January is traditionally a quieter month for the on-trade as customers have fewer reasons to head out than during the festive season.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, according to entertainment specialists, who say savvy operators can still pull in the punters provided they make them an offer too good to refuse.
Craig Straton of gaming and leisure equipment supplier Sims Automatics said that after a busy festive season, it’s down to operators to “draw up the battle plan to try and stay ahead of the game in the dark months of January and February”.
“In order to keep the festive feeling alive within your customer base looking at ways of improving the entertainment package you offer is key,” said Straton.
The winter weather means customers need to be offered something different “to drag them out of their comfy chairs”, according to Straton, who suggested that “a taste of live music or open mic night should be just the thing required”.
David Mundell, of consultancy Mundell Music, said live music will appeal to a broad clientele, adding that different genres will attract different customers.
Mundell said publicans should go the extra mile if they want to attract customers with a live music night, offering something more than their competitors.
“Don’t be afraid to use a small banqueting room as a venue for a live gig where the client pays for a ticket,” said Mundell.
“This is a performance, not just two guys playing music in the corner of the pub where everyone talks over their set. Think differently. Think out of the box.”
It’s not just live music that operators should be paying attention to through the colder months, however. Mundell also highlighted the importance of recorded music to a venue’s overall appeal.
“Recorded music can create a unique ambience by selecting songs from an era that fits the demographic of your clientele,” he said.
“Instrumental music at lunch time followed by middle of the road at early evening followed by rock into the night.”
Andy Hill, chief executive of Virtual Jukebox, a firm specialising in providing background music for businesses, also highlighted the importance of recorded music to the overall atmosphere of a venue.
“A good music offering can not only have a real impact on guests’ enjoyment of an experience, but it can also amplify profit,” said Hill.
“As soon as a customer walks into a bar, the style, tempo and volume of the music they hear allows them to develop an immediate perception of the style of the venue.
“This can be a deciding factor in whether they stay for a long period of time, or move on to another venue that they feel is more suitable.”
Getting the music offer right is key to keeping customers in the venue, but Mundell insisted that a pub can’t live on tunes alone, reminding operators that planning and promoting their entertainment offer is also key.
“Time and time again I see licensees thinking that a quick poster on display in the pub will be sufficient to ensure the event will be a success,” said Mundell.
“It will not and with this in mind [operators should create their] own simple marketing plan that will be cost effective and results will be measured.
“Create your own database; once you do you will be able to reap the benefits.”
Straton, at Sims Automatics, agreed that any entertainment provided by a pub “must be marketed in advance”, adding that social media is the “big advertising tool” for operators today.
“If you yourself are not clued up on the workings then there may be a member of staff who may be a Facebook genius and they could administer the page and drive events,” he said.
Live music may be a big draw for a lot of customers, but it’s not the only event that can pull customers out of their houses this winter.
Straton said there are several choices for operators looking to liven up their events calendar.
“Think about speakers nights, comedy nights or even Q&A nights with a couple of celebrities,” he said.
“Race nights are also a popular event and a good fundraiser if you associate yourselves with a charity to raise funds for, as people generally support these events when a charitable organisation is benefiting.
“If you have a pool table this is the time to host a tournament to fill the quieter evenings, and don’t have it over one night – have it spread over the month to keep interest alive.”