In association with Heineken

The Pub Hub – your questions answered

By MA editorial

- Last updated on GMT

Get involved: post your questions in the comment section (image: Getty/sdecoret)
Get involved: post your questions in the comment section (image: Getty/sdecoret)

Related tags Heineken Legislation Beer Star pubs & bars

The Morning Advertiser and Heineken have teamed up to answer your questions around current coronavirus legislation, finances, reopening and more.

You can pose your queries in the comment box below or contact us through social media channels using #PubHubQA

This blog is now closed. Keep an eye on The Morning Advertiser ​website for the latest on Government announcements, legislation, guidance and more.

12.53 - Looking ahead to summer events and life beyond lockdown

Q. How can I make the most of the summer trade?

A. Heineken says: The key to kicking off a successful trading period through the spring and into the summer will be maximising your outdoor space and making the most of big events and sporting occasions.

(credit: Getty/thekopmylife)

As restrictions begin to ease, consumers are looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family so getting your offering right will give them a reason to visit, drive footfall and help increase your revenue stream.

Kicking off in June, UEFA EURO 2020™ is likely to be one of the most important sporting events ever for the on-trade, particularly as around 12.9m people had planned to go out to watch the tournament and 37% of consumers typically go to pubs and bars to watch sport[1]​.

Football fans spend more than £5 more per head per visit than the average customer[2]​ and stay longer, so it’s worth doing all you can to encourage them into your venue.

Significant tournaments like UEFA EURO 2020™ also attract younger consumer groups[3]​ who are willing to trade up[4]​ to more premium options to celebrate the occasion, meaning more money in your till.

Creating the perfect set-up for match days will be crucial to driving footfall and boosting dwell time. Research shows atmosphere and location are the most important factors for consumers watching sport in the on-trade[5]​, so consider how you can deliver the same great sports experience in a safe way.

Position your screens in well-lit and open spaces, outside where possible to maximise space and promote social distancing, and ensure all tables have a clear view of the game.

Offer pre-match order options and food and drink deals, such as simple ‘burger and drink’ promotions, to help encourage dwell time and keep things quick and straightforward for staff.

Remember to promote the sporting events you’re showing and your food and drink offering in advance via your website or social media channels.

Social media is more frequently used to find outlets and brand recommendations, so this will remind people of your venue as a match-day destination and generate buzz, as well as encourage pre-booking.

While this is a big year for sporting occasions, there are many more opportunities to tap into to keep your events calendar engaging and appealing.

Our recent research showed people returning to the on trade will at first be seeking lower-tempo, casual and often food-led occasions, often to celebrate with a partner or friends and family[6]​.

Hosting pop-up food events or themed evenings with outdoor music will be a great way to engage the 35 and over age groups[7]​.

We know there is a lot of pent-up excitement around reopening, so it’s important to remember that we all have a role to play in promoting responsible drinking.

To help, include premium soft drinks and no and low-alcohol options in any promotions you are running. Make them visible on menus and in outlet, plus consider the alcohol units you’re encouraging with multi-buy promotions.

We appreciate there are still a number of regulations to navigate and order and pay solutions or table service may be very new for some staff, but ensure you keep a robust age verification policy in place. This will help protect your business and reputation.

The coming summer months will play a crucial part in restoring the role of the pub into our lives. Make the most of the busy time ahead by delivering the unbeatable quality experiences, perfectly poured pints and social buzz your customers have missed. We can’t wait to get back to the pub!

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group open to all on-trade operators powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

[1] CGA Brandtrack Feb 2020
[2] Kantar WPO 2019
[3] CGA BrandTrack 2019
[4] CGA Managed Volume Pool, SP&B EPoS, Trading Index 2018
[5] CGA Sport 989, GB 1352
[6] Toluna, 23rd Feb 2021 N=390, Question ‘How comfortable do you feel about doing the following in pubs and bars post lockdown? ‘
[7] Toluna, 23rd Feb 2021 N=390, Question ‘How comfortable do you feel about doing the following in pubs and bars post lockdown? ‘

Q. After reopening last year, the Heineken kegs had an extended best by date put on them. How do you extend the life of lager?

Heineken says: A. Ensuring pubs were up and running safely with top quality beer in early July 2020 was our key priority.

We have been very transparent about extending the best before date on our kegs; the keg beer that exists in our network is always kept in the optimum condition and has been benchmarked against reference samples to ensure its quality. 

