Free WiFi – a winner for pubs

As pubs continue to close in Ireland at the rate of one every 48 hours, a new study commissioned by Molson Coors Ireland has revealed that 63 per cent of Irish pub-goers go to their local less than they did two years ago.

65.1 per cent are less likely to go to the pub mid-week compared with 12 to 24 months ago while 33 per cent of the people surveyed go to the pub once a week, 11 per cent every few days, 14.2 per cent fortnightly and 13.8 per cent once per month.
The island-wide research of 500 consumers in RoI and 200 in NI looked at the changing habits of the Irish pub-going public over the past two years and what the Irish pub industry needs to provide in order to increase visit frequency.
Some 40 per cent stay in the pub for shorter periods now compared to two years ago while 49 per cent drink less and 51 per cent spend less.

The study revealed that 45.9 per cent drink more at home than they used to two years ago because 57 per cent don’t have as much disposable income, 49.6 per cent say the price of food and drink puts them off, 22 per cent say family commitments have forced a change and 19.6 per cent say their friends don’t go as much which impacts their own frequency. 16.2 per cent say they just got out of the habit of going and 7.4 per cent say the entertainment is better at home than down the pub.

86% would visit pub more frequently if….

However 60 per cent feel that the pub has a positive impact on the community and 86 per cent would visit their local more frequently if pubs offered features such as free WiFi and better food and entertainment.

“The solution therefore need not be expensive” pointed out Molson Coors Ireland’s Country Manager Niall Phelan at the launch of the report in Cliff House in Dublin.

When asked what they want from their local pub that they’re not currently getting more than one in three consumers (36 per cent) said free WiFi, 35 per cent would like live music entertainment and 29.8 per cent want better food.

The study shows that 37 per cent of people go to the pub to eat lunch or dinner but only 18 per cent eat in a pub at least once a week. 22 per cent only eat once every three months or more while 58 per cent of females say their main reason for going to the pub is to eat lunch or dinner.

“Our research tells us that 30 per cent of people want better food served in pubs,” said Niall Phelan, “There is clearly potential for considerable improvement and the low percentages of people who eat regularly in pubs would suggest that either the lunch and dinner crowd are not being catered to or their perception of pubs being places offering good food experiences is askew and needs to be remedied. Publicans should also see good food offerings as a way to attract more female customers.”

A noteworthy 27.8 per cent called for better toilets while 26.6 per cent would like a shuttle bus service laid on.
23.4 per cent would like outdoor heating, 21.6 per cent would like live comedy, 20.6 per cent want a pub quiz, 14.6 per cent want their own dedicated smoking area, 10 per cent would like to join a pub sports team and 7.6 per cent would be happier if their local provided social network feeds.

Unsurprisingly, 65 per cent want cheaper drinks.

“While price is typically a barrier to growth in a stagnant economy, the research illustrates that by offering value-added services like free WiFi, entertainment and better food and facilities, pubs can meet customer expectations and attract footfall  without actually resorting to ongoing price reductions,” stated Niall, adding, “Those publicans we see doing the best are not reducing their price, but changing their offer constantly”.

66% drop in pub sales
The survey, which also included 200 pubs in RoI and 100 in NI, found that there has been a 66 per cent drop in pub sales over the past two years yet only 17 per cent of publicans have considered closing or selling up and 13 per cent had actually witnessed a sales increase.

61 per cent had invested significantly in developing, extending and refurbishing their pub during the past five years. Of these, 73 per cent invested up to €500,000 and 80 per cent believe that the decision to invest had been worthwhile.

A range of initiatives have been implemented to boost sales in the recent past including online and offline advertising and marketing, live entertainment, sports broadcasting, food, staff training, beer festivals, reviewing the range of drinks offered and stocking craft beers. These changes made in the pub have led to an uplift in sales, according to 73 per cent of publicans.
The survey also found 42 per cent of publicans unhappy with the level of support from their banks.

As a result, Molson Coors will be making €150,000 available to the trade through the Carling Investment Scheme to assist the funding of key areas for improvement as highlighted in the research.

“We want to put our money where our mouth is” said Niall Phelan, “and we’d like to see the banks do the same”.
With 95 strategic brands 40 of which are in Ireland, Molson Coors Ireland claims 10 per cent of the lager market on the island of Ireland and hopes to raise this to 20 per cent in the next five years.

Molson Coors Ireland was established in 2010 with offices in Maynooth and Belfast and has taken on over 46 new employees in two years, investing a total of €21 million in employment, brands and infrastructure.

Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free