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Out and about: F&B retail trends at the Pub 19 trade show

I like a good trade show or conference. Of course there’s a plethora to choose from these days but if you are selective, they can be great places to network with existing clients and suppliers as well as places to meet potential new ones.

I also advocate visiting trade shows to clients as you can often pick up some great free market and trends advice that might otherwise cost you thousands. They are also good for helping clients to open your eyes to your market place and see what your competition are up to. All very useful stuff if you are about to invest in developing your F&B business operation.

So earlier this month, despite a frantic work schedule, some of us headed off to Pub 19 at London’s Olympia. Along with the usual tempting food and drink tasting bars there were some interesting presentations on the state of the sector.

‘Reasons to be cheerful’ from CGA– the out-of-home food and drink market research specialist – presented some of their latest stats. And The Pub Trends Report was also launched at the show.

As of September 2018, there were nearly 50,000 pubs and bars in the UK. And among the consumers who visit pubs at least once a week, 2 in 3 (66%) are male and 34% female, which goes to illustrate the scale of opportunity to attract more women back into pubs – many have been lured away by bars and the casual dining sector.

CGA’s presentation looked at what qualities consumers value in a pub – ‘cosy’ and ‘local’ scored highly of course, while ‘family friendly’,  ‘familiar’ and ‘modern’ followed closely behind. Ultimately they found that choice, experience and great customer service are all vital elements in the mix of a successful pub.

And with many pubs at the heart of their communities, operators are also expected to have a deep understanding of the unique needs and habits of their local markets too.

Of course pubs are operating in a hugely competitive market today so they need to cater for all tastes, not only on the food front but with their entertainment experiences too. Depending on their location, traditional games and quiz nights are still working for many but others, in more competitive urban regions, are having success with such innovations as escape rooms, interactive theatres, and even VR experiences.

With the key drivers for visiting pubs still to ‘socialise, eat and drink’ it’s obviously critical for pubs to get their food and drink offers right. Consumer tastes are changing fast – pub-goers palettes are more educated today and they demand a wide range of food offers that encompass not just the traditional pub fare but more modern international cuisine as well as vegetarian and vegan choices. Locally sourced food and seasonal foods too are becoming a priority for punters and what’s more provide a great focus for mid-week ‘tasting’ events. The same goes for craft beers and spirits, and the ever-growing popularity of cocktails.

But when asked what factors are most important when visiting a pub, ‘atmosphere’ came out on top followed by a decent outdoor space, interior design and good background music. Of course, these factors are where interior designers like us come in, not just in our work with pubs but with restaurants and bars too.

Only this week, the CEO of UKHospitality was in the press talking about the importance of innovation and differentiation in both the casual dining and pub sectors. Designers and clients need to remember that people place a huge value on the kind of inviting, comfortable, warm and homely environment for which the British pub is renowned. But the trick is to blend these qualities with a clean, contemporary and considered space that can compete with the wide choice of modern bars and restaurants that lure people away from pubs.

Helping a client to understand the needs of their target market and then delivering the appropriate atmosphere is as essential as getting their food, drink and entertainment offers right. Understand this and build them all into your mix and you can look forward to a successful 2019.

And while we are on the subject of F&B success, congratulations to our client Bancone who earlier this month was voted one of the top 10 London restaurants for solo dining by House & Garden.


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