Punch Taverns is to launch a number of initiatives over the coming months across its 3,000-strong core estate, including free Wi-Fi, a mystery shopping programme and new business launch managers (BLMs) to oversee all new investments, writes Gurjit Degun. It is currently on the look out for eight business launch managers to oversee all new investments for its pubs, in a bid to make sure new licensees have as much help needed when opening a new site. Andy Slee, director at Punch, explained that this will allow new openings to go smoothly, with all staff knowing exactly what they are doing. The new recruits will guide licensees through the opening, and help draw up a nine-month marketing plan to cover a period before and after the opening. The managers will each have a region, and see through 30 to 40 sites per year. Slee said: “When the pub opens, it will open perfectly. The staff will be well trained and the licensee will know exactly what they are doing. We hope that this will be live by Christmas.” The move is part of a number of upcoming initiatives by the pub company over the next six months. Punch is also offering free Wi-Fi for tenants across its core estate, and is currently in the process of installing it for the 95% of lessees who opted for it. Slee explained that this will help licensees increase footfall and encourage customers to stay in their pub longer. “We believe that we are the first leased and tenanted company to offer this,” he said. “We’ll also provide all the POS as part of the deal.” Punch will also be launching a mystery shopping programme at the end of the year to help its tenants and lessees improve service and set a benchmark. Every pub will receive two random visits per year and a follow-up with their business relationship manager (BRM). “This helps the pubs become better businesses,” said Slee. “This is something that is new to our sector, the retail sector does it a lot. The likes of Tesco use it all the time. It’s a way of saying to them (licensees), ‘if you think you’re good, this is what the best looks like’.” Eight hundred Punch pubs will also be giving away 100,000 free pints during Cask Ale Week, which runs between 28 September and 7 October. And during the pubco’s roadshows, it will be giving away a total of £5m in vouchers for free products, encouraging licensees to attend the event.