How to use TikTok at your pub

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

TikTok on the clock but the party don't stop: Pubs take to social media (Getty/ Drazen_)
TikTok on the clock but the party don't stop: Pubs take to social media (Getty/ Drazen_)

Related tags Branding + marketing Technology Multi-site pub operators

The days of floral wallpaper, polished Insta feeds and glossy promotional deals are long gone as the TikTok era rears its head. Think: viral dances, extreme cooking challenges and instant fame.

Addison Rae, Charli D’Amelio and Loren Gray are all influencers who've earned their stripes on the app. But there’s scope for pubs to score celeb status too. Welcome to #pubtok, where shaky videos, cellar tours and seven-second clips of trending songs can see pubs rocket to fame in just hours. What’s the appeal, and how exactly do you do it? We spoke to operators, influencers and Gen Z to find out.

According to Lucie Dallas, general manager at the Griffin, Mynydd Isa, Wales, the recent growth of TikTok means trending videos had a “significant influence” on the way people live their lives so the pub took to the platform in the hope of gaining more customers.

You only have to look to the pub’s TikTok account, @thegriffininn, to see its success. The page has amassed 4,365 followers and the most-watched video has racked up an eyewatering 6.3m views.

@thegriffininn Free pour challenge part 2 #pub#thegriffin#kegs#freepour#hospitality#hospitalityindustry#familyfriendly#dogfriendly♬ Doja - Central Cee

TikTok not only helps the pub reach big audiences but is also a convenient way to grow its target audience of potential customers with trending sounds and hashtags, like #Britishpub, says Dallas.

She also believes social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have been exhausted. “People are bored of photos,” she says. “TikTok is the way forward, as it engages with a younger audience we want to attract.

“You can get a lot of information in a short video. It adds personality to the pub.”

It's a no brainer

Indeed, Gen Z is driving the recovery​ of the hospitality sector, according to new data from guest experience platform SevenRooms. The research, unearthed by Censuswide on behalf of SevenRooms, found of the 2,008 people aged 16 and over surveyed, younger customers were spending an average of £68.02 a week in restaurants, pubs and bars, while those aged between 35 and 44 spent an average of £45.75, decreasing to £21.52 for participants aged 55 and over.

Furthermore, creating a Tiktok account is a “no brainer” in terms of keeping up with current trends and letting people know what goes on at the pub in an interactive way, Dallas adds.

“You can get a lot of information in a short video. It adds personality to the pub.”

She continues: “We know social media marketing is essential for any successful business and, as times have changed, new social media platforms have been created.

“We can see people online want to see more than just pictures, they want to engage by seeing videos and behind the scenes content from the pub.”

The Griffin’s most popular content is either funny sounds and captions linked to working the pub, or videos showing how to make drinks, with its most-watched video scoring 558.8k views. “Customers are interested in what goes on, and TikTok is an easy way to give short, sometimes funny bursts of information,” she says.

Holly Fullard, manager at the New Derby, in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, also uses TikTok to connect with people. Users enjoy behind-the-scenes “sneak peaks” of the pub, for instance tours of the cellar and behind the bar videos. “If the venue’s clean and tidy on TikTok, they say, ‘that must be a good place to go,’” the 19-year-old adds.

Low risk, high reward

Furthermore, DUSK app founder Sophie Abrahamovitch believes TikTok has become a search engine, where young people could look up businesses. While it was hard to grow followers on Instagram, TikTok offers the opportunity for instant fame that was “low risk, high reward”.

Pubs need to “show the bar at its best”, according to Abrahamovitch. Simple things matter, such as filming the pub at its busiest period. What’s more, the ‘Millennial’ trend of queuing up to take a photo against a flower wall is a thing of the past, she says.

@thenewderbyofficial Far too tired on a night shift #fyp#foryoupage#publife♬ original sound - jackie_ju4n

Gen Z is instead drawn to the overall vibe of a place. “In the past, even if the staff were rude and the drinks were rubbish, if it looked nice on Instagram, that was all that mattered,” says the DUSK founder.

“The younger generation are really pulling away from that,” she adds. “It’s much more about the experience, rather than a single shot that looks good on Instagram.”

This is true for 23-year-old pubgoer and avid TikTok watcher Lucy Price, who says one in five venues she visits are ones she finds on the app.

Overall vibes, good décor and pictures of food help her pick places to eat. If the site is in a nice location, this also doesn’t go amiss.

“So much of TikTok is toxic,” she says. “But this part I use in a way to actually benefit me rather than affect my mental health.”

Tacky venues were a big no, and Price would opt for independent pubs over chains.

It's all fun and games

What’s more, Abrahamovitch believes operators should get younger team members to run TikTok accounts. “If the staff are having fun and enjoying work, then it’s probably a really fun bar to be in,” she says.

TikTok allowed pubs to market in much more experimental ways than other platforms, she adds. This is because it’s low-cost, and videos did not need to be super polished.

“Authenticity is what performs best,” she continues. “Videos can be shaking, low quality and on your phone. Try anything and see what works.”

“It’s much more about the experience, rather than a single shot that looks good on Instagram.”

This could look like jumping on trends, educating audiences about cocktail recipes and showcasing live music events. Voice-overs often help videos perform better as show there’s a real story being told.

“It's organic, it’s quick, it doesn't need to be slick and it's not that time consuming,” she adds. “It feels like a no brainer.”

Pubs could also appeal to Gen Z by being inclusive, according to Alana Laverty, creative director at Sage Creative – a digital agency offering TikTok strategy to businesses.

“Older pubs can be more reluctant to change their ways and expand,” she adds, “but if these are the kinds of customers you're looking for, inclusivity will be rewarded.”

Making content count

Laverty, who initially created content as a hobby, seeks out venues with a unique selling point. This includes documenting new openings, highlighting her favourite dishes or showcasing exceptional service. Unusual, well-thought-out interiors also make for “great content”.

Laverty says pubs should identify their audience: who is the ideal customer, what kind of content are they watching, and how can you engage them?

From there, pubs should focus on “content pillars” – categories posts should fall under. For instance, these could be ‘entertainment’, ‘educational’ and ‘promotional’. An example for each of theses could be team challenges (entertainment), highlighting drinks promos (promotional) or ‘how to make trending cocktails’ (educational).

What’s more, pubs should link to their TikTok account on their website and Instagram account to drive traffic. They should post as much as they can because TikTok would reward this, she adds. Once a day or more was ideal.

“People love storytelling, so go ahead and show your establishment’s personality, members of your team, customer favourites, quirks, traditions,” she said.

The time has come to ditch traditionally immaculate Instagram feeds for imperfection, authenticity and inclusivity. Rally Gen Z staff to start a TikTok account, put the fun back in hospitality and show what the #Britishpub is all about.

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