During the summer of 2020, we replaced all unbroached kegs of Heineken product for free with absolute certainty that the beer remained the highest quality.

It is paramount for us, our customers and our consumers, and we would never settle for second best when it comes to quality.

Our beer and ciders in keg are as stable as our can and bottle products, which have a best before date of up to a year. 

The dates on kegs help operators with stock rotation – it is a system that has worked for many years, but given the ongoing situation it has allowed us to reassess. Going forward, all our kegs will have the longer best before date.

Wednesday 31 March - National Living Wage rise comes into effect tomorrow

The rise in national living wage (NLW) is set to come into force tomorrow (Thursday 1 April).

NLW increase
(credit: Getty/kentoh)

The rise of 2.2% (19p) to £8.91 was first announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the spring Budget (Wednesday 3 March).

The new rate is equivalent to an additional £345 a year for employees working full time.

Read more about the wage rise here​. 

Tuesday 30 March - Investment in sector

JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has stated it will be pumping millions into new and existing sites across the next decade.

As part of a 10-year-plan, the group is looking to invest an initial £145m into 18 new pubs and 57 "significant extensions and upgrades" to existing sites before spending a further £750m to open 15 new venues and enlarging 50 current each year, for a decade.

It has also been reported former Greene King boss Rooney Anand's latest venture, RedCat is set to acquire 40 pubs from large pub company Stonegate, for an undisclosed sum.

Read more about the latest property news in the sector here​.

12.30 - Claiming licensing rebates and financial support

Q. Will I receive a rebate on my licence to sell alcohol?

Heineken says: Based on our advice from leading law firm Flint Bishop, if an annual alcohol licence fee comes up for renewal, you could choose not to pay it until your pub reopens. Local authorities can suspend premise licences for non-payment, but this will have no effect if your pub is shut.

(credit: Getty/Phill Thornton)

Heineken and the wider industry has been lobbying the Home Office on alcohol licensing, as well as on the cost of late-night levies.

The latest feedback from Kit Malthouse, minister of state in the Home Office, has been that licensing authorities are unable to suspend licensing conditions, but may wish to consider accepting a minor variation to the licence – such as temporarily disapplying or removing it entirely – if there were evidence that permanent changes to a premises' operations had occurred.

Despite our lobbying, this indicates that any changes are really up to local authorities, so consider reaching out to other local pubs and businesses to add further pressure to this debate.

The British Institute for Innkeeping (BII) has a great number of resources, from legal and licensing to business rates and tax. If you’re a member, you can use its helplines​ for expert advice and a tailored approach to your query.

Q. Will I receive a rebate on my PPL PRS licence?

Heineken says: The UK’s music licensing company, which allows you to legally play music for employees and/or customers, has introduced a number of measures to support operators during the pandemic.

It is not charging customers for their music usage while they are closed (temporarily or permanently) due to Covid-19 and have made changes to payment policies to introduce further flexibility.

This includes deferred payments and temporary suspension of late payment surcharges. You can find more information on how TheMusicLicence is supporting businesses here​.

Q. Will breweries and pub companies hold prices until the pandemic is over and we’re back to normal?

Heineken says: Throughout the pandemic, our priority has been to help pubs and bars through the most difficult trading period in generations and get them back on their feet, serve their communities and be viable once again.

It’s been a challenging time for the industry, but we have supported customers by absorbing costs related to restocking and maintaining workable cellars, investing in practical support and creating safe environments, while also offering a number of deferred or cancelled payments.

With the roll-out of vaccines, we anticipate pubs will be able to start to return to more normalised trading levels during the second quarter.

As part of our annual review of prices, we are therefore informing on-trade and Star Pubs & Bars customers of our intentions to increase prices on draught beer and cider – and we’ll continue to work with our customers and support them as trading resumes.

While we can only speak for Heineken and cannot comment for other brewers and pub companies, we understand that most will be implementing a price increase.

Q. When we reopened under restrictions, I lost more money than I did when I was closed. Is there any point carrying on?

Heineken says: We completely sympathise with you and other operators in similar circumstances. First and foremost, ensure you are making the most of all Government support – earlier this month, the Government announced further financial support available to operators in the Budget 2021:

  • Restart Grants.​ You could be eligible for £8,000 if your property’s rateable value is £15,000 or under; £12,000 if it’s between £15,000 and £51,000; or £18,000 if it’s over £51,000
  • 100% business rates relief. ​Extended until 30 June 2021, after which businesses will receive a 66% relief from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022
  • Reduced rate of 5% VAT.​ Extended until 30 September 2021, followed by an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022
  • Furlough scheme.​ Extended until the end of September 2021, with continued flexibility available

To help you prepare for reopening we have created The Pub Collective​, which hosts updates, checklists and training support. You can also refer to our previous blog posts for tips and insights on maximising your outdoor space and bolstering your food offering to attract and retain customers.

