Pubcos help operators capitalise on Christmas

Lessees benefit from a range of services and offers ahead of festive season

• A helping hand: Corte Leisure’s estate includes sports bar The Ball Room in Morningside.

IT isn’t time to hang the stockings over the fireplace quite yet, but pub lessees across Scotland are already preparing their Christmas offers ahead of the busiest time of year.

Pub companies say they have been working closely with lessees to ensure they are ready for this year’s festive period.
And that support is said to be more important than ever as competition hots up ahead of Christmas.
“Our festive co-ordination has been ongoing for the last few months; it’s been apparent this year more than others how early the trade is advertising for their share of the Christmas pound,” said Paul Wishart, senior business manager at Iona Pub Partnership.
Highlighting the services offered by Iona’s in-house marketing team and food development manager, as well as the close relationships the company enjoys with its suppliers, Wishart said Iona is able to work with individual lessees to “provide our pubs with a selection of footfall driving offers and giveaways”.
The ability to tailor support to specific premises was also highlighted by John Cortellessa of Corte Leisure.
He said: “We offer our lessees training and help in further promoting the venues, with packages available to attract the Christmas and works nights out business.
“These promotions depend on the area but can be tailored to meet any specific requirements.”
Other companies have combined support for individual premises with general Christmas hints and tips.
Earlier this year Belhaven’s lessee magazine, Innsight, contained an article on the ways in which lessees can increase revenues in December.
“We crammed it full of creative and innovative advice, a range of big deals and information on ways tenants can maximise every opportunity over the festive season,” said Clive Chesser, business unit director for Belhaven parent firm Greene King Pub Partners.
“As always Belhaven business development managers (BDMs) are there to support our licensees on every aspect of their business, such as advice on constructing menus.
“I have even heard about one or two putting on the red suit and dressing up as Santa!”
Pub companies are often keen to point out the advantages of a superior buying power when it comes to dealing with suppliers, and this strength is particularly important at Christmas, according to Gary Corney, operations and sales director for Star Pubs & Bars.
He said the company’s buying power allows the business to acquire products and services “at prices [lessees] would be unable or unlikely to achieve as individual licensees”.
“Our Christmas support package is a good example of this approach and is designed to help lessees cut costs and increase sales,” said Corney. “For example, we have negotiated special rates for all our lessees to have bespoke Christmas menus professionally designed and printed by experts in this field and to access Christmas activity kits, decorations and party packs from specialists in pub events.
“In addition, any lessee who uses our Good Food Partnership food and support agreement with 3663 will receive personalised menus, banners and posters as part of the service and at no cost to themselves.”
Like Belhaven, the company has also circulated general tips and advice through its lessee magazine
and its dedicated e-commerce site.
But Christmas support is about more than advice and offers, say pub companies.
“Deliveries can be affected over this period,” said Brian Davidson of Punch Taverns.
“Having a strong supply chain supported from the centre by Punch means that we can generally provide a ‘business as usual’ service, irrespective of the specific challenges faced.”
The licensed trade is a year-round business, of course, and Cortellessa, of Corte Leisure, said the leased sector has been generally healthy over the past twelve months.
“I think 2014 has seen things settling down from a business perspective; the scaremongering due to so many pubs and licensed premises closing down has decreased and people now see the reality that leased licensed premises aren’t a walk in the park but they can offer an amazing level
of satisfaction from a work point of view and a nice healthy profit too,” he said.
And the regeneration of areas around Scotland has helped increase interest in specific units, according to Wishart.
He said: “This year has proven to be healthy in demand for our pubs; what’s been of particular interest are operators looking at areas that have gained benefit from changes in demographics, for example the regeneration linked to the Commonwealth Games or the ongoing improvements in the bar scene on Leith Walk in Edinburgh.”