Sober October deniers’ pubs will struggle to survive

Sobering view: non-alcoholic occasions should be seen as an opportunity says Hari Fell
Sobering view: non-alcoholic occasions should be seen as an opportunity says Hari Fell

Related tags Low to no Pubco + head office Food Social responsibility

As a hotelier of 20 years and having given up alcohol more than four years ago, I read Gav Young’s opinion piece ‘A Pub is for life not for 10 months of the year’ with dismay.

While I empathise that hospitality (especially pubs) have had a tough time recently, the attitude of Gav Young​ will not help his pub survive. Sober October and the increase in the sober curious, should be seen as an opportunity.

Pubs have evolved over time to keep up with consumer demand. Whether that has meant serving food or installing an espresso machine to cater to our increased demands for coffee. What hasn’t changed is the fact that for many of us it is the centre of our community.

Pubs are often the heart and soul of villages around the country and their importance is shown by the increasing number of community-led pubs.

55% reducing alcohol consumption

According to research from KAM Media, 1 in 3 visits to the pub are no longer alcohol-based and 55% of all UK adults are actively reducing their alcohol consumption.

It isn’t just those of us who are sober that don’t drink alcohol on a visit – there are normally designated drivers as well as pregnant women. Just because I no longer drink alcohol does not mean I don’t want to socialise or spend money on drinks. I want interesting, adult, alcohol-free drinks and, luckily, there are now plenty on the market.

According to Pub With NO Booze, 70% of non-alcoholic beer drinkers, also drink alcoholic beer. So your beer-drinking patrons, who may stay for another round if they had the option of a zero proof version, also benefit by offering a non-alcoholic option, as will your takings.

Great uptake

At my hotel in the Forest of Dean, we have expanded our non-alcoholic offering at the hotel to include beer, cider, 6 different wines and 15 cocktails. This sits alongside our more extensive alcohol offering. We have had great uptake of these drinks from a large range of people as people look to moderate their alcohol consumption for whatever reason.

I would urge Gav and other publicans to add to their offering and thereby provide a choice for people who choose not to drink. There is more money to be made in a great-tasting, non-alcoholic cocktail than in a glass of tap water after all.

Pubs need to adapt to remain the places that we all choose to gather, and be the heart of the community. We need them, as much as they need us.

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