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Fri 27th Jul 2018 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Saving the high street with late-night leisure, it’s all in the presentation, the cherished local must be protected, and click and collect is order of the day
Authors: Peter Marks, Paul Chase, David Cunningham and Matt Gilbert

Saving the high street with late-night leisure by Peter Marks

During the past year the high street has featured heavily in the national press and the conversations of consumers, corporates and investors alike. Recently, the retail sector has fallen victim to the highest number of companies I can recall entering administration, applying for company voluntary arrangements or simply collapsing. The bad news seems unending and if you focus too narrowly on retail you’d be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much life left in the high street. However, if you stick around a little later in the evening in many towns and cities you’ll see a whole different universe – the late-night leisure sector.

During the past 40 years I have seen the consumer environment and economic landscape evolve tremendously, both nationally and locally. During this time the co-dependence of daytime and evening economies has gradually become more pronounced – something brought to light in our most recent Deltic Night Index (DNI), released in May, which highlighted the impact a town or city’s late-night activity has on its economic health.

Through commissioned research we questioned respondents on how they prepare for a night out, how much money they spend and where they spend it in preparation for a night out, as well as the importance of vibrant nightlife in informing their own residential decisions. The research threw up some interesting results that compounded my belief late-night leisure outlets – including bars, pubs, clubs and live music venues – play a vital role in the success of our high streets.

The stats show 83.0% of consumers buy new clothes or accessories ahead of a night out, 62.8% pay for a haircut and 53.8% purchase new make-up or hair products. This amounts to an average £17.56 (£22.44 among 26 to 30-year-olds) that supports the many hairdressers, clothes stores, beauty counters, department stores and beauty salons across the UK. I’m not saying late-night operators are going to save the high street, but they do their part by supporting those retailers and businesses that, at first glance, seem to be unrelated.

Years of sector experience and statistics from the DNI continue to drive my passion and certainty that the daytime and night-time economies can’t operate to their full potential without one another. I feel strongly that the closure of any late-night venue is rarely a positive thing for our towns and cities. No town has become busier or more successful because of a closure and this is because late-night venues don’t just bring consumers out at night, they encourage daytime custom too.

Going further, the figures clearly show a vibrant late-night economy significantly drives demand for a town or city’s residency – 68.4% of respondents agree or strongly agree that a vibrant nightlife makes a city or town a more attractive place to live and work, while 44.5% of Brits agreed or strongly agreed that if they were to think about moving to a new town or city the vibrancy of the nightlife would be a key factor in their decision.

With all this in mind it makes sense to ask the question, what next? I believe more needs to be done to safeguard and protect our late-night economy by supporting the countless businesses in this sector and the people who make it a success. As an industry it is difficult to absorb cost increases such as higher rates, National Living Wage, and higher excise duty and preserve the customer experience. I think most people in government understand the dangers of taxing businesses to extinction but I believe they are under a misapprehension as to what our sector can afford and, put simply, we can’t afford more. I have called for government to understand the implications of a reduction of Ebitda margins during the past ten years, which is now at a point where any more will cause many businesses to fail.
Licensing restrictions are an ever-growing issue for operators and new policies are killing local night-time economies. While I understand constant pressure from neighbourhoods is driving policy change, I don’t think there is justification in suffocating vibrant economies. Proper soundproofing of venues and carefully controlled security measures are two simple solutions and the surest route to a win-win situation for local residents and late-night leisure patrons alike. With a little bit of thought and effort we can get this right – and everyone will reap the rewards.
Local governments and councils should also maximise their efforts to showcase their towns and cities as the best places for people to live – this includes proactively lobbying for residential developments to be built outside central town locations as a means of controlling disputes and snowballing issues over the “noise” that makes night-time leisure so successful. The best and the brightest need to be attracted to drive economic development and, as we all know, harness a great nightlife and they will come!
Peter Marks is chief executive of The Deltic Group, the UK’s largest operator of premium late-night bars and clubs

It’s all in the presentation by Paul Chase

Scarcely a week goes by without a headline-grabbing story about risks to our health associated with the enjoyment of a food or drink item we all thought perfectly safe. Tabloid editors love these stories because anything that feeds public alarm sells papers. Usually the stories are based on epidemiology, which studies the incidence of disease in populations and the risk factors that correlate with them.
An example is a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that classified processed meat such as bacon and sausages as carcinogens because the cooking process causes the production of acrylamide, which in large doses has been shown to cause cancer in mice. The tabloid headlines included: “A bacon sandwich a day causes cancer” and “A bacon sandwich a day ‘increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 16%’ – experts say.”