If you are a leased and tenanted pub, we’d encourage you to speak to your business development manager about your pricing structure and cost saving opportunities to help your business’ bottom line – our Star Pubs & Bars customers are currently receiving a 90% rent reduction until 17 May 2021.

Our research shows the majority of people are excited about visiting the on-trade after lockdown and are more confident in doing so than they were last summer[1]​.

Consumer demand for a quality pint in their local is high and the fast-approaching UEFA EURO 2020™ is set to help drive further footfall over the summer, giving the on-trade a motivation to emerge from lockdown and succeed together.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group open to all on-trade operators powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

[1] HEINEKEN UK Consumer Sentiment Research, 23rd February 2021

Monday 29 March - Government briefing expected next week

The Government is set to reveal further details about how pubs can trade outside next Monday (5 April) – one week ahead of the outdoor reopening date.

(credit: Getty/johny007pan)

It appears pubs will be required to take customer contact details until September, with all members of groups attending being asked for their information.

This is different to how Test and Trace operated in pubs last year where just the lead booker was required to provide contact details.

Read more about this here​.

Thursday 25 March - Staff training for reopening

Q. I am worried over whether my staff will return after lockdown. How do I get them up to speed for reopening under the new roadmap?

Heineken says: A. Excitement is building around reopening, with record numbers of outdoor bookings showing that people are really looking forward to returning to their favourite local.

As operators, it’s understandable you may have concerns about staff returning for the busy period ahead. Some may be brand new to your business whereas others will understandably feel a bit rusty. We’ve shared some tips below to help you attract, recruit and train your staff to deliver a great experience, every time.

New research found more than a third of hospitality businesses are intending to recruit new staff[1]​ over the coming months.

To help attract and incentivise potential employees, demonstrate your investment to high standards of training, helping staff develop and reach their potential. Showcasing the culture of your company, including any benefits or perks can also help you find new talent.

There are also a number of Government incentives in place to help support pub recruitment.

  • From experience with our Star Pubs & Bars, we recommend Remit​, one of the UK’s top providers of government funded apprenticeship programmes. Their recruitment and training solutions help businesses effectively and affordably.
  • Under the #PlanforJobs, you could be eligible for a £3,000 cash injection for every apprentice you take on from 1 April 2021.
  • The government Kickstart Scheme is a fund to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality placements, providing employers access to a pool of young people with potential, ready for an opportunity. What’s more, you could also receive £1,000 for every new hire – no longer subject to taking on 30 staff. For more information and to register for the Kickstart Scheme, visit here.

For employees who have been on furlough, it’s crucial to make sure that your team are ready to come back to work, aware of the changes made by the business, the latest restrictions, guidance and health and safety measures that should be in place.

We know well-trained staff are typically happier and more loyal so, by investing in the correct training now, you could save your business time and money in the long run.

In an industry with traditionally high staff turnover, training can be costly and time-consuming. That’s why we designed Hello BEER​, a staff training app providing courses in beer and cider quality from cellar to serve, ultimately helping you to deliver a great customer experience.

From just £2 per learner per year, the app is easily accessible for all staff and could help you tap into an additional £25,000 worth of profit[2]​ – plus it’s available free to our customers via the Heineken Benefits Bar.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group open to all on-trade operators powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

[1]​Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development & Adecco survey 2021[2]​ Vianet Beer Quality Report 2018-2019. Reduction in beer wastage and moving from 50% beer served through clean lines to 90-100%, assuming 50% GP

Wednesday 24 March - Self-employed grant information

Self-employed licensees could be eligible for the fourth and fifth grant funding, with an online service to apply opening up next month (end of April).

(credit: Getty/Stadtratte)

The fifth grant differs from the previous ones as it is determined by how much turnover was reduced in the year from April 2020 to April 2021.

It will be worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500 but this will be for businesses that saw a turnover reduction of 30% or more.

For operators who were impacted by a reduction of less than 30% in the same time period, the grant will cover 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850.

The Government has stated further information about this grant and the fourth grant will be provided in due course.

For more information on the grants and how to apply, see here​.

