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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 19th May 2017 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: What the manifestos really mean for the industry, why all roads lead to coffee, alcohol policy in a one-party state and reaching the consumer through all the noise 
Authors: Tim Page, Glynn Davis, Paul Chase and Andy Hill 

What the manifestos really mean for the industry by Tim Page 

This week we have seen the main political parties publish their election manifestos. While measures relating to the brewing and pubs industry may have taken a back seat to Brexit, pensions and the NHS, there have been a few nods to an industry that supports nearly 90,000 jobs and contributes £23.1bn to the UK economy annually.

Ahead of the election, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is asking candidates to #pledgeforpubs by backing measures to support the beer and pubs industry and which represent the interests of consumers. So far, 261 have pledged their support. On Tuesday we welcomed elements of the Labour manifesto, which labelled itself as the manifesto “for the many, not the few” – a slogan we think could be easily attributed to pubs, one of the most accessible places for socialising across the UK. Labour has committed to review business rates, which place an unacceptable burden on pubs. They currently pay 2.8% of all business rates while only accounting for 0.5% of the total business turnover. So far it looks like the Labour Party is putting its money where its mouth is – more Labour election candidates support CAMRA’s #pledgeforpubs than any other party, with 94 Labour candidates out of 272 backing our campaign.

The Liberal Democrats also offer some pro-pub policies in its manifesto. The party recognises the important role of pubs in thriving rural communities and makes a commitment to strengthen good public transportation links, which is absolutely vital to the sustainability of our rural pubs. The Liberal Democrats have also promised to reduce the business rate burden on small firms, which could throw a lifeline to pubs. We’ve so far secured a great deal of support from the party, with 76 Liberal Democrats backing our #pledgeforpubs to date.

Finally, the Conservatives released its long-awaited manifesto yesterday (Thursday, 18 May). Within it, the Conservatives, like the Liberal Democrats and Labour, have recognised the business rate system is harming small businesses and have committed not to increase VAT. As with the other two manifestos, this will certainly be welcomed by pubs struggling with an unmanageably high tax burden.

The Conservatives have also committed any undertakings made during takeovers and mergers should, in future, be legally binding. CAMRA applauds this move, particularly in light of the takeover of Charles Wells’ brewery by Marston’s, which was announced yesterday. It is incredibly important companies are held to their promises and public statements so consumers are not unfairly misled. A total of 45 Conservative candidates have backed the #pledgeforpubs so far. 

While we eagerly await the Scottish National Party manifesto, due to be released next week, CAMRA will head to Edinburgh next Tuesday to urge election candidates to back the #pledgeforpubs. In the meantime, we are continuing to seek support from candidates across all parties on wider issues, ranging from a hard commitment to give every pub a tax break of £5,000 off their business rates to explore the opportunities presented by Brexit by allowing for greater tax cuts on low strength beer and on beer sold in pubs versus supermarkets. To pledge your support or to get involved, visit www.camra.org.uk/pledgeforpubs 
Tim Page is chief executive of CAMRA

Why all roads lead to coffee by Glynn Davis

The leader of one of the UK’s largest food retail businesses likes to joke coffee is the Latin word for margin in his organisation. Such is the profitability of the caffeinated liquid he admits it’s the key component that makes his big-selling meal deals possible. A sandwich and a coffee for about £3 is do-able only because of the hefty margin available on the coffee element of the deal. This very much supports my view that all roads in food and beverage seem to lead to coffee.
 
Even retailers are now hooked. They continue to place coffee shops on their premises to attract the increasingly caffeine-fuelled UK consumer. I wandered into a Homebase on an industrial park in Sittingbourne, Kent, (as you do) and what should I find slap bang in the middle of it nestled among the garden furniture but a Costa outlet. And in the basement of the Debenhams store in Oxford Street you will find a Patisserie Valerie unit dispensing coffee and pastries. There really is no escaping the coffee phenomenon.
 