A survey showed almost 50% of people in all age groups were aware of this conclusion and about a third said they were trying to cut down their consumption – and this was reflected in sales figures. In the four weeks after the publication of the WHO’s report and the headlines accompanying it, sales of packs of bacon in the UK fell 8.5% – and this appears to have been a step change that hasn’t reversed. So were the headlines justified and what sense should we make of this and similar stories?

One of the most erudite commentators on how supposed risks are communicated to the public is Sir David Spiegelhalter, professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge. He has written extensively on how to spot the difference between a health risk and a health scare. He suggests that to understand the true scale of a risk, you must put it into the context of how the supposed risky behaviour would have an impact on 100 people.

The bacon sandwich scare is a case in point. Spiegelhalter says if 100 people never eat a bacon sandwich or otherwise consume bacon, ever, nevertheless six of them will develop colorectal cancer at some point in their lives. In the alternative, if 100 people eat a bacon sandwich every day of their adult lives, seven of them will develop colorectal cancer. Consider the logistics – 100 people each eating a bacon sandwich a day, 365 days a year for, say, 50 years equates to the consumption of 1,825,000 bacon sandwiches! And this is the level of consumption needed for one extra person in this group of 100 to develop colorectal cancer. This is a health scare, not a real-world health risk.
For the alcophobes of public health, the lesson of this scare and the impact it had on bacon sales hasn’t been lost. They recognise attaching the words “cancer risk” to the consumption of alcohol is a powerful means of scaring people into believing big risks are involved even in moderate consumption. In relation to breast cancer, which is what drives public health claims that “there is no safe level of drinking”, the lifetime risk of a female “never drinker” developing breast cancer is less than 10%. For women who regularly drink moderate amounts of alcohol it elevates to little more than 11%.
In round figures, if 100 women never drink alcohol in their lives, ten of them will still develop breast cancer at some point. In the alternative, if 100 women drink two glasses of wine a day, 11 of them will develop breast cancer. Consider the logistics – if 100 women each drink two 125ml glasses of wine a day, totalling three units of alcohol, every day for 50 years that is 5,475,000 units of alcohol – which equates to 608,333 75cl bottles of wine with an ABV of 12%! This is the level of consumption needed for one extra person in this group to develop breast cancer. This is a health scare, not a real-world health risk.
The other thing temperance lobby alcophobes understand is that in the public imagination cancer is always fatal. However, 90% of breast cancer is non-fatal and meta-analysis shows no link between moderate consumption of alcohol and breast cancer mortality, nor its recurrence (Gou et al 2013). A large study on women with breast cancer found better chances of survival if they were regular drinkers before diagnosis. If they altered their drinking after diagnosis this had no link to their chance of dying from breast cancer but an increase in drinking was associated with an overall increase in life expectancy, largely due to substantially fewer heart disease deaths among those who increased their alcohol consumption (Newcomb et al 2013).
Much more needs to be done to promote public understanding of risk, otherwise the food and drink industry will continue to be subject to misleading scare stories from lazy journalists who fail to challenge the sensationalist claims of nanny-state health scolds.
Paul Chase is director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on alcohol and health policy

The cherished local must be protected by David Cunningham

Last week we saw the launch of Long Live The Local, a campaign to rally pub-goers and the government to support local pubs up and down the country.

And with three pubs closing their doors for good every day, they need our support.

The reason for these closures? A wide range of headwinds, none more so than the pressure from an unfair and increasing tax burden in the form of beer duty, business rates and VAT. A shocking £1 in every £3 spent in a pub goes straight to the taxman, meaning on average each pub in the UK pays more than £140,000 a year in tax… and that’s set to increase further in the next budget.
I know first-hand the important role pubs play in villages, towns and cities across the UK. My local of the past 20 years, The Wheatsheaf in Ealing, is a unique place for the diverse community to gather and enjoy each other’s company over great food and drinks. The Wheatsheaf is reflective of local pubs across the UK, and our recent campaign research showed two in three of us describe our local pub as a “social centre that brings our community together”. 

In fact, local pubs are so good at bringing our communities together, 54% of us are happy to visit our local pub alone knowing we’ll enjoy a chat with staff, neighbours or other locals. It’s no surprise then that 40 million of us visit the pub each year and more than 15 million of us are regulars, visiting our local at least once a month.