Tuesday 23 March - Rule of six information

No earlier than 12 April, pubs can trade outdoors only with the rule of six in force.

Outside area table
(credit: Getty/OlyaSolodenko)

The rules stated 'six people from different households' meaning up to six people from six separate households are permitted to sit together in an outdoor setting.

This is also the case for members of the public meeting up outside from 29 March

Monday 22 March - One year of lockdowns and closures

Pubs are marking a year of closures and restrictions during opening times amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus blog
(credit: Getty/solarseven)

Meanwhile, the Government has relaxed planning laws to permit operators to have marquees in their beer gardens for the duration of summer, instead of the current rules, which are for 28 days.

This is in a bid to help pubs maximise their outdoor space and trading capacity outside during the summer months, the Government has said.

Friday 19 March - Connecting with customers

Q. What digital platforms are the best to get customers back in my pub?

A. Heineken says: As the countdown to reopening starts, communicating with your customers has become more important than ever before. Your website and social media channels are key, but the right ones for you will depend on your business and customer demographic.

Connecting with customers
(credit: Getty/scyther5)

Start by ticking off the basics – specify your opening hours and share your up-to-date food and drink menus across your website, social media channels and your business profile on search engines so people can plan their visits.

Having a good website is key for making your pub ‘searchable’, so ensure it is updated regularly and optimised for mobile. You can use free Google tools to help with this.

Next, make your website easy to find. Consider what your customers are searching for then try to spot gaps where you could stand out and offer something different – this may be a particular drink, dish or ingredient unique to you that you can assign as a key word.

Once you have established your key words, try to incorporate them into your website and create headlines around them.

Create a social media plan to connect with customers and showcase your offering. Consider the social media platforms where your target audience is most active and therefore where you need to focus your attention.

Try to stick to around three so it doesn’t become overwhelming. As a starting point, we recommend prioritising Instagram to reach your younger audience and Facebook typically for your older customers.

Make sure the content you post is relevant to them and monitor their engagement with different posts. Instagram is also a must when it comes to sharing images of your food and drink.

Plan your social posts in advance and publish them when you tend to get the most enquiries or bookings, i.e. when your target audience is online, to capture attention and boost engagement. Speak to your customers just like you would if you were talking face to face, keeping the tone light, upbeat and chatty.

Use your social media to communicate your reopening plans, as well as your cleaning regime or additional measures put in place to keep customers safe. Promote any booking or order apps you’re using so customers can download in advance.

Excite customers with high-quality, bright imagery of your signature dishes, outdoor space and perfectly poured pints to showcase why they should visit your venue and make your content stand out in their feed.

Videos have a higher engagement than photos, so it’s definitely worth including them in your content plan. If you’re looking to reach more people or target a specific type of audience, you can boost Facebook posts (we recommend selecting posts with good engagement already) by spending as little as £10 to £30. Even a small investment goes a long way.

Find more social tips and digital best-practice at The Pub Collective​. Courtesy of our Star Pubs & Bars, we also offer free social media training​ to help you and your staff develop useful online skills aimed at attracting new customers.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new peer-to-peer Facebook group open to all on-trade operators, powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

Thursday 18 March - Less than two months until indoor reopening permitted

Pubs have just under two months to wait until reopening inside and slightly less than four weeks until outdoor trading is allowed.

(credit: Getty/DGLimages)

Venues with outside spaces can reopen no earlier than 12 April and for indoor serving, no earlier than 17 May, according to the Government's roadmap.

However, service will be restricted in both cases with rules including the 'rule of six' and table service only but there will be no curfew in place and no 'substantial meal' rule.

Wednesday 17 March - Scotland roadmap revealed

Scottish pubs are able to reopen outside only from Monday 26 April, with a plethora of restrictions in place.

Rules pic
(credit: Getty/roberthyrons)

Groups of up to six people from three households are permitted until 10pm and there is no restriction on customers having to have a meal to consume alcohol.

Read more about the rules for Scottish pubs here​.

Monday 15 March - Welsh pubs waiting on reopening date

Pubs in Wales do not yet have a "definitive date" for reopening.

Closed pub sign
(credit: Getty/Jake Powell)

During a briefing at the end of last week (Friday 12 March), First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford announced non-essential retail would be able to reopen slowly, with all shops being open from 12 April.

However, he highlighted due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, he was unable to give a timescale for the reopening of hospitality venues.

Drakeford did reveal a further £150m in funding for operators, in addition to the business rates extension.