Recent figures from a number of research houses show just how strong the growth within this segment of the leisure and hospitality market is. Mintel found 65% of UK consumers have visited a coffee shop in the past three months – this represents the largest growth in the UK coffee industry since 2008. What’s particularly compelling for coffee sellers is this figure hits 73% for the 16 to 24-year-old grouping.
 
Mintel predicts sales will rise another 29% over the next five years to reach £4.3bn annually. This follows 37% growth over the past year, which has pushed revenues up from a much more modest £2.4bn in 2011. Meanwhile, UK Coffee Week found three new coffee shops are opening every day across the UK and the total number currently stands at about 22,900 outlets. In its Project Café 2017, Allegra claimed there would be 32,000 coffee shops by 2025 – after the 6% growth experienced last year. With such large numbers being bandied about, it has led to the prediction coffee shops will outnumber pubs by 2030.
 
What is odd is amid all this growth the big guns are having a bit of a wobble. The ubiquity of some brands on the high street might be working against them because the public becomes a tad bored with their predictability. Starbucks recently suffered a like-for-like fall in sales of 1% in the UK while Costa has stated its intention to reduce its high street estate by up to 10%. The company’s chief executive has suggested the high street is less attractive and consumers are instead gravitating towards travel locations.
 
There is no doubt competition from a raft of non-specialists is providing some tough competition to the larger branded incumbents. Whether this is from the pub industry (including notably JD Wetherspoon) as well as McDonald’s and Greggs, it is clear all these businesses regard coffee as a very valuable tool in them clinging on to profitability in a market that is badly buffeting them.
 
The rising costs of operating are myriad – from rents, to business rates, the National Living Wage, and the effects of Brexit on recruitment costs and foreign exchange, which impacts on those importing raw materials – and that is making coffee something of a god-send for many operators. Pubs certainly want a piece of the coffee action and the mere mention of being outnumbered by coffee shops has put them on the offensive. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has been recommending pubs further capitalise on this high margin, non-alcoholic part of their business.
 
It was Starbucks’ long-time chief executive Howard Schultz who coined the phrase the “third place” (in addition to the home and the office) to describe his coffee shops. It seems we all increasingly utilise the third place but it is not necessarily the Starbucks or the other big branded coffee shops that represent this space anymore. It could be any number of types of third place venue that we now give our time (and money) to.
 
But what there is no doubt about is the third place remains founded fundamentally on coffee. The actual Latin world for coffee is “capulus”. Well, it’s certainly hats and caps off to the margin-rich drink that will likely help many businesses trade through what looks set to be a very tough period ahead.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends
 

Alcohol policy in a one-party state by Paul Chase

It seems to me entirely possible this general election will mark the demise of the Labour Party as a party of government. It could be reduced to the status of a left-wing protest group that is more concerned with its own ideological purity than with making the compromises necessary to widen its electoral appeal and actually win elections. This is a development that should concern all who believe representative democracy requires a choice between two or more political parties that are at least electable, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their policy approach.
 
Since the financial crisis of 2008 the central political question for Europe has been will the political centre hold? Or will we see populist or extremist parties gaining power because they have fooled their electorates into believing there can be simple solutions to complex problems? The election of Macron in France and defeat of Le Pen; the defeat of Geert Wilders in Holland and, I anticipate, the re-election of Angela Merkel in Germany does suggest it will hold.
 
But in all these countries there are credible political parties of centre-right and centre-left to the parties that have actually won. Not so in the UK. The Liberal Democrats appear not to be making a breakthrough by attracting the votes of sensible Labour supporters that want to vote for a centre-left party as opposed to a bunch of Trots. So, what we could see after the election is not just a landslide Tory victory, but also a Tory government whose only effective political opposition may come from within its own ranks.
 
