… generally the easy way!
The New Year is a notoriously difficult trading period for many pubs, but the doldrums can hit a pub at any time and for no apparent reason. You need to think quickly to bring customers back in to your pub. Whilst all of these ideas may not suit your pub, some will, and as many are very low cost to implement they are worth a try.
As with everything planning and ease of execution are paramount – some of these ideas are harder to plan and implement than others. Some of these ideas involve increasing sales of alcohol and extra care should be taken to ensure promotions are run responsibly and sensibly.
Make sure that all your staff know how these sales building mechanics work and encourage them to talk them up and incentivise them. At the end of each idea is a key to how EASY or HARD it is to implement and if it involves alcohol a CAUTION (if appropriate) to run the promotion responsibly, some will entail an modest outlay £.
- “Spotty Bottoms” – Bottled Beer/Cider/Wine promotion – place random spot stickers on the bottom of your highest margin products and when the customer buys a bottle with a sticker then they can take advantage of the promotion. The promotion might involve another bottle free or at ½ price or win a T shirt or other promotional gift (it could even be a lighter with your pub logo/details on) EASY £
- “Oops! got to change the barrel/bottle” – when a draught product runs out and needs changing then the person who is ordering at the time gets their drink free. This can also be used with the last shot in a spirit bottle. Just a way of thanking them for their patience in waiting whilst you re-stock. EASY £
- JUGS of ALE / LAGER/ COCKTAILS – sell 4 pints of ale/lager for a reduced price – typically the reduction should be to the level of 3 or 3½ the cost of a single pint – ideal for barbecue / summer events / football matches/ party nights. For general trade building for spirits – sell 2 pint pitchers of basic cocktails (see cocktail section of the website for ideas) for the price of 3 single cocktails EASY CAUTION £
- WINE – get the rest of the bottle free – when a customer buys 2 large glasses of wine (250ml) or three small glasses (175ml) then they get the rest of the bottle free – choose high margin and high sales volume wines EASY CAUTION £
- GO LARGE – to be used on either food or drink – for instance Go Large French Fries – add 25% portion and 20% price or Go Large on spirits – add a £1 for a double (25ml goes large to 50ml) EASY CAUTION £
- 1/3rd OF A PINT – real ale promotion – great way for customers to try your selection of real ales (you need to stock at least three to use this promotion and invest in some 1/3rd pint glasses) and build real ale sales EASY £
- REAL ALE CLUB – in order to boost sales run a club where members can benefit from offers – collector’s card, meet the brewer, brewery trips and beer festivals etc HARD
- BEER FESTIVAL – these can be all year round as many brewers are now offering seasonal brews – if you have a beer garden then a summer festival offering at least 9 beers over two or three days/evenings – have a one price policy – order “bright” beer i.e. pre-conditioned beer – this means you will be able to move the beer from temporary stillages to your permanent stillage – although you need to be sure you can sell these beers within 48 hours of tapping HARD £– (see my separate guide to beer festivals)
- CAMRA – get involved with your local branch – offer CAMRA members a discount – go to meetings and get yourself noticed – offer to host branch meetings EASY
- CASK MARQUE – get accredited – advertise that you are accredited EASY (if you keep your beer well) HARD (if you don’t)
- BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU – get a couple of cases in and offer it at a discounted price along with a French food offering – the food could be as simple as a selection of good French cheese and warmed baguette or it could be a full three course meal EASY
- MEAL DEALS – as many as you can think of – very popular are: curry, chilli, sausage/pie and mash – all small portions with a “free” beer included in the price EASY £
- LOYALTY/COLLECTOR CARDS – these are a great way to encourage repeat custom – they can be used on any product (wet or dry) and typically you should get between 10 – 20 sales before offering something back. Instead of offering reduced price drinks or food promotions offer the same overall reduction as a reward for continued purchases. For example to encourage Real Ale sales offer 1 free pint for every 10 purchased this equates to a 10% reduction in price but will build sales. EASY £
- Support your local team – GOLDEN GOAL PROMOTION – every time your home team scores, the price of your session lager and session bitter is reduced by 10p for the remainder of the game – if opposing team equalises the price goes back up. EASY (you just need to keep a tally of pints sold at reduced price for your stock taker) CAUTION £
- BEST OF BRITISH WEEK/NIGHT – celebrate the food and drink from around the UK – Fish ‘n’ Chips, Bangers ‘n’ Mash, Faggots, Steak and Kidney Pudding – the list is huge – marry the food up with Real Ales, Bitter, English wines. Incorporate into St George’s Day. Different nights of the week could include food from Scotland (Haggis, Tatties ‘n’ Neeps) Ireland (Culcollan, Irish Lamb Stew) Wales (Cockaleeky, Welshcakes) all with regional ales. EASY
- LOCAL HEROES NIGHT – a variation of the above could be to celebrate your local area – you will find plenty of local farm shops, butchers, cheese makers etc throughout the UK. You could get your local butcher to create a house sausage for you that incorporates a beer or cider that you stock for instance. EASY
- CHEESE AND WINE NIGHT – a great way of promoting sales of your wine list – or a great way to involve your customers in choosing your new wine list. Provide plenty of crackers and a good variety of cheese to go with the wines, see if there is a local cheese you can source. EASY
- PIE AND PINT NIGHT – what works for wine will work for cask ales – a simple offering of pie/mash/gravy (don’t forget something for the vegetarians) combined with testers of your cask ales will help boost sales. EASY
- XMAS CARDS – give regular customers a card with “bounce-back” vouchers redeemable during January and February (traditionally very quiet months after the Xmas/ New Year spending) EASY £
- BE “NICE” TO YOUR CUSTOMERS –For instance customers will not remember that 20p off a pint promotion that your lager brand ran (which is being run in every pub in the neighbourhood) but they will remember things like I do. A favourite is to randomly pick sets of customers to give drinks away (a tray of shot glasses and a bottle of Tequila is my favourite). The trick is to use promotional stock (all those BOGOF’s and freebies from suppliers) to fund your largesse and always make your gesture toward the end of the night (chances are they weren’t going to buy another drink although sometimes it generates a couple of last minute purchases). Word of mouth soon spreads and you will have further strengthened your place in the market for no outlay. A word of warning: don’t overdo it and don’t forget your core regulars. EASY CAUTION £
And just to round things off this top tip from Licensees Supporting Licensees pub The Three Crowns, Bushey, Herts…
“When asked to donate to school fayres etc I give a party for 50 people including finger buffet, always gets much thanks and 50% of the time is never used, had one ‘winner’ use tonight for her 40th and my investment of £40 in food = £1005 in the bar till”