Those unable to trade in lockdown will receive further grants with pubs eligible for between £4,000 and £5,000.

Drakeford added the Welsh Government would look to reopen outdoor hospitality next month (April) if the public health situation continued to improve.

Friday 12 March - One month until pubs can reopen outside and takeaway alcohol rule relaxed

It is one month today until pubs can open up their outdoor areas to serve customers, with the rule of six or two households rule in place.

Also from 12 April, The Morning Advertiser ​understands the ban on takeaway alcohol will be removed, meaning operators can serve booze for collection.

There will be no 'substantial meal' requirement or curfew however, table service will still have to be in place.

The Government has previously said more details around the measures will be announced nearer the time relaxation is due to happen.

12.05 - Bolstering food offerings

Q. How can I create a food offering to attract customers?

A. Heineken says: People have become increasingly motivated by a venue’s food offering when planning where to go in the on-trade. Research shows good food and access to a garden or outdoor space are the top two traits they’re looking for.

Heineken pub food blog post
(credit: Getty/rez-art)

Some 65% of people said they’d most likely visit a pub with an extensive food menu, while 41% said they’d visit a pub that offered a small selection of food or snacks. Either way, we know food is important to your customers and eating outdoors brings huge opportunities.

Per the new roadmap, up to six people will be able to meet together outdoors in England and Scotland next month (still TBC in Wales). Our research shows 81% of people will feel comfortable having a cosy meal with their partner after lockdown, while 76% said the same of meals with family and friends. Low tempo occasions are therefore a priority, so it’s important to set up ways to cater to comfort and expectation.

We’re fortunate to share the experience and expertise of our Star Pubs & Bars on how to plan a new menu, adjust an underperforming one, encourage trade up and ultimately offer customers a great food experience.

When building your menu, start by thinking about your customers, local competitors, food trends and planning your commercials (like setting dish RSPs and an overall target dry GP).

Identify your ‘Bull’s Eye Customer’ – matching the profile of your current customers, the type of person you want to appeal to, or both – including understanding their likes / dislikes, hobbies and visiting occasions. This will help guide the decisions you take to make sure your food offering is right for them, so they are likely to spend more and become a loyal customer.

To make your menu work harder for you, there are some simple steps you can take to boost revenue and customer interest.

  • Implement a ‘good, better, best’ structure like you would with your drinks range to encourage trade up. You know what your customers like and buy as you see the sales; Fish & Chips may be your best-selling dish, but by simply adding a couple of pieces of scampi and some extra sides or condiments you could create a premium ‘Chip Shop Platter’ to drive extra revenue at little cost. Even your phrasing can encourage people to trade up – customers respond well to words like ‘signature’, as it tells them what you do well and are famous for.
  • Review your food supplier, focusing on product quality, provenance and price. Do they meet the needs for your business and ‘Bull’s Eye Customer’? With the buying power of our Star Pubs & Bars, we were able to negotiate exclusive discounts, such as with Brakes the leading wholesale food supplier, and pass these savings on to our customers though the Heineken Buying Club, saving time and money.
  • Consider the impact certain dishes have on your staff and kitchen to avoid creating unnecessary pressures that could slow down service or impact on the final dishes – particularly for reopening if you are adding extra covers outside. You could even partner with local street food vendors if you don’t have the time or facilities to open a kitchen, or just to provide something different and a reason to visit. Street food is becoming more popular in the UK and enables you to offer customers a new and exciting al fresco dining experience, without the need for plates and cutlery – saving you time collecting and washing up.
  • Keep it simple, especially during reopening. If you have changed your layout or added extra covers, ensure your staff know each new table number and location to help them deliver warm food quickly. Don’t forget to keep cutlery and condiments close by to save them multiple journeys.

Whatever your offering looks like, it’s important to keep standards high and deliver every customer the same great experience so they want to come back again and again.

Remember to promote your food menu on your website and social channels, so people know what you’re offering and are more likely to visit. You can follow our advice on how to boost your digital presence by checking out our previous post on reassuring older customers.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group open to all on-trade operators powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

Thursday 11 March - Eviction ban extended

As announced by the Government yesterday (Wednesday 10 March), the ban on commercial evictions has been extended by a further three months.

While trade body UKHospitality labelled the move a "sensible and positive step", chief executive Kate Nicholls also called for the continuation to go further and be extended until September.

The ban was meant to come to an end on 31 March but will now close on 30 June.

Wednesday 10 March – Alfresco dining given go ahead

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has revealed he intends to extend pavement licences for a further 12 months in a bid to help hospitality recover from the pandemic.