Meanwhile, what does Labour have to say about pubs and alcohol? For starters, Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, is a dedicated anti-alcohol zealot, but all of a sudden Labour seems to have woken up to the scale of pub closures by pledging it will set up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for the large-scale demise of pubs. It might start by looking at its own 2005 manifesto that promised to legislate to ensure all enclosed public places and workplaces – other than licensed premises – would be smoke-free. The exception would be restaurants and food-led pubs that would be smoke-free, but wet-led pubs and members’ clubs would have a choice. Labour rebels conspired to ensure those exemptions were not in the legislation and we ended-up with the smoking ban, which has done a huge amount to damage pubs and beer sales. Jeremy Corbyn voted for these measures and is not in any position to preside over an objective review of why more than 11,000 pubs closed between 2007 and 2013 – even in the remotely unlikely event Labour is elected.
 
So, what might alcohol policy look like after the election in what will effectively be an elective dictatorship? Historically, the Conservatives were generally much more sympathetic to the trade in beverage alcohol, and did much to defend its interests from the 1870s onwards; and it was thanks to the opposition of Conservative peers in the House of Lords the attempt by the Liberal government of Herbert Asquith to close 30,000 of the nation’s 96,000 pubs over 14 years, and nationalise the rest was defeated.
 
The Conservative-led coalition government, formed after the 2010 general election, promised some radical supply-side changes to the way in which the sale of alcohol was regulated – a review of alcohol policy that led to the introduction of Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Orders and the Late Night Levy, banning below-cost sales of alcohol, and tackling under-age drinking. In 2012, the Conservatives were minded to go further and to introduce minimum unit pricing – a policy that had long been championed by the health lobby and had passed into law in Scotland, albeit not been implemented due to legal challenge.
 
However, attempts at introducing Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Orders have been thwarted by concerted and unified opposition from the trade and the Late Night Levy has so far been introduced by only eight local authorities, and moreover, the policy has been panned by the recent House of Lords review of the Licensing Act 2003. 

Then we saw what the health lobby regarded as a great betrayal – minimum pricing was abandoned by the Conservative-led coalition government, or at least kicked into the long grass for lack of evidence regarding its efficacy, and with the convenient excuse we should in any event await the outcome of the legal challenge to minimum pricing in Scotland that will be resolved by our own Supreme Court at a hearing on 24-25 July this year. Minimum pricing was also contrary to the Conservative ideological opposition to anything that compromised free markets, and faced considerable opposition within Conservative ranks for that reason, as well as the more pragmatic opposition that arose out of the need to avoid measures that raised prices and gave ammunition to Labour charges of a “cost of living crisis”.
 
We can but hope the traditional Conservative opposition to price fixing and market regulation, combined with the huge amount of work to implement Brexit, will mean alcohol policy in the new one-party state is something they just won’t find time for.
Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on on-trade health and alcohol policy

Reaching the consumer through all the noise by Andy Hill

According to Canadian research conducted by Microsoft, in today’s digital age, our attention span has dropped to a mere eight seconds – a full second less than that of a goldfish! We live in a world where we have access to anything on demand. We have become accustom to receiving everything instantaneously and as consumers we are inundated with choice. But, as a result, our eight-second attention span is being fought for by marketers bombarding us with thousands of propositions every day.

This is particularly prevalent in hospitality venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants. Operators attempt to entice consumers through the doors and encourage them to spend once inside. We’re faced with external banners, corex boards, table talkers, posters, television, sport, music, digital communications and entertainment – the list goes on. When these platforms are used to communicate numerous different messages or aren’t aligned well, the effect can become overwhelming to the consumer. With too much choice, these efforts can deter, rather than encourage customers to buy into an offer.

