Helping improve the pub experience

The Licensed Vintners Association’s outgoing Chair Deirdre Devitt helps Drinks Industry Ireland elaborate on the LVA's pub-goers survey celebrating its Bicentennial with a view to seeing what improvements could be made to the pub experience.

Q    The survey found a drop of 20% in the number of Dublin pub visit occasions among 18-24 year-olds compared to last year. This equates to 2,600 less occasions per Dublin pub. Is this not hugely significant?

A    This really is the generation of the future and as a publican it’s something you need to be aware of. It’s really important to note that this age group in particular visits the pub less often. There are a number of reasons why: they live extremely busy lives, in an average week they can have up to eight activities in their schedule comprising anything from going to the gym to meeting a friend for dinner in the evening. If we compare this age group with the older generation (55+) they’ll have three activities and the pub, in the majority of cases, falls high on that list.


Q    What’s the significance of the 18 to 34 year-old segment comprising the biggest group of drinkers in Dublin pubs?

A    Although occasions are in decline for the 18-34 segment, interestingly with all things being equal, if you can recruit consumers from this age segment into your outlet they’ll consume more alcohol than any other age segment. What’s more, if the quality, serve and offering is right they’ll be willing to trade up and increase their spend at the bar.


Tthe urban centre bars have done particularly well at recruiting more women into their outlets.

The urban centre bars have done particularly well at recruiting more women into their outlets.

Q    The split between males and females is most pronounced outside of the urban centres. Does more work need to be done by rural pubs to attract females?

A    This isn’t something new – the urban centre bars have done particularly well at recruiting more women into their outlets. Our research shows that in the 35-44 segment, one in three women will go out in an average week with a group of females; I’d suggest that publicans look at offering group packages such as ‘Make your Own Gin’ at the table which can really energise your outlet and encourage new customers to visit. Highlighting this value-added promotion on social media is critical to the success of this activity.


Q    Strange that Sunday accounts for 19% of weekly consumption while Friday accounts for one per cent less

A    Back in the Celtic Tiger years Friday and Saturday were the pinnacle of most pubs’ earnings in an average week. Recession most definitely changed Irish consumer behavior. As a result we lost a lot of ‘drinks after work Friday’ consumers. The emergence of quality food in pubs has driven the Sunday drinking occasion and become very relevant to the Irish lifestyle. Post-recession we’re starting to see Friday night become part of the Irish consumer’s week; however food is now a big priority when choosing an outlet for a Friday night out.


Q    Could you comment on the finding that only one in four pints are sold from Monday to Thursday?

A    It’s important to stress this. A lot of people in the trade underestimate the size of the midweek drinking occasion. There’s no doubt that as a nation we drink less alcohol volume per head during the week so what’s important is providing your customers a unique experience such as a quiz night or a food special to encourage them spend to spend more and potentially to revisit.


Q    What else can you tell us about the 18-34 age segment?

A    With such busy lives it can be challenging for a pub to grab their attention and custom in an average week because they’ve less time; they’re looking for unique or new experiences and definitely put a value on their free time and their spend. Three years ago this age group was price-conscious: cheap won out. The pub’s key challenge here is finding the right mix of offering something unique and at a perceived good value price.

Pubs are no longer competing with other pubs for the 18-34 age group’s attention; you now face a battle with the local coffee shop and even the gym! It’s all about the customer experience and getting it right for this target consumer.

Create an event that will give new customers a reason to visit your venue. Look at a live music offering based on the consumer you’re trying to attract. Consider how you’re telling people what’s on through social media. By having no music it’s much harder to create an atmosphere in your outlet unless you’re offering a completely unique experience.

Going to the pub in mixed groups is a growing trend among the younger generation as social connections are a big part of their day-to-day lives – particularly since the emergence of mobile technology. If you think back to the pub scene in the past, men in particular would happily go to the local alone and socialise with whoever else visited; today’s younger consumers do a lot of pre-planning before going to the outlet.

It’s important to be clear on your drinks range offering; if you’re going to have a wide range of spirits, for example, ensure your staff is knowledgeable and include them as part of a cocktail menu or signature serve. If you focus on a particular spirit type like gin, ensure you’re stocking a range of core, premium and luxury gins to meet the need of varying customers. ‘Less is more’ is normally a good rule-of-thumb to follow with selecting a range – have the choice but keep it focused.

Pub games or activities in the pub will continue to gain prominence over the next couple of years as consumers look for more rich experiences during their free time. These can be everything from a quiz or bingo night midweek, to board games to use freely and can be a great way of getting people into your outlet during quieter times of the week.


Q    What can you tell us about the 35-44 age segment?

A    This age group are clear on the experiences they enjoy when socialising so completely new experiences can be lost on them; they’ve young families and value their free time, especially weekends. This age group has grown substantially in occasions and visits to the pub over the past year. Going out with a spouse/partner is the most common occurrence so it’s important to consider the food or drink experience offered to couples.


Going out with a spouse/partner is the most common occurrence so it’s important to consider the food or drink experience offered to couples.

Going out with a spouse/partner is the most common occurrence so it’s important to consider the food or drink experience offered to couples.

Q    What can you tell us about the 45-54 age segment?

A    This group values pleasant experiences and are willing to spend more when there’s perceived added value however they’re less likely to look for something new or different when socialising. The emergence of food within the Irish pub scene has been most welcomed by this age group, with food quality and value-for-money key.

Staff came out across all age brackets as critical to any outlet’s success. Their power to influence their customers’ decision at the point of purchase is important to note particularly when ordering a unique drink or a premium bottle of wine. Three in 10 customers don’t know what drink they’ll order on entering the bar and nine in 10 will take a bartender’s drink recommendation.


Q    Why does the report recommend winning over Millennials and the 35-44 year-old segment?

A    These are the two groups worth really focusing on. They’ll dictate the future success of your outlet. It’s important to know what brings them into your outlet, what makes them stay and ultimately spend.

What’s important to note is that we’re living in an ever-changing world with consumer needs constantly evolving. No longer can you design your pub to only serve drink, you need to ensure you cater for different age groups, different occasions and different needs.

I’d suggest looking at the following areas in your business:


  • Invest in staff – upskill them so they serve consistently good drinks while harnessing upsell opportunities
  • Cater for groups – facilitate table bookings, embrace occasions
  • Games and activities – create a weekly quiz/bingo/karaoke night
  • Importance of music – create a music calendar of events
  • Focus on food – become famous for a dish/serve and embrace local produce
  • Communicate with customers – inform customers of activities/events/offers on social media



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