(creit: Getty/ John Howard)

The announcement, which is subject to parliamentary approval, was included in a letter sent by Jenrick to councils.

Under measures already in place, pubs will be permitted to serve customers outdoors no earlier than 12 April.

Extending provisions around pavement licences will make it easier and cheaper for operators to serve people outside, the Government has said.

More information about pavement licences and the details around them for summer, outdoor trading can be found on the Government's website here​.

Tuesday 9 March – Building customer confidence

Q. How can I encourage members, many who have been shielding for the past year, back into our club and make them feel reassured once we are allowed to reopen?

A. Heineken says: The vaccine roll-out has been a key factor in boosting consumers’ confidence to get back into the on-trade, particularly for older people who are more hesitant about going out. The good news is that by the time of re-opening on 12 April in England or 23 April in Scotland (Wales TBC), everyone in the most ‘at-risk’ categories will have been offered the vaccine, which will be an important step in alleviating concerns. But we still have an important role to play in reassuring older consumers in particular that the on-trade is a safe place to reconnect with others.

(credit: Getty/Drazen Zigic)

After a year of isolating, there is a collective eagerness to go out and meet with friends and family. Our research shows 41% of over 55 year olds feel comfortable about visiting pubs and bars, so there is clearly still work to do in putting the majority of this age group at ease.

Reach out to your members to find out what they have missed most and try to create events / reasons to visit geared around these in a safe way.

Focusing on lower tempo events, such as coffee mornings or quiz nights during quieter periods of the day or week, will not only help boost your revenues but can also be a good way of building confidence. Membership schemes can also help encourage footfall.

Incentivise existing members to return or bring in new customers, such as through special offer deals or vouchers, while encouraging your staff to hand out membership application forms. Member newsletters and groups are a great way to communicate with your customers, share upcoming events and offer discounts on products that appeal to older drinkers during quieter times of the week.

Health and safety will be front of mind, with many people expecting to see cleaning regimens, PPE and social distancing in place in pubs and bars.

Some 72% of people feel regular anti-viral cleaning will remain very important and 67% feel the same about enforced social distancing, so it’s important you reassure customers you’re taking measures to keep them safe. You can find tips on how to do this, as well as maximise your outdoor space – where many people will feel safer, in our second post, shared last week.

Communication will be key to re-engaging with members during re-opening. Ensuring your website and social media channels are up to date with opening times, events, health and safety measures and any additional facilities such as outside space, will allow members to plan their visit ahead of time.

You could also consider sharing photos or, even better, a short video showcasing the changes you’ve put in place or your cleaning regime – plus this is a great way to show off your facilities to potential new members.

If you don’t have a website, there are services available to help. We recommend​, which is accessible at a discounted rate via the Heineken Buying Club. Useyourlocal can help you create a great looking website in just 20 minutes!

The service also sends automatic notifications to your customers, integrates with your social media channels and the team can even help with maintaining your site on an ongoing basis – all geared towards keeping your members up to date with planned events and to attract new customers.

Friday 5 March - Reopening plans

Pubs are putting together plans for reopening with JD Wetherspoon (JDW) the first to announce when this will happen. The operator is looking to open its external areas to customers from no earlier than 12 April.

JDW is set to reopen beer gardens, roof top areas and patios at 394 of its 875 pubs next month. Menus will be reduced, hand sanitiser available alongside Test and Trace systems and the use of an ordering app.

Read more here​.

10.30 – Maximising outside trading

Q. How can I make the most of my outdoor space to serve more customers?

A. Heineken says: New Government guidelines should enable pubs and restaurants to serve meals and drinks outdoors in England from 12 April and in Scotland from 26 April, while Wales is yet to confirm its plan.

(credit: Getty/jrobertblack)

This means pub gardens are going to play a fundamental role in the reopening of the hospitality industry, facilitating social distancing and increasing capacity in outlets.

Even before this new roadmap was announced, 53% of people said they would be more likely to visit a pub if it had a beer garden, increasing to 67% among 25 to 34-year-olds.

With that in mind, if you don’t already have a pub garden, consider using space like parts of your car park partitioned with windbreakers or plants to make it look welcoming.

One of our Star Pubs & Bars got permission from the council to close off a side road and installed lighting, umbrellas and planters to create a cosy space for 40 covers – the total cost of £5,000 helped increased weekly trade by £1,000 during the reopening period last year. Another spent just £250 converting a car park into a licensed beer garden with 10 new covers, which saw sales grow by 125% v the previous year.

