Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has said the company is now beginning to implement some of the suggestions from its Pub of the Future programme.
Speaking at MCA’s The Pub Conference this week, Findlay talked about some of the specific areas raised by young people in relation to why they did not identify with pubs. These included everything from an association of the pub as a place for their parents’ generation to feeling uncomfortable about their age being challenged.
The company launched the programme in conjunction with The Sun newspaper in October 2014. Over the next year a team of 10 young people looked at all aspects of pub operations - including food, drinks, design & environment, entertainment & events, marketing & communications, technology in pubs.
Findlay said the analysis from the young people’s findings had been fed back to the board at the of last year and selected elements were being implemented over the course of this year.
In terms of specific areas raised by younger consumers, Findlay said: “There were so many facets to why people do or don’t use pubs. One person explained to us that – if I’m 21 and I’m challenged by staff in a pub and told to produce my ID, how welcome do you think that makes me feel? Now, that’s something we can’t get away from so what do you do with that?
“One of the other main messages that came back was – pubs are really for my parents’ generation.”
Asked if there was a danger of focussing too much on the millennial market and forgetting the core customers of the pub sector, Findlay said: “That is certainly a question we have asked ourselves. We have to recognise that the majority of customers are of a different generation and have different needs. I wouldn’t say that we are overdoing it because these young people do represent a significant part of the market that is not currently using pubs but who are instead being catered for both other types of operators in our sector, such as coffee shops. “
Findlay said that soft drinks consumption was one area where pubs had raised their game considerably in recent years but where further focus was needed.
MCA’s latest Pub Market Report, which was launched at the conference, showed that 50% of licensees surveyed estimated up to 10% of their turnover was made up by soft drinks with 15% saying they accounted for 10-15% and 5% stating it was 15-20%.
Findlay said: “Non-alcoholic drinks were probably seen in our business as a distressed purchase for a long time and it’s fair to say there wasn’t enough of a focus on the range and the way they were served. That can’t be the case anymore – both in terms of customer demand and with what we have seen north of the board with the effects of the drink drive legislation change.”