Locals required to be versatile venues

Community bars’ offers must be broader than ever, say pub companies

Pubs which offer a wide variety of food and drink will be well-placed to succeed, say firms
Pubs which offer a wide variety of food and drink will be well-placed to succeed, say firms

Despite shifting tastes and squeezed profit margins, the community local remains a staple of the Scottish on-trade.

And for the stalwart neighbourhood pub the best way to maintain revenue is to ensure all bases are covered, from opening until close.

That was the message from pub companies, who said there are several ways successful community pubs have expanded their offers in recent years.

Brian Davidson, operations director for Scotland at Star Pubs & Bars, reckons pubs are becoming more “flexible and dynamic” as a result of licensees looking to increase revenues at traditionally quieter times of day.

He said: “Offering all-day barista quality coffee, serving breakfast, hosting groups and activities and catering for businesses with meeting space and function packages are just some examples.

“Operators whose businesses have a strong night-time focus are also creating distinctive daytime offers leading to more chameleon-style pubs and bars.”

In that regard, Dean Melville, managing director of Kingdom Taverns, reckons of all the changes in the licensed trade in recent years, one of the biggest has been the different times that people are visiting venues.

“We have found throughout the whole estate a decline in steady numbers on what could always be identified as core times,” he said.

“Increasingly the Friday nights have become quieter but this has been offset by busier Sunday afternoons.”

A more comprehensive selection in terms of food and drink is said to be one of the main areas for licensees’ consideration when seeking to expand appeal.

“Food is still a major factor and the quality of offering over the years has surpassed most people’s expectations,” said Melville.

“I once heard a quote ‘I used to be a publican who sold food but now I am a restaurateur who sells beer’.“

On the drinks side, changing consumer tastes have to be contemplated.

“The choice of drinks in Scottish pubs, and particularly in community locals, is bigger than it has ever been,” said Davidson of Star Pubs & Bars.

“In terms of trends, there is a significant and growing demand for craft beer, with brands such as Lagunitas and Coast to Coast proving particularly popular in Scotland.

“Sales of quality spirits and premium ciders are also strong at the moment. We anticipate these sales patterns remaining the same over the coming year.”

Paul Wishart, national operations manager – Scotland for Greene King, predicted gin and rum would continue to expand in the country’s pubs and bars, as consumers trade up.

“Gin is still very much in growth and I don’t think there’s anyone who has missed the message,” he said.

“I think rum will continue to grow as well.

“As the overall standard lager market declines, there’s an opportunity around lagers that are between premium and standard, such as Coors Light, Amstel and Pravha.

“I think craft lagers in the right place will work as well but they’re not the answer for all pubs just yet.”

With summer on the horizon but no major international football to capitalise on, Wishart advised operators with beer gardens to make sure they are making the best use of them to drive footfall.

He said: “Without a football world cup this year, I think people need to be looking at their outdoor areas to see how they can improve and enhance them.

“I still think in Scotland we’re behind the pubs down south in terms of the quality and range of our outside areas, whether that’s making the most of the space all year round or making an outside area the best it can be.”