When you’re thinking about making any changes to your outdoor space, it’s important to consider all planning and licensing requirements, such as selling alcohol or hosting live music.

For instance, you’ll need a pavement licence if you want to put furniture on ground that you don’t own or that forms part of the public highway. We’d recommend contacting your local planning department with any questions from the get-go, as authorities can vary and permission can take some time.

First impressions are everything. You can drive serious footfall and promote dwell time with a smart, clean environment. Simple housekeeping such as pressure washing the path up to your entrance and keeping your windows clean shows that your pub team is willing to work hard to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

Ensuring you have enough staff to collect empties regularly and sanitising tables between covers also reassures customers you are keeping them safe – especially considering our recent research showed 72% of people feel regular anti-viral cleaning will remain very important for pubs and bars.

Further boost kerb appeal by adding flowers, planters and benches, particularly near the entrance, to make your space attractive and stand out to passers-by.

Knowing our great British weather is predictably unpredictable, it’s important to make sure your outdoor space is viable in all conditions. Small changes can make a big difference, but we appreciate there is still an upfront cost to invest in coverings, lighting and heating.

That’s why we created the Heineken Buying Club – to offer our customers access to unique discounts from top suppliers like Woodberry, which supplies quality outdoor furniture. Weather-proofing your outdoor space encourages people to stay longer and spend more. Our Facebook group, The Pub Social, is also a great source of recommendations from other operators.

Finally, ensure you promote your great outdoor space on your website and via social media. Customers won’t be visiting if they don’t know it’s there! Your garden should feature at least twice in your nine most recent social posts alongside relevant hashtags like #beergarden. Video content is key and attracts higher engagement than still photos, meaning your posts will get pushed to the top of your followers’ newsfeeds – increasing your chances of attracting customers.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group open to all on-trade operators powered by HEINEKEN and Star Pubs & Bars.

Thursday 4 March, 10.10 – What happened in the Budget?

Alongside the furlough extension, the business rates holiday was also extended as part of the Chancellor's Budget yesterday (Wednesday 3 March) as well as the VAT cut on food, soft drinks and accommodation.

(credit: Getty/Dilok Klaisataporn)

Alcohol duty has remained frozen and the national living wage will rise by 19p from 1 April.

Read more about the Budget details here​.

Wednesday 3 March - Furlough extension revealed

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is set to be extended until 30 September 2021, it was revealed last night (Tuesday 2 March), just hours before the Chancellor is set to give his spring Budget.

(credit: Getty/syahrir maulana)

Employer contributions will be at 10% in July and 20% for August and September.

Furthermore, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also expected to announce a fourth Self Employed Income Support Scheme grant will be available to claim in April.

He will provide further information on this in the Budget speech this afternoon (12.30pm) alongside details of a fifth grant.

Tuesday 2 March - Speculation builds around Budget details

Ahead of the Chancellor's Budget tomorrow (Wednesday 3 March), there have been reports about what he is expected to say.

(credit: Getty/BrianAJackson)

Trade bodies have called for a support package including an extension of the business rates holiday, a continuation of the furlough scheme, the VAT cut to be widened to include alcohol alongside a deferral of tax payments and a drop in beer duty.

If you have any questions about Budget or the support available to pubs, let us know in the comment section below and we will get them answered as quickly as we can.

Monday 1 March - Reassuring older consumers

Q. Will people feel confident visiting the pub after lockdown? When can I start trading normally again?

A. Heineken says: The good news is the public is starting to feel optimistic about the future, with two in five people keen to visit the on-trade within the first month of reopening.

(credit: Getty/Drazen Zigic)

Together, we need to continue boosting their confidence, showcasing the ways in which they will be kept safe and reminding them of all the reasons they love your pub.

Once the lockdown lifts, customers will be able to meet up to six people or mix as two households – but are no longer bound by a 10pm curfew or substantial meal requirement.

For people returning to your venue, it’s more important than ever to provide a high-quality experience.

Consider how to give them a reason to visit, especially during the traditionally quiet times. Establishing ‘Rhythm of the Week’ activities will help drive footfall and loyalty during quieter periods, rather than relying so heavily on the weekend trade.

Simple events like curry nights, coffee mornings or quiz nights will help increase your daytime or mid-week business.

