Events & Occasions feature

FEATURE: Be wise before the events and occasions

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

To beer or not to beer: multiple operator Fuller’s has put opera and Shakespeare shows on and gained huge traction with customers
To beer or not to beer: multiple operator Fuller’s has put opera and Shakespeare shows on and gained huge traction with customers

Related tags Multi-site pub operators Pubco + head office Tenanted + leased Freehouse

There is nothing like an event or a big night to pull in the punters. Offering something special in the current climate to get people to come out is becoming more of a challenge than ever before.

Promotional content - Kopparberg


Kopparberg, the UK’s leading fruit cider brand[1], rolls out brand new Strawberry & Lime draught font nationwide in time for summer

Currently 75% of all draught cider sales are apple, despite there being significantly more fruit cider drinkers in the UK, showing a clear opportunity for fruit cider on draught.[2] Kopparberg’s Strawberry & Lime is the number one bestselling single bottled fruit cider flavour[3], possessing more drinkers than any other cider brand.[4] And now with Kopparberg Strawberry & Lime also available on draught this is perfect for premiumising draught cider options.

Kopparberg’s new-look Strawberry & Lime draught fonts are slicker, more vibrant, and more energetic than ever before. Kopparberg are leading the way introducing high resolution LED screens within the fonts to capture the attention at bar. With fresh eye-catching design beautifully bringing to life Kopparberg’s colourful world of flavour and refreshment through stunning motion, the electric fonts promise to deliver real stand-out in venues this summer.

Not only do the new Kopparberg fonts have great visual appeal but cutting-edge insulation tech also ensures that Kopparberg’s bestselling Strawberry & Lime flavoured cider [4], is stored and poured at only the lowest possible dispense temperature, delivering consumers with consistent perfectly chilled and fruity refreshment all summer.

1 Savanta Top 100 Most Loved Drinks Brands report, n=48,000, Jan ‘21-Jun ’21

2 & 3 CGA On Premise Measurement Data, Bar Segment, to 01/01/22 & IRI, Total Market, Total Cider, 52wks 20/03/22

4 Kantar, Total Cider, Total Buyers, MAT to 20/03/22

For more information, click here​.

Latest statistics from Hospitality Guest Experience Management (HGEM) show around nine out of 10 consumers are financially impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Plus consumer spending slowed by 1.2% for pubs, clubs and bars in May compared to the same period in 2021, as the cost-of-living crisis squeezed Brits’ budgets.

Offering the right event or occasion for your customer is key. Whether that is running that annual beer festival, driving footfall with sport, live music, food events or even offering something more exciting and unique.

While pub operator Fuller’s runs a range of activities across its pub estate, it has taken a more adventurous approach to some of its events.

A range of its pubs launched ‘Opera in the Garden’ last year, following the success of its Shakespeare in the Garden events that have been running for a number of years. This year, the opera has been expanded to more outlets following the initial success in five pubs while its ‘Shakespeare in the Garden’ is now also being launched to pubs across its tenanted estate.

Jane Jones, director of marketing for Fuller’s, says the company decided to “test the water” with the opera that offers accessible and recognisable songs, and it has proved to be a “real success”.

“The reason that we try to put this programme of events on is to give people a reason to come back to the pub. We do it as footfall drivers but they turned out to be very successful and we got a really loyal audience as a result,” Jones says.

Questions need to be raised about how to operationally deliver such things as whether the pub needs a portable bar in the garden, serving buckets of beers instead of pints, outdoor barbecues or even using a pay-at-table app.

“It depends on the day, the time and the pub and whether it is auditorium or table,” adds Jones.

“If it is a Thursday evening at 7.30pm, you also need to be thinking about what is your food and beverage offer. If people are coming in to see a show you want things on a menu that are easy for the kitchen.”

By ticketing the events, there is the obvious benefit of the extra income and it can also help the pub plan for the expected numbers and facilities needed.

“We have a database of people that we know as soon as we send them an email about tickets they click through and buy,” Jones adds.

Promotional content – Old Mout


Old Mout is responding to high consumer demand for new and interesting cider flavours with the introduction of Strawberry & Apple flavour to its range. This is at a crucial time, as summer is when sales of fruit cider in pubs over-index. The latest flavour launch hit the market for consumers looking for berry flavours, which currently make up 78% of premium flavoured cider[1]. Operators stocking drinks that appeal to this demand set themselves up to win additional sales. 33% of all cider serves are ordered by Generation Y drinkers[2], who are looking for exciting new flavours. Old Mout’s newest launch presents a clear opportunity for operators to tap into this highly engaged customer base, who seek exciting new flavours from trusted brands when drinking in pubs and bars. Operators can stock up on brand new Old Mout Strawberry and Apple flavour on Heineken Direct​.

