New brewing, new consumer trends, new cost-saving techniques, new social media developments, new ways to approach customer relations – it was all there for those who wished to further enhance their understanding and skills.
More recently, at an LVA luncheon, we learned from the guest speaker, food writer John McKenna, his thoughts about the pub and pub food and how pubs have been shifted away from the centre of culture in Ireland.
Combine this with some equally lucid thinking from Paul Varga, the head of Brown Forman, to the effect that a softening of the US on-trade market may be somewhat more long-term as a new generation of consumers seeks to drink at home and meet their social needs across social media – in effect “creating the bar at home”.
Altogether they can present a worrying picture for the pub trade.
What’s clear is that a traditional trade that’s doing its best – and succeeding in many cases – to move with the times has much still to learn about the speed of development of their target market’s thinking on ‘socialising’.
The plethora of learning opportunities that presented themselves in February and March help keep the trade up-to-date – and we need more of them.
But there’s another question being asked by many in the trade itself. Are the right people attending these seminars? More and more, proprietors have come to realise the value of bringing members of their staff along to these learning opportunities.
In some cases the extremely positive feedback from staff has helped galvanise a pub’s workforce into action while other members of staff have simply had their eyes open and their enthusiasm for the job refreshed by what they’ve heard.
For what’s being talked about concerns them and their peers. These days all members of staff in licensed premises have a valuable role to play and an equally valid contribution to make to one or more aspects of running a pub in the 21st Century.
What emerged clearly from these seminars is that staff are often more up-to-speed than their seniors; they should therefore be listened to by their seniors and encouraged to attend future seminars since they represent the front line with consumers – whether that’s the consumer already present on the premises or all those potential customers out there online.