Separate research shows when bombarded with information our brains fail to function properly, meaning we block out the messages all together, and making the effort put into creating the messages redundant. So how can hospitality businesses manage the volume and noise of multiple communication platforms in one venue to ensure these are effective? There are three main considerations to bear in mind to successfully grab the attention of consumers and therefore create cut-through:

Knowing your audience’s desires
Data collection is a great way for operators to fully understand who their customers are and what they want. As a result, they can then tailor marketing and promotional offers accordingly. For example, different demographics will respond in varying ways, so it’s key for operators to have a strong grasp on who they are targeting and the format that is most suitable for the audience and purpose. Additionally, gaining further insight into consumer needs and desires by asking questions such as: “What are your expectations when visiting our bar?” will allow operators to further investigate their marketing strategies and learn what messages would encourage consumers to connect emotionally.

When tailored marketing is achieved, the consumer is more likely to engage with the message and the brand – not only increasing interest, but also building a sense of trust. What’s more is by using fully integrated data capturing tools, operators are able to reach out to the customer before they have even stepped over the threshold, giving reasons for them to visit through promotions and events.

Combating information fatigue
While sending bespoke offers to the consumer in an effort to encourage visits is a great starting point, communicating with the customers in a targeted manner doesn’t stop once they are through the door. Once on-site, it’s important to continue the conversation and encourage spend, but it’s vital this information is clear, and presented in a way that will attract the right kind of attention.

While bigger, bolder, brighter might at first be eye-catching, to what extent is the information really resonating with the intended audience? Too much information and customers tend to shut off, so operators should adopt the less is more approach and focus on quality content that reflects their branding and resonates with their audience.

As a platform that naturally attracts attention with its dynamic content, digital signage provides an easy way to reach all age groups, while particularly tapping into the digital interest of today’s millennials. It allows operators to tailor information to their target audience, minimising the number of directions the consumer’s attention is being pulled by focusing on this one effective channel.

Additionally, digital signage can integrate multiple services including music, television and advertising into one digital screen, which decreases hardware and maintenance costs. By streamlining and integrating these processes, hospitality venues can provide high-quality communication and marketing that will earn and hold consumer attention – not overwhelm them.

Managing dayparts
The third and final consideration is communicating appropriate messages for certain times of the day. Factors such as the audience demographics can be crucial – for example, are you considering times of day where families with young children may be present, or should you be adjusting your message to suit couples on a special evening out? Managing a site’s atmosphere for different times and occasions is, in my opinion, one of the most vital considerations and something I always advise operators to consider carefully.

Music relevant to each daypart is one obvious way to create a desired atmosphere. You will most likely want relaxed, easy-going songs during breakfast, and higher-tempo soundtracks when creating a more lively and energetic scene. Whether we realise it or not, background music has a huge impact on our behaviour and it’s essential to carefully plan what will be playing in your venue, and how this will affect your business.

Dr Julia Jones is the chief executive of Found in Music – a business dedicated to creating campaigns and projects to aid companies with popular music. She believes music is an immensely flexible marketing tool that has the power to segment audiences while at the same time being able to connect with broad demographic groups through a simple choice of repertoire. As such, the appropriate use of music in a business environment can be transformational.

Implementing an additional communication stream with promotions can also work, as long as the customer is not overloaded and the offers are relevant to the time of day. For example, advertising offers on coffee in the morning and wine deals when purchasing lunch or dinner later on is likely to provide helpful and timely information to consumers – exactly what you should be aiming for. In order to ensure these sorts of advertising are of a high-standard and will not disturb the environment, it’s important to make sure the desires of consumers are understood and considered. To implement a combination of digital solutions such as music and signage, as well and incorporating quality advertising, I’d always advise operators to seek the help of a professional provider who will be able to advise on best practices depending on the business.
 
An integrated marketing approach and a well thought-out digital strategy is highly valuable in hospitality businesses in this modern age. If all three of the above points are carefully considered and operators thoughtfully manage the way in which they communicate to customers, they will have great control and will stand a good chance of avoiding visual and audio conflict that overwhelms and confuses the consumer. Not only this, but they will be in a better position to encourage increased dwell-time, spend and loyalty.
Andy Hill is chief executive of Startle International

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