The research on behalf of the vintners organisation showed that 74% of people who visited pubs once a month or more pre-restrictions plan on visiting a pub within one month of them re-opening, while three out of every five members of the general public (59%) plan on returning to pubs within the same period.
The research also suggested that there will be a cautious initial return from the public and the two representative bodies have urged publicans across the country to behave responsibly by closely following the guidelines or they risk long-term reputational damage to their individual businesses – up to possibly losing their licence.
Clear hygiene and safety measures will have the strongest impact on encouraging the public to return to pubs. According to the research, 61% of the public said that knowing that all glasses and cutlery will be deep-cleaned will impact on their plans to return. This was followed by hand sanitiser being available at the door and throughout the venue (57%), the use of outdoor spaces and seating (55%), employing dedicated cleaning staff to regularly sanitise tables and surfaces (53%), clear signs and guidelines on rules to maintain safety (48%) and bar staff adopting a strict policy on those who break safety rules (48%).
Going for food is the occasion most likely to prompt people to return to pubs post the re-opening with almost three in five citing this reason (58%). The next most popular occasions are to socialise with a partner (34%) and celebrations (28%).
MCCP, a leading market research and strategy agency based in Dublin, produced the research which also highlighted concerns that the public have about returning to pubs, with almost seven out of 10 people worried that other customers will not take safety measures seriously (68%). This was followed by people becoming a risk when they get drunk (54%), queuing to get into the pub (43%) and managing safety in the toilets (42%).
“It is very encouraging to see that the vast majority of regular pub goers plan on returning to pubs within the first month of re-opening,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, speaking about the research, “However, for that to happen pubs will have to clearly follow the guidelines and ensure they’re providing a safe and comfortable environment for their customers and staff. The public will be closely watching to see how each individual pub goes about re-opening. Those that flout the regulations will see the public vote with their feet. We’re strongly calling for all pubs throughout the country to behave responsibly and ensure that the guidelines are closely followed on their premises.”
His sentiments were echoed by LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe who said, “All pubs re-opening next week have a serious responsibility to do so safely and to clearly follow the guidelines.
“More than 1,700 people have died in this country as a result of this pandemic and over 25,000 people have contracted the virus. The seriousness of this crisis is what led to pubs closing all over Ireland – the first sector to do so.
“The vast majority of our industry behaved responsibly at the beginning of the lockdown; it is now absolutely vital that we continue to behave responsibly as we re-open and resume trade. Those pubs that don’t follow the guidelines will deservedly suffer serious damage to their reputations which will impact on their level of business as well as customer and staff attitudes to their establishments.
“They also risk losing their licence when it comes up for renewal in September. A blatant disregard for public health would certainly be grounds for an objection from the Gardaí, a matter which we have discussed with the authorities and we will support their enforcement action against any rogue operators. This is too important for the country and for the trade. Anyone who endangers it will reap what they sow,” he warned.
MCCP’s research involved over 1,000 people, with participants aged over 18 and spread across age, income level, region, socialising frequency and bar type.
B&A – a different expectation for pubs
However another recent survey, this time by Behaviour & Attitudes, gives rise to a less sanguine picture of the return of the general consumer to the pub.
With the return of shopping centres and the prospect of food pubs, restaurants and cafés re-opening after a 14-week lockdown, B&A, Ireland’s largest independent market research company, recently conducted a nationally representative online survey to decipher whether or not consumers feel ready to return safely to the Hospitality and Retail sectors.
Only 25% of 2,833 adults in B&A’s online survey felt safe enough to visit a pub when it re-opens next Monday.
While 42% would feel comfortable visiting a restaurant by this date, 22% would not feel safe enough to return to a pub for drinks until at least November, the B&A survey found. This poses a serious challenge for publicans who will need to reassure all their customers that it’s safe to come back.
B&A’s survey focussed on a wide range of activities and events, evaluating which of them Irish adults were most looking forward to and when they’d feel comfortable enough to return to them.
Some 50% of Irish adults look forward to eating in restaurants once again while 45% look forward to sitting in a café with a friend but only 34% reckon that they’re looking forward to having a drink in a bar. This is two percentage points below those looking forward to visiting a shopping centre at 36%.
B&A also found that while men are only marginally more likely to be looking forward to having drinks in a pub/bar, they’re much more likely to feel safe enough to do so by 29th June than women.
In addition, younger adults are more inclined to look forward to going back to the pub and are more likely to feel safe enough to do so by 29th June.
The middle class too are much more likely to look forward to visiting a pub/bar for drinks once it’s safe to do so but there’s no difference in terms of feeling safe enough to do so by 29th June – and the presence of children appears to have no impact on whether or not adults feel safe enough to have drinks in a pub/bar by 29th June.
Nor did B&A pick up much difference by region although those in Leinster are marginally less inclined to suggest they’d feel safe enough to return by 29th June.
The study found that social activities and shopping ranked highest in terms of what people are looking forward to.
Men more comfortable returning than women
Women appear to be more cautious than men when it comes to returning to non-essential businesses. For example, 37% of women would feel comfortable enough to return to a restaurant by the 29th June in comparison with 47% of men.
Gen Z more comfortable returning than older generations
The youngest generation interviewed (aged 16-23) over-index on feeling safe enough to return to most activities by the 29th June – particularly so in relation to having drinks in a pub/bar (33% vs 25% of all adults) and visiting the gym (27% vs 19% of all adults).
B&A will be measuring the change in consumers attitudes to Ireland’s re-opening once again next month.