[1] Nielsen Scantrak. Total Coverage/GB. 4WE 21.05.22

[2] KAM Media Beer Drinking Habits January 2022

But it is not just these theatre performances Fuller’s supports, it also focuses on mainstream events such as quizzes and live music at a range of its pubs. The pub operator is offered access to the events in a range of ways such as central co-ordination, local contacts for quizzes and access to partnership such organisations such as Comedy on Tap and Smudged Lipstick.  

Jones says the type of event run at each pub depends on a range of factors from what the customers want and the input of the general manager or licensee.

“It is about the general manager finding out what works for their audience and giving that audience a reason to visit,” she says.

Richard Edwards, licensee at the Potters Arms in Winchmore Hill, Buckinghamshire, agrees that events can give people a reason to visit as well as bringing in new customers.

He runs a wide range of events including comedy nights at his village pub, which can bring up to 100 extra people in on a weeknight. As well as driving revenue with ticket sales, it also allows him to showcase his pub and food offer.

Edwards says he focuses on events where he can include food in the ticket price, which helps to plan for numbers and staff.

“It has to be about the quality and consistency and the customers are not having to wait,” he says.

“We ran a comedy festival in the marquee on the village green and, after day one, I organised it so people could order drinks to be delivered to their seats.”

He says it is important to know which acts are right for the audience, while having a regular night for events such as quizzes well works for the customers. He also markets them heavily on social media, which can bring in new customers from further afield.

Meanwhile, Deirdre Conway, operator of the Craft Union pub the Chatterton Arms in Bromley, Kent, uses ticket sales to raise money for charity.

She runs Chatt Fest, a two-day festival in a large beer garden every year, on the weekend of 30 July. It sees the pub welcome in 10 bands, offering their services to help raise money for St Christopher’s Hospice. The £5 ticketed festival sees all ticket fees and donations going directly to the local charity.

The pub also plans to hold its Dancing Queens Festival in August, which will see it welcome two local bands throughout the day, followed by a DJ, and finally an Abba tribute act that will offer a grand finale to the day. This ticketed event will see 50% of the funds raised going once again to St Christopher’s Hospice.

One of the biggest issues that can be caused by running these large events is upsetting those who live in close proximity to the venue advises Conway.

“To counter this issue we give pre-warnings in person to the local houses and also offer free tickets to them and their families. We also make sure that all music outdoors ceases at 8pm, so that we don’t upset those with young children,” says Conway.

“In addition to this, we ensure that we are well covered with security to make sure that our customers are well behaved and there are no issues when people are leaving the premises.”


Rohan Thompson, licensee of Star Pubs & Bars site The Bar One next to Ascot Racecourse, recognises the challenges of handling large events. The pub sees a 500% increase on a normal Tuesday with 3,000 people served in a day at Royal Ascot.

One issue that has to be tackled is having enough staff on site to cater for the increased numbers of people.

“We need an extra 50 temporary staff. We promote working over Royal Ascot as the experience of a lifetime with a buzzing atmosphere and incentivise staff to recruit friends from college with bar experience. If they stay the week, the recruiter gets a bonus,” says Thompson.

“Pay is slightly higher and staff get great tips. We operate split shifts to maintain energy levels plus we have an arrangement with Sainsbury’s so staff can park there in return for a team meal.”

Thompson highlights the focus has to be on speed of serve so the drinks range is reduced and the price of drinks is rounded up to the nearest 50p or £1 to minimise change.

“We offer a booking-only, premium three-course set lunch and dinner. Outside we have two bars and a burger bar generates an extra £18,000,” Thompson adds.

Hogs Back Brewery is also no stranger to large events. It uses its Hogs Back Tap for its Hop Harvest celebrations, which last year took place over a weekend and attracted 2,500 people.

“The issues we face are similar to those for most event organisers: how popular is an event going to be and what will be the demand for food and drink on the night? This dictates our bar and catering provision and the number of staff we need to deliver great service,” says managing director Rupert Thompson.  

But what if a pub does not have the benefit of a large bar that can cater for events?

