Making Students Regular Customers From The Beginning
The time to grab students is at the beginning of the academic year (September / October) and this is when most students will settle on their choice of pubs, so get it right at this introductory time and you stand a good chance of keeping their regular custom all year long. Remember that many students will be away from their place of study for significant periods of the year, the Christmas vacation, the Easter vacation and the long Summer Break.
Top Tip – Make sure that you run a promotion at the end of each term that involves a reward they can claim in the first week of the ensuing term, that way you stand a fair chance of their repeat custom.
Freshers’ Week is the time when new (first year) students familiarise themselves with their campus, their accommodation and the area in which they will live and socialise. Most institutions run a programme of entertainment, orientation and events such as “the Fresher’s Crush”, “the Fresher’s Fayre”, “the Fresher’s Ball” – see if you can participate in some way.
At the very least new students will be sent a welcome pack by their Student Union in advance of their arrival and the union is always looking for paid advertising. You could take out a small advertisement with a discount voucher valid for a discrete period of time that will encourage them to visit your pub.
Top Tip – I have, on occasion, teamed up with local fast-food outlets and other local shops to produce a flyer promoting the pub and detailing student deals available in the vicinity of the pub. This strategy works on two levels: you can quite easily create a student friendly area and you get to share the publicity costs with other businesses.
Student Unions (their student run organisations -) run a plethora of clubs, societies and sports teams so try and get involved with them. Invite captains or chair-persons to visit the pub and let them know what you have to offer. If your funds run to it you might consider sponsoring a university sports team or offer the student real ale club (yes they do exist) a meet the brewer evening or their very own beer festival.
Promotions For Students (And Your Other Customers!)
As students are away for many weeks of the year, you must remember to look after your other customers. You may be tempted to offer a permanent student discount or other means of inducement to encourage students into your pub my advice is not to, it can quickly alienate your other customers who are there all year round.
The only time you should consider making permanent discounts to students is if you want to turn your pub into a student pub. A word of caution on this strategy, students, being predominantly young, can be notoriously fickle, this term/year’s must visit pub can quickly become “old hat” for them the following term/year, despite your best efforts.
It’s much better to tailor promotions and entertainments to both regular/local customers that will also appeal to students (or vice versa); that way you will keep year round customers sweet and still make your venue student friendly.
Employing Students In Your Pub
A winning strategy for helping to attract students, if that’s what you’ve decided to do, is to employ some of them at your pub. They are usually quite flexible in terms of the hours they will work, although there will be certain times of the year when their studies will necessitate them being unavailable – you have to bear that in mind and be flexible too.
As I’ve said, students have long breaks and unless they are staying up at university for the vacations you may well find yourself short of staff during these absences. My advice is to look for students whose family live in your area and who will be returning from their place of study and be looking for some short-term work, that way you’ll have virtually year round cover.
I have often found students invaluable in covering sickness and holidays for the permanent members of my staff; students have lots of time available away from lectures, tutorials and seminars and can usually be called upon at short notice for cover.
Top Tip – If you are a sports oriented pub then contact the university sports teams to let them know that you have employment opportunities – they’ll be a great fit with your offering and more than likely, as with other student employees, attract their friends.