More and more we see operators seeking to introduce a variety of self-service options providing customers with an experience that is radically different from the shoulder-to- shoulder experience at the bar.
This also enables pubs to compete with the experience of the growing number of individuals who choose to stay at home and watch sport on their own large screens where the accessibility of their next drink is so much simpler and immediate.
There are many examples of such ‘self-service’ options, including beer walls, beer towers, self-service fridges and tables with built-in beer kegs, to mention but a few.
The downside of these innovative experiences is that they may not be met with a round of applause from the authorities. The arrival of the mandatory condition relating to irresponsible drinks promotions a few years ago heralded an era where any offer that provides relatively unfettered access by customers to alcohol is likely to be frowned upon. With levels of intoxication always high on the social and political agendas, any experience that allows a customer to help themselves to another drink without being freshly scrutinised in terms of their level of sobriety or otherwise is likely to be met with disapproval.
The following may enable a suitable balance to be struck:
- A clear reference to any such ‘self-service’ facilities on licensing plans so that the authorities are not taken by surprise by their existence, during a subsequent licensing visit
- Marketing materials should make it clear that service may be refused (or indeed paid for drinks removed) in the event that individuals are intoxicated
- Ensuring proper supervision by staff of any self-service elements of the business backed-up by properly documented training such that staff know how to react to problems
- Conducting a full, written risk assessment of such elements of the business describing how they will be managed and supervised
- Clear and open communication with local licensing officers in terms of the nature of the offer to be provided
Adherence to measures such as these will hopefully enable pubs to evolve in the modern market without becoming, or indeed being perceived as, high risk.
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