Pubs can win custom from restaurants

By Ed Sibley, commercial director, Lumina Intelligence

- Last updated on GMT

Go after those diners: pubs can offer the same quality, and more, than restaurants (credit: Getty/Xsandra)
Go after those diners: pubs can offer the same quality, and more, than restaurants (credit: Getty/Xsandra)

Related tags: Food, Gastropub, Freehouse, Pubco + head office, Multi-site pub operators, Tenanted + leased

Consumers are concerned. Whether you are already feeling the pinch or know it’s coming round the corner, the vast majority of the UK are looking to cut back.

Consumer confidence is at an all-time low according to market expert GfK and, yes, we’re going to see an impact on spending in pubs and bars. No new news here.

But being choiceful does not mean stopping spending altogether. In fact, many hospitality operators will do well out of the current economic mess in the same way Aldi and Lidl will be licking their lips at the influx of retail footfall undoubtedly heading their way.

Biggest change was in spending

In our recent data release for Q1 2022, we saw only a modest decrease in UK adults eating and drinking out on a weekly basis. The biggest change was in spend per head, with pubs and bars being hit hardest.

Let’s not pretend this cost-of-living crisis is going to be fairly distributed. Unfortunately, the worse affected will be the least well-off. At the other end of the scale, there will still be a role to pay for premium outlets and premium products. That trend is not going away any time soon. The resilience of home delivery also shows consumers can be slightly irrational in their attempts to cut back.

Instead, in a market with subdued demand and rampant inflation, pubs and bars would do well to think like Lidl and focus on driving home their value advantage over their competitors – namely the branded restaurant estates. The gap in pricing between branded pubs and branded restaurants is already substantial and in the favour of the former, and it’s growing.

Coax restaurant diners into pubs

In February 2020, the difference in average price of a main dish between the top 20 branded pubs and bars and top 20 branded restaurants was £1.79. By May, this gap had increased to a whopping £2.80. When you add in common advantages around more attractive and practical outdoor space, flexible table plans and more expansive drinks ranges, pubs should be looking to coax habitual casual restaurant diners to save money, without sacrificing quality, by drinking and eating with them.

Seven out of the top 10 main course dish types are the same in both branded restaurants and pubs. There is no need for huge overhaul in the average pub’s menu selection. Instead, consumers cite quality of ingredients as one of the main reasons for choosing a restaurant over a pub when eating. Consider how you communicate quality of food from any imagery used on promotional materials, social proof in the form of customers reviews, down to the descriptors used on menus.

Make provenance claims stand out, explain how the food is prepared and cooked… and shout about it.

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