Time to take stock and move forward

We have passed the first anniversary of Scotland’s new drink drive limit and after a year of the legislation being in place, we can see some of the benefits and challenges that have been brought to the licensed trade in Scotland.
As our industry feared, many pubs and licensed premises across Scotland are suffering.

Photograph: Maverick Photo Agency

People’s drinking habits were already changing, and this legislation has quickened the pace to a level that our businesses have never seen before.
The Molson Coors team spends more time at the grass roots of our industry than most, and we can see the challenges up close, especially in rural parts of the country. It’s real, it’s alarming and it would be easy to feel overwhelmed as a publican or licensee.
Like some other sectors facing up to challenges and changes, I think the time has come for our industry to really pull together and take more action, rather than just talking about the problems and ‘what ifs’.
The Molson Coors team has done a lot of research and here’s what we know: change is happening whether operators like it or not. The shift in Scotland’s drink driving legislation is part of the picture, but there’s more to it – from the way people use technology to the continually growing interest in food and eating out.
People are going to the pub less often and when they do go, they are moderating their drinking. And they want their experience to be more rewarding and high quality and they are prepared to pay for that.
When it comes to the bar, the old battle of the big brands just isn’t relevant any more.
People want variety, to try new drinks, new flavours and bolder, richer tastes right across the range. Just look at the explosion in craft beer in Scotland which has ignited an unprecedented interest in flavour, style and premium products, a fantastic revolution and opportunity for the beer industry.
The new year is a great time to take stock and look at the bigger picture. And this means being truthful about what needs to be done.
Successful pub owners are the ones with dynamic business plans who are adapting to what younger consumers want, whether that involves making smart decisions about what to continue doing, what to ditch or what new additions to bring to their pub.
So whatever the style or location of the outlet, operators need to ask themselves: do I have a brilliant range at the bar with plenty of different styles, tastes and flavours? Are my managers and staff highly trained and equipped with some great brand stories to share with drinkers? Are they serving drinks in pristine, branded glasses? Are there some cleverly-paired food options on our menu? Is there good entertainment on offer and free wi-fi? Am I making good use of my outdoor space? Am I building a loyal community through social media with simple but savvy marketing ideas to keep my drinkers interested? Does my pub offer value for money and a high quality, enjoyable experience that drinkers can’t get sitting at home with a beer bought in the supermarket?
Yes, there is still a lot to be concerned about in our industry as we move into another year.
But Scotland has some of the best operators in the business and with the right plans and ambition in place, we can take on these changes and win in 2016.
Hugo Mills is the director of sales and operations for Molson Coors Scotland.