Commissioned by the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland in advance of its 45th AGM taking place in Letterkenny from today until Wednesday 16th May, the survey of 379 publicans last April gauged publican sentiment on a range of issues. It revealed that customers have become more discerning over the past three years.
With 43% of publicans now serving food in their pubs, 88% of the publicans surveyed say that their customers are looking for a broader range of drinks while 92% say a higher quality of service is expected and 83% say their customers have become more adventurous with food.
The findings also reflect the demand for more choice where 93% of publicans say they’re selling a wider range of gins while 57% are selling a wider range of whiskies.
This increased confidence is leading to plans by many in the trade to invest in and refurbish their premises.
When asked about opportunities for growth, publicans cited an upturn in the economy as the number one reason for their optimism. A strong tourism market and increasing popularity of pub food were also provided as other important reasons for positivity.
The pub remains a vital element of Ireland’s tourism infrastructure and with expectations that 2018 will build on last year’s record 10.65 million visitors.
But while confidence returns to the pub trade some challenges remain, most notably the cost of insurance. Almost 60% of publicans say insurance is the biggest burden placed on their business. Sourcing and retaining staff also poses a challenge as the economy continues to improve and the country approaches full employment.
“The results of our survey confirm that VFI members are looking to the future with a new sense of confidence,” commented incoming VFI President Padraic McGann, “I find it encouraging that so many publicans are prepared to invest in their premises, a sure sign they believe a corner has been turned.”
However he added, “Over the past couple of years, insurance costs for our members have increased to unacceptable levels. It’s no exaggeration to say it could put many publicans out of business. Change can’t come soon enough to the insurance sector.”
The incoming President also referred to the present ‘two-tier’ pub economy, stating, “While pubs in cities, large urban areas and tourist hotspots are performing well, for some publicans the challenges of running a business in a rural location are overwhelming. We call on the government to implement proposals that will help rejuvenate rural areas as outlined in its planning framework document Ireland 2040.”
Padriac McGann added, “Publicans have made a huge effort to meet changing consumer demand, whether it’s in a wider choice of drinks or improving their food offering. Publicans understand they have to work hard to get customers through the door.”
The survey also found that 75% of publicans sponsor their local team, 84% host charity events and 15% host TD clinics.