Of course pubs are not just of social and cultural importance, the combined pub and beer industry contribute £23bn in GDP and pay £13bn in tax every year. Pubs also support almost 600,000 jobs, of which 44% are filled by 16 to 24-year-olds – not to mention jobs created by supporting industries such as brewing and farming.
The government can’t keep taking our pubs for granted and ignore the pressures they are placing on them. Long Live The Local will celebrate the role pubs play in modern British culture while highlighting the jeopardy they face from a range of taxes, calling on the government for a cut in beer duty as opposed to the year-on-year increases it has planned.

In little more than a week, our campaign website has received more than 36,000 visits with almost 12,000 people signing our petition to cut beer tax. More than 4,500 people wrote a letter to their MP to show how much they value their local pub. This is a great start but if we want to drive change to the planned beer duty policy we need the widest possible support.

I urge anyone reading this who loves pubs to throw their support behind the campaign in two ways. Firstly, visit your local and enjoy the great food, drink and company it offers. Secondly, visit our website – – to sign the petition to cut beer tax, write to your MP to show how valuable your local is to you and, if you run a pub, request a point-of-sale kit to show your support for the campaign.
David Cunningham is programme director of Long Live The Local, the new campaign from Britain’s Beer Alliance

Click and collect is order of the day by Matt Gilbert

In light of recent Friday Opinion topics on the delivery market place, there is undoubtedly a feeling of confusion and frustration within the sector, with casual dining operators believing the huge growth of delivery has weakened their brands, while relationships with customers and, crucially, profit margins have been lost. While these complaints are legitimate, if your customers don’t have the convenience of ordering online through your website, they have no choice but to go elsewhere.

Launching a click-and-collect service is the simplest way to change this. If your business already offers delivery through a market place, why not let customers who live or work nearby – and those who would rather hop in the car than wait for a delivery driver – to order directly from you? According to a Morgan Stanley report on the takeaway market, restaurants that use the services of a delivery market place see three times more growth in their collection business than businesses that don’t. Makes sense right? And the extra profitability on each order doesn’t hurt.

Of course adding any tech-based service comes with its challenges. However, click and collect is not only super simple to implement – especially if your team has experience with using the set-ups provided – it will streamline operations by reducing the time your staff spend taking phone orders and increasing the time they have to focus on guests.

Once your click-and-collect service is up and running, here are some simple strategies for growing this channel and reclaiming some of your margins and customer relationships:

Make ordering easy
When a customer visits your website from their phone or laptop to place an order, it literally pays to make their online journey as smooth and simple as possible. Here’s how – add a “collection” or “click and collect” button in the top navigation bar of your website; feature click and collect on your home screen, which is especially beneficial on mobile devices where the navigation bar is reduced to an icon that has to be clicked to expand; and have a pop-up window on your home screen promoting click and collect as a foolproof way to get attention.

Don’t send customers from your website to market place platforms
A new order that has come from a market place is arguably worth the hefty commission fee it is likely to charge for it. But sending a customer who has visited your website to place an order to a market place is the fastest route to weakening your brand, losing customer relationships and losing profit. And what if after you have linked your customer to the market place they get distracted by another brand and order from there instead? Let the market place platforms create value for their commission and focus your website on promoting your own brand and services.

Get the word out
The onus is on you to grow awareness of your online ordering service among your existing customer base but there are some simple and effective ways of doing this – feature click and collect including a hyperlink to your service in every newsletter; post about your click-and-collect service on your social media channels at least once a week; print pocket-sized click-and-collect menus for dine-in customers to pick up and for dropping into delivery bags; and promote click and collect on A-boards, receipts and any other opportunities.

Offer exclusive promotions through click and collect
Remember the generous promotional offers market place platforms offered when they first launched to encourage customers to try their service? The same goes for your in-house service. Some customers will be up to speed or curious enough to try it out but a promotion can significantly increase uptake and general awareness of your service.

Keep your click-and-collect service open round the clock
The closed sign may be up in the window of your restaurant but your online business should always be open – taking orders from customers and generating revenue around the clock. Imagine how frustrating it is for a customer to go to your website to place an order only to find they can’t. A good online ordering solution will let restaurants set their opening and closing times – when orders can be made and collected – so customers can place and pay for orders when it suits them.

Convert phone orders to online orders
It takes an average of six minutes to take an order over the phone so for every one converted to an online order, your staff will have six extra minutes to ensure your on-site guests are having the best possible experience. And there’s a sweetener – online orders are on average 20% greater than phone orders. Converting phone orders to online is simpler than you might think. Rosa’s Thai Café, for example, successfully moved all takeaway orders online by using a phone-answering service to direct customers to their website.
Matt Gilbert is co-founder of Orderswift, an online platform providing the simplest way for restaurants to offer a fully-branded click-and-collect service 

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