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THE PUB CHALLENGE

August 1, 2016

 

As a newcomer to London, I arrived with the perception of Pub socialising being an inherently British thing.  So I was interested to hear about the slow demise of this industry.  With the recession, hiked taxes, regulations and an ever-changing cultural environment the destruction of the iconic pub industry has been notable, and devastating. It seems as if all things are working against the pubs to make it exceedingly difficult to stay afloat.

 

The smoking ban of ’07 saw a change in patronage in the food industry, but rather than increasing the traffic through pubs, this act saw frustrated smokers less likely to socialise in pubs.  This departure of customers outweighed the influx of families who were preferring to head to a restaurant than a pub.  Furthermore, the credit crunch meant that many people were opting to buy cheaper alcohol from supermarkets.  This paired with the rise in movie rentals and subscription entertainment saw more people enjoying time at home rather than the social communities of pubs.

 

The biggest influence however, I believe to be cultural influence.  The demographic that used to enjoy their times at the pub are spending more time in cafés and restaurants.  Places to enjoy inventive menus and revitalising caffeine drinks are rising in popularity along with the increase in cloud-based working systems.  When you think of the millennial generation, you often imagine a hipster-type locked behind their laptop with an artisanal coffee in hand surrounded by the buzz of a coffee shop or shared working space.  Is this not an area that pubs can try and break into?  We need to take note here, of the waves of change in cultural behaviours and preferences.  If pubs are to stay relevant, and hopefully reverse the slow demise of the industry, they are going to need to take an innovative approach to serving the needs of those who they hope to attract.

 

Advertise free wifi, invest in an espresso machine – I know I would have far preferred a relaxed, social pub environment to get my work done rather than the tiny round tables of my local coffee shop crammed between the wall and the next table.  It is time to revamp the social environment of pubs. Spruce up a section, and dedicate it to a “shared working space”.  We are social beings of course, the decline has not been because of a downturned social interest, but rather a combination of mitigating factors (not all of which are within the pubs control).  But there is room for growth, room for innovation.  There is potential to fight back, will the pubs take up the challenge?

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