Promotional content - Bidfood


Ambler’s ace tips for sizzling summer events

  1. The wow factor:​ diners are looking for new, unique dining experiences, so give them sensational mains, show stopping desserts, theatrical cocktails, and plenty of fizz
  2. Create a buzz online:​ post stunning shots of your events and food and drink offer on social to bring in the crowds and keep them coming back
  3. Fast, fuss-free cocktails:​ you don’t have to rule out cocktails if you’re short on staff, go for some fabulous pre-mix options, and spruce them up with fresh fruit and herb garnishes
  4. Keep it even simple:​ review your existing mains, then add creative twists that appeal to your diners’ sense of adventure without having to change things up too much
  5. Don’t forget the finishing touches​: serve canapés in glasses, and starters on boards, grazing tables or in bowls; put out fresh flowers and tealights to create an appropriate informal or formal feel.

Advice from Paul Ambler, head of sales at Farmstead from Bidfood. For more information, click here​. 

Heineken highlights the important of utilising any garden space.

Heineken UK on-trade category and commercial strategy director, Charlie Fryday says pubs must look at the opportunities to maximise trading space.

“Pub gardens are important, coming second – after food – in a list of most-wanted attributes, with 53% of consumers saying they are more likely to visit a pub with a beer garden (Populus Pub Survey),” she says.

“Make gardens feel more exclusive for guests by segmenting zones and creating unique spaces for different occasions. Depending on the event, consider whether you need some quieter zones for those customers who may not want to be right in the centre of the action.”

She also suggests offering dressed areas as spaces to pre-book for both events as well as during high-traffic periods that can help with managing staff rotas and stock orders.

“Look at weather-proofing these outdoor spaces with heat and shelter to protect customers against the elements, helping increase dwell time and preventing a rush on your indoor space if the weather should change,” she adds.

She says that people often treat themselves at events, so licensees need to ensure they have a good selection of trade-up options across all categories, such as premium lagers like Birra Moretti.

Food is a big pull for consumers when choosing where to go. If you currently offer food, look at ways to keep the service simple and streamlined with quick-cook classics and outdoor favourites, like burgers and barbecue food. This will ease strain on the kitchen and front-of-house team.

“Using packaged formats allows you to provide greater choice or trial new products for your event. Flavoured cider, like Old Mout, over indexes during the summer months, so evaluate your fridge space to allocate more room to best sellers (and therefore reduce the need to replenish stock quite as often) or offer more choice of flavours,” she says.

She also suggests that food is a big pull for consumers and advises pubs to look at ways to keep the service simple and streamlined with quick-cook classics and outdoor favourites, like burgers and barbecue food, which will ease strain on the kitchen and front-of-house team.

hogs back double resixed

Bidfood agrees food is a crucial part of the offer for any event. The food wholesaler says pubs should add some theatre, especially if they have that sought-after pub garden.

Paul Amber, fresh meat expert at Bidfood, says: “For outside events, hog roasts or a slow-roast smoked brisket can be a real draw, creating an aroma that tempts those just there to drink to consider buying food as well. Slow roasts can also be pulled and used to top burgers, steaks and for fabulous hot baguettes and sandwiches.”

He advises the licensee needs to plan the logistics carefully, by briefing the team well in advance, keeping checklists and making sure that nothing is left to chance.

Amber also recommends pubs consider issues such as staffing and inventory control. Having ready-to-serve dishes or cocktails and sticking to a core range of ingredients that are multi-functional can help to manage these issues.

But whatever the event, bringing in the customers and offering them a fun time is what it is all about. Encouraging people to consider visiting the pub for an event or occasion in a safe environment can be a good business driver.

National Pubwatch advice

Events are a great way to bring customers together but there are some due diligence issues that publicans must take on board to ensure their venue is safe. 

  • The licensee needs to make sure they have implemented a good practice duty of care policy. Free training materials can be found on the National Pubwatch website by clicking here
  • Carry out a team training session to discuss the policy and receive feedback to allow amendments. The NPW training film Protecting Vulnerable People will provide a starting point for team discussions. The film can be viewed by clicking here​ 
  • Consider supporting the Ask for Angela initiative. Successful implementation of the initiative depends on all staff understanding vulnerability and how to respond. The Ask for Angela poster can be downloaded and printed by clicking here
  • Contact your local authority about the event and whether they have any issues or require any increased security such as door staff
  • Check your premises licence to make sure you are meeting capacity and other legal requirements.
  • Risk assess any drinks promotions carefully, again seek advice from Police and Councils on this as they may have knowledge of promotions that have caused issues and which should be avoided
  • Consider talking to neighbours/local residents to get them on board with the event, this could prevent complaints later.
  • If you are planning to run the event outside your permitted hours or have licensable activity not covered by your Premises Licence then submit a temporary event notice (TEN) to the local council, remember you need to give at least 10 clear working days notice - so plan ahead.

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