Today customers have the choice to eat what they want, whenever they want. As a result, many pubs have made strategic business changes to successfully compete in ‘all-day dining’ to meet this trend that dominates the industry.
The majority of pubs also have outside areas which can be used to fulfil the huge and growing desire we have to eat alfresco. This is a vital USP for the pub trade. High street restaurants might have some limited pavement seating and retail mall eateries can’t offer outside eating at all.
So, if you’re a pub owner or landlord who has decided to take the plunge to offer all-day dining, what do you do next? As maintenance, design and fit out experts, here are some clues to keeping your pub looking good at all hours of the day.
Remember, when adapting to the new trend, it is essential to factor in the maintenance of the venue design and the furniture – both inside and out. If your aim is to increase footfall and open for more hours in the day, you need to devise a plan to protect the investment you are making in your venue not only from general wear and tear but also to ensure your business and your staff can handle the changes and offer the level of customer service expected.
Perhaps the first line of attack is repainting the outside to give a well-kept first impression. First impressions count and getting new clientele through the door is the first step in increasing revenue and getting the customer to return. Brand image, and keeping that brand image, is what it’s all about.
The future of food service
A new white paper from food wholesalers Bidfood revealed that a third of Brits have eaten out at breakfast, mid-morning or mid-afternoon in the past six months. 35% of those asked eat breakfast out more frequently than they did two years ago.
Pubs are more than just a place to drink. With the growth in competition and tourism (both Brits and those from overseas), the “no food served after two or nine pm” is no longer an option. Most managers and landlords realise their spaces can be used throughout the whole day to maximise revenue and that they are just as able, as any other type of hospitality venue, to take the opportunity to meet this need for non-stop service. Many more dining options are now being offered in addition to classic pub food and bar snacks – millennial brunches, afternoon tea and late night sharing boards, to name a few.
How to maintain your pub
Once you’ve made the decision to diversify your pub services and offer food and drink throughout the day, you need to protect that investment. Not only are customer-orientated front-of-house staff essential to keep the dining areas looking welcoming and the customers served to expected high standards, but a maintenance strategy is just as important. Keeping your venue open morning, noon and night will bring in more and varied customers, but it will also undoubtedly take its toll on interiors and furniture, both inside and out.
Having adapted staff rotas and menus accordingly, the areas in which customers sit are important. Don’t get swept away by the latest crazes which may not only affect the levels of service but also become dated pretty quickly. It is important to think about the brand image that you want for the pub and protect that image if you want customers to return once the ‘new look’ is no longer ‘new.’
Top tips for maintaining your pub:
- With no mid-afternoon downtime to do a quick sweep of the venue before service starts again, staff must be motivated to keep tables, chairs and the floor looking clean and fresh all day, every day.
- Whilst it’s fine for a mid-afternoon pint, not many customers want to eat from a table that is unattractive, stained or has splintered wood so keep a check to see if your furniture needs any attention. The same applies to the seating. Regular customers are aware of a pub’s policy to keep the place looking smart – or conversely, a couldn’t-care-less attitude.
- If you’re going to install new furniture, think about its maintenance as part of the overall strategy. It will help avoid unnecessary headaches further down the line as it will only be 12-18 months before wear and tear becomes obvious. Are you going to buy new ones each time or develop a maintenance plan? The choice is yours!
- Higher quality hardwood furniture can actually save you money in the long term as it can be restored many more times, with the added benefit of being more visually attractive.
- For furniture to be sited against a wall, consider modular units that are easy to remove and restore. It can be problematic to remove those that are fixed to a freshly painted wall. It might be cheaper to install, but far more costly to remove if they get torn and then fail a health and safety inspection.
- For free-standing moveable tables and chairs, do their bases or legs have floor protectors on and is there a stock of these protectors at the venue because they will fall off over time. If there is carpet on the floor, there won’t be as big a problem as if there is hard flooring, which will, of course, get scratched by metal legs.
- If you have a floor plan with the tables and chairs clearly labelled, it will help your maintenance specialist to know exactly which units need attention when problems arise, avoiding unnecessary site visits.
- There might be an operations manual detailing the source of furniture and seating fabrics, which might be important if there is a need to replace like-for-like. However, replacing like-for-like is difficult after a couple of years as items might not be readily available, but it should give a useful indication.
How to adapt your furniture
Survey your pub’s seating and make sure it complements your new food options – it should not be an afterthought. There might be a benefit in offering a variety of seating styles, whether it’s formal tables, comfy armchairs as well as outside furniture.
Tips for introducing flexible furniture:
- Check if tables are the right height for eating. Are they stable?
- If you have sofas for late night snacking, are the tables easy to eat from whilst also being able to relax? Do the sofas sag and make it difficult to get up from?
- Ask yourself – who are you trying to entice and does the environment match the offering? For mid-morning and mid-afternoon service, ambience and atmosphere are defining factors, even it’s just cosy seating with space to read the Sunday papers.
- To some extent, you pay for what you get. Cheap and cheerful will be just that, but might not last as long as you expect. Cheap sofas are the same – cheap to make, cheap to buy but expensive to take apart to access the slashed seat that needs to be recovered.
How alfresco dining could help you transform your pub
Alfresco eating in the warmer months now has huge demand. Outdoor heaters, boxes of blankets and gazebos are popping up in pub gardens all over the country as Brits aim to make the most of the spring and summer months. A well maintained outside area is like gold dust for inner city venues, with after-work diners and drinkers seeking the last bit of sun. The rise of alfresco food trends such as gourmet BBQs and stone oven baked pizzas means that pubs have a variety of menu options to offer, depending on their clientele.
Top tips for introducing alfresco dining:
- It’s just as essential for pubs to ensure alfresco furniture is well-maintained as it is to look after the indoor furniture. For many hospitality venues, the look of the outside of the building and a terrace full of outdoor furniture are often the first impressions for customers. Whether it is picnic benches in a front garden or the patio next to the car
- park, the furniture needs to look comfortable and appealing.
- Publicans, however, have to be realistic with their plans for this furniture and what they will do with it during the colder months. To keep it from deteriorating we suggest storing them in a secure dry area such as an outbuilding or cellar. If that’s not feasible, then buy designated waterproof covers that should, at least, prevent the moisture penetrating and making the furniture thoroughly wet. Covers can be whipped off on nice cold winter days if necessary.
In anticipation of the new summer season, we have restored the patio furniture for many of Bistrot Pierre’s venues. The tables, stained with food, drink and weather damage, needed sprucing up before storing. We sanded them and used a quality refinishing oil to bring out the natural wood grain and revive the warm natural colours.
Entice customers with your pub’s overall look as well as new menus. What the venue looks like from the outside is what potential new customers see and are first attracted to. It’s no use having a great menu and great seating if no one steps through the door into the pub.
Following the rise of the trend which offers food to customers at all hours of the day, it is important to keep your brand image looking its best.
This blog was written by Annika Hobbs, Director at Fresssh Image.