise by at least 20%, especially when people order the pre-paid packages, which range between £75 and £500.”