He also pointed to Millennials being a key audience for operators and said quality of the experience for consumers is particularly important.
He added: “Millennials are seeking out experiential food and drink that tastes great, is visually appealing and has a story attached to it.
“Going out for a drink or a meal is no longer just that. It is an experience which fuels social media content. So, make sure you have a distinct offer that gives Millennials a reason to talk about your drink, your food and your pub.
“If you’re in doubt about the importance of Millennials, 18 to 34-year-olds account for 50% of all eating out occasions and so are an important market to capture if you have a food offer.”
When it comes to food offers, Mountstevens elaborated on how operators can really make the most of what to give consumers – options but with a staple food.
He said: “More pubs are also focussing on one food area, be it burgers, pizzas or barbecue. Whether you specialise in one food or not, make sure you have a hero dish on your menu that you’re known for.”
It’s about the quality of the experience
However, the Star Pubs & Bars boss said despite the rising inflation and tighter purse strings for consumers in 2017, drinkers won’t automatically choose cheaper tipples.
He added: “The issue is no longer just about price; it's about the quality of the experience. They have options.
“Consumers will go out less often and demand a premium experience when they do. Make sure every single element of your operation is exceptional.
“Set staff clear expectations, invest in training, and encourage and respond to customer and staff feedback. Build in a system to capture and act on reviews.
“These can be review cards in the pub or scores and comments on Facebook and TripAdvisor. Remember to recognise and reward the staff who are mentioned.
“Set up a loyalty scheme to incentivise customer to frequent your pub. You can use it to encourage customers to give you a MOT of your business.
Keepings offers fresh and relevant
Mountstevens also urged operators to keep reinventing their venues and offers to keep things fresh and relevant to consumers.
He said: “The market will increasingly polarise into invested and underinvested pubs. The winners will be the pubs that can keep pace with consumers' changing needs.
“Pubs should take a hard look at their offer and that of their local competition, including cafés and restaurants. A refurbishment isn't the only way to revitalise a pub.
“Update your menu, improve the layout of the pub and trial innovative new products. And don't forget to share your own story on social media.”