Advertising your pub as a great remote working space, with speedy Wi-Fi and a business offer lunch included, or offering a room where small groups can meet for business networking under the rule of six, is a great way to increase traffic – and bring in more customers as they spread the word amongst clients and co-workers.

Use permanent items like A-boards as well as POS to promote these offerings in outlet or via your website and social channels.

At Heineken, we first trialled this in our Star Pubs & Bars estate and have since launched POS Direct so our customers can personalise all POS to suit their venue, offering and event.

Social distancing and contactless payments are likely to continue for some time. But warmer months are on the way and the UEFA EURO 2020 is going to be a huge opportunity to reconnect with customers.

Pub gardens will be more important than ever before, helping you boost capacity when space is limited and attracting customers less comfortable with sitting inside.

Keep an eye out for our next post, which focuses on how you can maximise your space and promote an attractive outdoor offering to customers.

It’s been a long period of uncertainty, but with the vaccination roll-out there’s every hope the on-trade can get back on track, meaning pub businesses can recover quickly and safely.

For more advice and support, join The Pub Social – a new Facebook group​ open to all on-trade operators powered by Heineken and Star Pubs & Bars.

Quick Q&A

• ​We are having trouble claiming business grants from our local council. We are the trading arm (a social club selling alcohol) of a charity. As charity, the trustees are not allowed to run the business raising funds so the CCA Social Club Ltd was set up in 1998 and all annual profits are passed over to the CCA Charity for dispersal amongst local causes and building maintenance.

The social club pay the CCA a monthly rent, which is inclusive of rates and so therefore doesn't show up on the register of business rates which the council uses to determine who is eligible for grants. Obviously, the answer would be for an officer of the Charity to explain this to the council.

However, the charity's members voted in new officers in an August AGM but the old officers are refusing to relinquish control.

This means that the officers in waiting currently have no authority and that the "outgoing" officers refuse to cooperate or respond to any communications meaning that the social club (the actual business) is in the same "limbo boat" as everyone else but is receiving no grants.

The dispute between the members and the "outgoing" officers is being analysed by the Charities Commission but in the meantime the jobs of eight staff are at risk and the social club's funds have nearly run out. The grants are essential for survival and your advice would be greatly appreciated.

In this instance, it appears as the occupier is not the ratepayer, the ability to claim grants rests solely with CCA Social Club and unfortunately, this means there is no legal requirement and/or obligation for the support to be then passed onto the occupier.

However, scenarios like these was envisaged through the various discretionary schemes available for those occupiers who pay rent but are not the ratepayer.

But, the level of those grants are often inferior.

• When can I serve takeaway alcohol?

The MA ​understands takeaway alcohol will be allowed as part of the Government’s reopening plan under step two (no earlier than Monday 12 April), in line with the reopening of outdoor hospitality. It is also understood more specific information for businesses in the sector will be provided closer to the introduction of each step.

​ Will there be restrictions in place for outdoor reopening?

In the Government’s plan to reopen pubs for outside trading no earlier than 12 April, the rule of six or two households together rule should be adhered to, with no indoor mixing or trading allowed.

There will be no ‘substantial meal’ rule and no curfew however, table service will still have to be in place.

• What about indoor service?

No earlier than Monday 17 May is when the Government is planning to allow pubs to trade indoors.

Again, this will be without the ‘substantial meal’ rule and no curfew however, table service will still have to be in place.

However, the rule of six or two households inside will be in place but this will be subject to review. For outside, gatherings must be limited to 30 people.

Social distancing to remain in place until the Government updates this advice.

• If I borrow money or have borrowed money, how am I going to pay it back?​

The important thing here is to only borrow what you will be able to pay back once normal trading resumes. The loans are being issued by funding providers based on what would be manageable for you before the impact of Covid-19 on your business.

Another thing to consider is that you will be reimbursed the money you are paying to your employees, so any money you borrow for this purpose, will be paid to you by HMRC which you can, in turn, pay back to the lender.

• I understand we can offer takeaways from our pub but we are in a tiny village with a very limited number of customers so our numbers would not be able to cover the wages and costs of production. If we don’t offer this service, our chef is able to be paid at the 80% of his current salary – so it’s a conundrum? Can this be clarified?

When it comes to the situation regarding hospitality and leisure workers continuing to work producing takeaway food, they will not be designated as furloughed and will, therefore, not be eligible to be paid the job retention scheme payment of 80% of normal salary.

We are unsure how keeping a takeaway-only service operational would be tenable for most businesses but it is dependent on how much of a pub’s income is generated by this as opposed to its on-sales.  

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