The Keane team immersed themselves in all things pub-related last week by attending Pub20, the only dedicated show for the UK pub industry. It was exceptionally insightful to hear the latest from operators, suppliers and experts, and learn about what’s new and what’s next for the sector.

For those who couldn’t make it, here’s our 5 key takeout’s from the event.

Pub Snacks

The highlight of our day had to be sampling a range of cracking hot pub snacks, paired with matching beers!

The UK is a nation of snackers. Out of home snacking across the board has experienced a 11% rise (Morning Advertiser, September 2019). An appetite that has transferred to pubs, who can maximise on the desire for all day snacks.

Pub operators want to be able to deliver great experiences to create loyalty, but ultimately increase spend. An innovative bar snack offer can be designed to do exactly that. Brew City claim their ‘Beer Munch’ can provide pub and bar operators with an £8m incremental opportunity in a bid to help operators build on craft beer and snacking occasions (Mark Dredge, Brew City).

Traditional crisps and nuts really don’t cut the mustard anymore. The craft beer scene has raised the bar on the beverage front, there is now a need to improve bar food to bring it on par with drink innovation.

Our recent project with Mitchells & Butlers, Bulls Head, catered to this trend. Our teams reimagined the traditional front bar creating a more relevant daytime space that offers pastries, breads, snacks and locally sourced condiments, to drive incremental spend across every day part.


Mindful Drinking

The brilliantly named discussion “A Mindful Drinker Walks Into a Bar…” instantly drew us in!

Attitudes are changing and it’s clear that people are making different choices around their diet, for health or ethical reasons. With over eight million people now moderating their alcohol intake, pubs would be foolish to ignore the mindful drinking trend.

You usually have to ask a bar tender to move out of the way to study the soft drinks relegated to half a fridge on the back bar. Habits and attitudes can be heavily influenced by a stronger presence on the bar of non-alcoholic options, which is something the best operators are taking advantage of. For example BrewDog who have launched their first dedicated ‘no & low’ bar, BrewDog AF, at Old Street.

It’s time to think more about the display, merchandising and sell of non-alcoholic drinks, and how to deliver the same level of experience to customers, regardless of ABV levels.

The Experiential Factor

As was reinforced at the event, the three main motivators of people visiting pubs are still drinking, eating and socialising, but interestingly the forms these take are changing.

Craft beer has evolved the drink offer and more progressive food pubs (desi pubs were discussed a lot – a rising trend in the Midlands) has introduced new dining options, but how is the socialising element changing?

Currently, very classic forms of pub entertainment like darts, pool and quizzes are very much still in favour, but getting updated through great technology to bring innovation, taking inspiration from some of the most exciting emerging concepts, such as e-darts at Flight Club.

However, what was once a London-centric rise of competitive socialising and experiential venues, including escape rooms, urban crazy golf and other urban sports such as axe throwing, is now spilling out into towns and cities up and down the country.

For pub operators this presents a challenge. Do they focus on what they’ve always been good at, by providing brilliant food and drink or diversify by riding the wave of this trend of consumers wanting more experiential activities and developing their own?

We’re currently working on some exciting competitive socialising pub experiences with our clients. Watch this space!

Planet Saving Pubs

The benefits from employing more sustainable initiatives bring three main returns. It can significantly reduce operating costs, generate good PR and breed customer loyalty.

With more of the general public embracing changes around their purchasing habits and how they can reduce their carbon footprint in everyday life, here’s what we learned from Pub20 on how operators ‘can do their bit’:

  • Reducing plastic by ditching plastic straws
  • Installing energy efficient lighting (LED light bulbs can save £2,000 a year)
  • Preserve power through smarter use of kitchen appliances
  • Food waste prevention practices

Whilst seemingly small changes, when you multiply them across every pub and restaurant in your estate, you start to realise the phenomenal difference that can be made.

Pubs can look to innovative programs like the collaboration between Lightspeed and Green Earth Appeal who have partnered to launch a ground-breaking initiative. It aims to introduce a more sustainable model for UK eateries by planting a tree on behalf of a restaurant for every bill they present.

The hotel sector seems to be making strides to running more sustainable businesses and making guests feel they are contributing to greener initiatives. This includes our recently completed hotel design project, Treehouse Hotel, which has sustainability at the heart of the design. There are certainly many learnings that can be taken from sustainable hotels, especially around their F&B offering, that can be transferable to the next generation of pubs.

CBD: Profits Getting High

This one was a huge curve ball, but cannabis-infused drink products have become so in demand that customers are bulk buying in fear that they will be taken off supermarket shelves.

They certainly offer an alternative from the norm, as many people are looking to reduce their alcohol intake and therefore in search of more appealing substitutes. There is a concern that CBD will be consumed as a coping mechanism, much like alcohol. However, the levels of infused cannabis-oil mean that the prescribed amount is believed to only have positive effects (such as improving wellness and mindfulness) whereas alcohol can often have the opposite effect.

The expressed benefits of CBD from a recent consumer report are:

  • Anxiety relief
  • Stress relief
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • General wellness

There are certainly hurdles to overcome for a more mainstream acceptance from the general public and authorities like the FSA. However, with some drinks company giants such as Diageo and Molson Coors now producing their own CBD products and even acquiring their own cannabis producers, the inevitable growth and presence in pubs and supermarkets may generate a widespread acceptance.