Customer confidence pushes must 'strike right balance'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Reopening messaging: what are authorities doing to promote pub safety measures to the public?
Reopening messaging: what are authorities doing to promote pub safety measures to the public?

Related tags: Branding + marketing

With many customers still apprehensive to make return visits to pubs, operators are readying themselves for a long battle to restore confidence in the safety of drinking and dining out.

A YouGov survey found 53% of British pubgoers said they would return to the pub sometime this year but probably not this month (July).​ What’s more, one in ten (10%) said they did not plan on returning this year.

David Cunningham, programme director for the Long Live the Local​ campaign, which has relaunched to promote pubs’ safety measures to consumers, says the Government has shown proactive signs of promoting pub safety measures so far.

He said: “Both [local and central Governments] should definitely be helping our local pubs reopen well and get back on their feet after more than three months' of closure and financial hardship."

He pointed to recent social media posts from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which highlighted how pubs would be operating this summer as a “promising start.”

The Long Live the Local​ campaign has been highlighting safety messaging initiatives from pub companies and brewers, such as Greene King’s ‘Pub Safe’ and JW Lees’ ‘C-19 Safe’ campaigns.

Cunningham added: “Collectively we need to provide reassurance to customers that our pubs are safe to enjoy again but we would also welcome active support from the Government on this so we would like to [see] them promoting pubs both personally and through effective marketing campaigns as great places & safe places to visit.”

Pub operators in Sheffield were left frustrated after the city council posted a tweet which suggested coronavirus would be “waiting” for potential pubgoers when premises reopened on 4 July.

Sheffield City Council deleted the tweet
Sheffield City Council deleted the tweet

The city council since deleted the tweet but operators said it was enough to receive calls from worried former customers who were unsure about whether to visit the pub after seeing the post.

Deleted posts

Malcolm Sissons from Woodys bar in the city said at the time: "Our team have spent the past two weeks working to get the bar ready. We've installed screens, hand sanitisers and we've completely re-done our outdoor area. I'm quite frankly appalled about what the council have done."

Elsewhere, social media posts about pubs from authorities were deleted after they received criticism that doing so was irresponsible.

Ahead of ‘Super Saturday’, The Treasury deleted a tweet which read: “Grab a drink and raise a glass, pubs are reopening their doors from 4 July,” after criticism. One MP, Geraint Davies, dubbed the messaging “wholly irresponsible publicity [...] which will fuel a resurgence of coronavirus infection and death in England.”

A Treasury spokesperson even said: “We got it wrong on this and the tweet was quickly removed.”

However, many local authorities have been working with operators to promote safety measures and ensure any pub visits are responsible.

In Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the council has promoted pubs within its #KeepBarnsleyMoving messaging.

Campaigns about the reopening of pubs need to strike a balance between encouraging people out and ensuring they are aware of the necessary precautions involved, according to Danny Richardson, Barnsley Council's communications and marketing officer for regeneration and culture.

Tricky balance

He said: "You want people to come in and it is part of our job to encourage that but you don't want that to become unmanageable and you don't want to get too many people in."

"It's really important now, its such a tricky balance - you can either scare people off and businesses aren't supported or you can go too far the other way and safety messages are not reiterated.

"We let people know what it would be like [visiting the town's pubs] before they came in because it is a big change for people. You have to restore some of that customer confidence because people are nervous.

Pubs have also made their own educational videos walking customers through a post-lockdown pub experience.

Related topics: Legislation

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