Creating a strong Food USP is your best defence against homogenisation in the pub marketplace. Just as the take-over of our high streets by huge retail brands are increasingly turning our town and city centres into clone – zones, the growth of massive retail brands within the pub industry is doing the same with the marketplace in which we operate.
Mitchell and Butlers, Whitbread, Greene King, Spirit Group, JD Witherspoons etc are marching inexorably on and gobbling up the market. Your individuality and entrepreneurial skills are needed now, more than ever, to catch the increasing numbers who are desperate to escape the big boys’ food and drink factories.
Whilst you cannot hope to compete in terms of price (because of the retail giants’ purchasing power and economies of scale) or marketing budgets and refurbishment programmes you can compete in one important area. As sole or small group operators you have a major factor in your favour – Unique Selling Propositions (USP’s).
Yes, the one time it pays to be on your own is in terms of your outlet being able to differentiate itself from the plethora of eat all you can fun factories and palaces of mediocrity. Many of you will be severely limited in the differentiation you can make on your wet offering (by dint of your tie) but the food you serve can really mark you out from the herd.
“Spontaneous and unprompted” opinion surveys (of brand recognition and dining intention) show that the market is increasingly in the hands of the large retail brands, as shown by the figures below on brand recognition across various market segments.
Overall recognition (all ages) puts JD Wetherspoon 5th, Harvester 6th, Beefeater 9th, Toby 11th and Brewer’s Fayre 15th out of 20 listed.
In the two significant spending power age ranges the pattern is repeated:
In the under-25 market JD Wetherspoon 5th, Harvester 10th and Beefeater 12th.
Over 55’s Harvester 5th, JD Wetherspoon 6th, Beefeater 7th, Toby 8th and Brewer’s Fayre 9th.
The trick is to look at what these chains are doing that attracts so much recognition nationally and try to recreate these winning formulae in your micro-marketplace (with your own USP or twist). Small operators can win out as evinced by the success of a relatively small chain – Nando’s – with 60% of respondents recognising the brand and what they sell. It may surprise you to know that Nando’s has only 343 sites – a minnow compared to the thousands of outlets in the hands of the big companies. By the way, if you are wondering which is number one, suffice it to say Ronald with the golden arches takes top prize!
Food, if you are able to offer it, can be the keystone to your strategy to make your pub stand out from the crowd. Whilst you still want to appeal to those important market segments (the under 25’s and the over 55’s) you need to “add value” (dreadful expression but useful!)
A recent “Him! Magazine” survey revealed that the 55-64 age group spend more on dinner than any other at £16.70 a head, closely followed by 65+ at £16.44 and 45-54 at £15.42.
Four USP Ideas You Might Try
I would suggest that there are four main ways to achieve this
- local sourcing
- seasonal variation
- The ‘traditional’ Sunday Lunch.