Specialists in the supply of entertainment services and equipment told SLTN that entertainment, whether in the form of digital jukeboxes, live music or gaming, can help create a point of difference for an outlet.
Music is a particularly effective tool for establishing an outlet’s ambience, according to licensing body PPL.
Laura Ferguson, the organisation’s business relationship executive for Scotland, said music is “vitally important” to licensed premises.
“Every outlet should find its own style of music that reflects what it is their brand wants to portray,” said Ferguson.
“Our research shows that your customers link music to having a good time.
“By keeping your staff positive, your customers will enjoy greater levels of service. Both of these things are as important as product and location for an outlet.”
When it comes to entertainment, the options available to operators continue to grow as new systems are launched on the market.
“Digital jukeboxes continue to produce healthy cash boxes within the pub sector,” said Scott McGillivray, managing director of equipment supplier Sims Automatics.
“Technology is continuously improving, offering the customer more options and entertainment for their pound.”
McGillivray said modern machines offer operators a range of services. In addition to storing a large selection of music, they can also provide functions such as pub quizzes.
Every outlet should find its own style of music that reflects its brand.
“During these difficult trading times it has been essential that publicans explore all different avenues when it comes to enhancing their business,” he added.
Advancing technology has also made it easier for operators to keep their music selection up to date, according to jukebox supplier Sound Leisure.
“Increasingly, we are seeing that pubs want to take their digital jukebox online, so that they can benefit from a twice weekly music update and be able to play more music,” said Chris Black, managing director of Sound Leisure.
And a music offer isn’t just considered important for music-focused outlets.
A jukebox can also play a key role in food-led pubs, said Black. However, it is important to ensure that the playlist is tailored to the venue, and to the time of day.
Technology is said to have helped cut down the cost to operators.
BarJock, a new system launched by software supplier CoverJock, acts as an automated DJ, playing music as well as making announcements specific to the outlet.
CoverJock managing director Neil Charrington said cost-effectiveness is key to any successful entertainment.
“Entertainment systems should retain customers in the bar longer, upsell services and products to increase sales, encourage customers to return as well as create a good atmosphere,” he said. “However, the cost for this must be a percentage of the income it will generate.”
It’s not only recorded music that can help make a difference to licensed premises, though.
Music consultant and promoter David Mundell said live music can be especially helpful to venues such as hotels.
“Adding live music into a hotel creates a unique selling point,” said Mundell. “It differentiates you from your competitors and it will create a winter business [for seasonal hotels].
“You will avoid the discounting culture that so many hotels now appear to support. Discounting does not create a loyal client base whereas introducing a live music programme will.
“The PR value that will develop around the programme is phenomenal.”
In fact, UK hotels are actually behind their counterparts in other countries in embracing live music, said Mundell.
“If you look at the USA, Scandinavia and Germany you will find that they have embraced this concept but here in the UK it has been largely ignored.
“The industry should wake up to this fact and act on it very quickly.”
Of course, music is not the only entertainment operators can turn to.
Gaming machines have long been a staple of British pubs and in this field too, advancing technology is said to be providing operators with more choice than ever.
Allan Campbell, managing director of gaming machine supplier Fair City Amusements, said although traditional ‘spinning reel’ fruit machines remain popular in licensed premises, digital machines, which allow players to choose from a number of different games, are on the rise.
“It is a move away from the conventional reel-based machines and reflects the changing playing habits of some of our Scottish pub goers,” said Campbell. “Video-based gaming is still relatively new but it is becoming increasingly available in pubs throughout the country.”
The gaming sector also includes some less orthodox choices.
Captive Media, for example, has developed a gaming system for gents toilets which allows players to control characters on a screen by urinating on a specially designed urinal.
“Traditional pastimes like darts and pool will always be a part of pub life, however with the ever evolving digital and technological hemisphere, operators need to adapt accordingly in order to meet the needs of their consumers,” said director Mark Melford.
“It is important to include interactive and unique games in venues in order to differentiate from competitors and provide a social element for the consumer’s visit that will encourage them to return.”