Just like all hospitality businesses, pubs throughout the UK are operating in a challenging climate. At the start of the pandemic, there were 40,886 pubs in England and Wales. Since then, each week, around six pubs have vanished from local communities; buildings have either been demolished, converted for a different use or left empty.1
Not only that, having to compete with the likes of Brewdog as well as niche pop-ups, microbreweries, and local supermarkets means pubs have to find innovative ways to entice visitors back through their doors – and retain their loyalty.
Immediate issues around recruitment, rising costs and disruption to supply remain, but it’s not time to call last orders; hospitality’s long-term future remains positive. Seven in ten (70%) restaurant, pub and bar leaders feel optimistic about their businesses’ prospects for the next 12 months.2 There are lucrative opportunities for landlords who market their pub well, so where do you start when it comes to promoting your pub?
Firstly, Know Your Audience
Encouraging repeat business and customer loyalty is more cost-effective than tempting new customers through your doors for a one-off visit.
Suppose you’re based in a busy metropolitan area, but your regular clientele is of an ageing demographic. In that case, you may want to start enticing students and young professionals into your pub. If you haven’t already, think about who your ideal customers are. Who would you want as your regulars? How do they behave, what are their habits?
First Impressions Count
With your audience in mind, focus on the appearance of your pub, the attitude of your staff and the overall customer experience. Are there changes you can make to increase regular custom?
Your signage is the public face of your business. It’s also the only impression people get of your bar or pub if they don’t come in. Suppose you’re marketing your pub to a younger audience. In that case, it has to look good on the outside, well-lit and enticing, whereas an older audience may be in the mood for a more easy-going and relaxing time.
Find the Right Staff
Perhaps one of your biggest challenges is finding the right staff. Still, they are the key to creating an excellent experience for your customers. They’ll make an impression on them, and whether that’s positive or negative will depend on your recruitment process. It’s essential to find likeable, enthusiastic staff who will fit in with your customers and your existing team. A lack of experience needn’t make someone a bad bartender – we all have to start somewhere! They could become the customers’ favourite or even your next manager with the right training and career progression path.
Throw an Event
Hosting a themed night is a classic but effective way to get people through the doors, especially on quiet nights. From one-off open-mic nights and dating events to regular ladies nights and cocktail evenings, they will depend on your establishment and the clientele you want to attract. Whatever the theme, the aim is to put your pub on the radar of a whole host of new customers who might never have thought of visiting; word of mouth will soon spread
Become a Dog-Friendly Pub
There are now 34 million pets in the UK, 12 million of which are dogs.3 These four-legged friends are often classed as one of the family, joining owners for trips to the pub. So, if you’re not already, becoming dog-friendly could be a lucrative move for your business. Some simple changes to make your pub dog-friendly include:
- Install clear signage showing dogs are welcome. This includes on your website and social media as well as your physical pub.
- Have some ‘pet etiquette’ rules, e.g. friendly dogs only, and make it clear owners must keep them under control.
- Having water bowls available inside and outside and offer dog treats that owners can help themselves to.
- Offer somewhere shaded during hot weather for dogs to keep cool.
- Create a dedicated area so owners can eat inside with their dogs – not everyone will want to share their dining experiences with other canine customers.
Take Advantage of Social Media
When marketing your pub or bar, make sure you’re using social media to spread the word and encourage others to on your behalf:
- Post content that encourages followers to engage with you by sharing with their friends: videos, pictures, events, new menus, featured ales etc.
- Run competitions and offers to create a buzz around your pub and encourage more people to follow, like and share in return for a reward – a free bottle of wine with a meal, for example.
Social media management can be time-consuming, so focus on the channels that are right for your audience. If you appeal to a younger audience, Instagram is best, whereas older audiences tend to use Facebook.
The pub sector will be crucial in the medium and long-term for our economic recovery and the social resilience of communities across the UK. Pubs hold enormous social value for communities; with the right promotion aimed at the right audiences, you’ll be heading in the right direction on the road to future success.
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