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Top Three Trends Pubs can Learn from Lockdown

Helen Collingborn, Head of Food & Hospitality at Speed Communications looks at how pubs can evolve their offer to fit with changing consumer needs.

“Bookings soaring!”, “Record number of tables booked”… Not lines I would have thought we’d been hearing one year ago today. The return of indoor dining for pubs and restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales on Monday has led to a surge in bookings. But is this just a honeymoon period?

During lockdown, pubs recognised the need to adapt and showed great resilience in how they evolved their offer (with everything from letterbox cocktails to cook at home kits). As consumers, we also all experienced a huge change in our day to day habits. We recently conducted research on behalf of BRITA Professional that showed that 95% of businesses believe consumers expectations of hospitality have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. With this mind, how can pub operators evolve their offer to fit with changing consumer needs?

1. The growth of competitive socialising
When asked what they’ve liked about staying in rather than going out, 13% said they’d enjoyed playing games. What’s more, 25% say that events such as quizzes would make them go out rather than stay in.

As lockdown restrictions end, there is a desire to get to the pub and try new things. With 45% of consumers are seeking new social activities, now is the time to bring play into your outlet to drive growth.

2. Make the most of the ‘bleisure’ trend
Working from home has changed the way we live and work forever. The growing trend for bleisure is set to be big for all areas of hospitality. Consumers who’ve been working from home for over a year are desperate for a change of scenery.

Pub operators can look to maximise this trend and attract custom during the traditionally more quiet week day times. Whether that’s offering areas with a USB and a power point so guests can plug in their laptop or taking a lead from BrewDog who launched the ‘DeskDog’ hot-desking initiative whereby remote workers could prop up at the bar for as little as £7 in exchange for unlimited coffee.

3. Treatment of staff top priority for consumers
We recently conducted research that showed that as the UK gradually eases lockdown restrictions, consumers most want to hear from brands about how they are protecting employee safety and jobs. Over a third (37%) wanted to see brands communicate measures they have taken to look after staff during the COVID-19 crisis, whether safety or job security (and this was a significantly higher proportion than those wanting to know how their own safety was being protected!).

This is a stark reminder of the importance of purpose-led marketing and the need to put business values at the heart of any messaging. Consumers are increasingly evaluating brands not on what they say but what they do. There may be some challenging times ahead for pubs and the way they conduct themselves – but leading with empathy and understanding and translating this in their communications – will be key to longer term brand loyalty.

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