“Pubs must remain pubs, not become restaurants”

Differentiating their offering and building loyalty amongst customers are the key challenges facing publicans according to business experts who spoke at the recent LVA conference in The Marker Hotel.

Nearly 130 publicans attending the afternoon seminar heard that they need to set their business apart and create a unique offering.
Food Consultant Hugo Arnold told them that food will play a central role in this process and that publicans are well placed to exploit the new trend for informal and affordable dining.
“If publicans are serious about food they need to create a vision for their pub, research it and then persevere with it,” he stated, “This requires a shift in mindset. Pubs which serve watery coffee and lukewarm, over-cooked carvery lunches will struggle to survive in the future.”


He said pubs had competitive advantages but they need to remain as pubs which serve quality food and not become restaurants.
“Pubs are flexible and very accessible,” he concluded, “Customers want casual, quality dining at a fair price. It’s complicated and requires hard work but pubs that get it right will prosper.”
Gerry Hussey, a performance psychologist, stressed the importance of building a high performing staff team to provide exceptional customer service.
“Dublin publicans are well-known for their hospitality but must continuously invest in their staff to ensure they’re trained and motivated to the highest standards. Both the consumer and the competition are evolving and publicans must keep pace with them. Staff have a central role to play in the future success of pubs” he added.
Marina Bleahan, Managing Director of ActionCoach explained that the key for publicans was having a winning mindset and taking ownership of where they are with their business.
“It’s the clarity of the plans that pub owners make now and how they lead their teams that will dictate the level of success they achieve,” she told the audience, “The key is implementing strategies which will translate into profits. Promoting a positive attitude and ‘can do’ culture in the business is also vital for success.”
The importance of targeting and connecting with the right customer was stressed by Owen Barry from Create Brand Consultants.
“Publicans must decide what kind of pub they are or they want to be and what their customer profile is,”he said, “If the pub tries to be all things to all people it will not succeed.”
In summing up the afternoon, LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keefe said that the pub trade was undergoing significant change and that publicans needed to keep ahead of the competition.
“What worked in the past for pubs won’t work in the future,” he told the audience, “The game is changing and publicans need to view their pubs as businesses and put the right business plans and models in place. But they then need to follow through and implement them.
“We’re seeing some positive signs in the trade right now but we need to build on that to provide a sustainable future. For now, it’s all about creating a unique experience for the customer and ensuring they return on a regular basis,” he concluded.

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