Research is showing that people are preferring to stay in than go out — a location in the UK which had 60,800 pubs in 2000 dropped to 48,350 in 2017. With cheaper alcohol in stores, bars and restaurants are having a tougher time attracting people to their establishments. In this article, we’ll look at what bars and restaurants are doing to encourage people to leave their homes for a night out.
Obviously, a major factor is price, everyone wants to spend less. So, it’s a difficult pitch for bars and restaurants really — travel somewhere else, pay for a meal you could cook at home for less, then travel home. Pros? You get your food cooked for you, you don’t have to do the washing up, and it’s cooked by a professional.
And the cons? Travel costs, whether it’s fuel in your own tank or a taxi’s. You have to pay more for the food than buying the ingredients yourself. You can’t always tell what’s in the food, and for now at least, you can’t really tell how healthy the meal is. In a world that is becoming more conscious of health and wellbeing, that last point can be a real deterrent for eating out.
Restaurants have an easier job by creating new tastes and professionally-cooked meals. For bars and pubs, the game is even harder; there aren’t many brands of drink on offer at a pub or bar that you can’t buy more of, cheaper, at a supermarket. Then, you can have them at home, with your friends, away from other people, doing your own thing. Why sit in a pub trying to chat with your friends over the sound of a band you don’t particularly like when you can sit at home, chat to your friends with the same drinks, more money in your pocket, and Spotify on with band you do like?
Here is the problem now. People have so much technology at their disposal now that pubs and bars can seem a little dated. Without change and renovation, pubs in particular have felt the sharp sting of decline.
Evolving your experience
For comparison, here’s another industry that has faced struggle attracting customers. For many years, outlets were mourning the decline of the cinema industry — between piracy and prices, cinema attendance had fallen considerably from its post-war heydays. But despite this, and even with the advent of legitimate streaming services from the comfort of our own homes, the cinema industry has experienced a resurgence of attendance, hitting 177 million UK admissions in 2018, the highest it’s been since 1971.
What did cinemas do differently to adapt to changing times? The quality of film has certainly helped, with the popularity of huge-scale cinematic universes tying multiple movies together like never before. But beyond that, cinemas have something streaming services simply can’t match — a real sense of escapism, which is certainly a treasure in difficult times. Plus, cinemas don’t just offer movies now. Instead, they offer screenings of live theatre, opera, and ballet that viewers may not otherwise be able to view. Vintage films are often given a limited-time re-release, offering retro-loving younger generations a chance to see their favourite old films in a cinema setting they may have otherwise missed out on. In short, cinemas offered an experience.
Can bars and restaurants try a similar approach to become more attractive to the public again?
An important factor to consider is to enhance their environment. It might be difficult to persuade someone to leave the comfort of their home sofa for another sofa in a bar, but what about sitting in a post-war bunker concept bar? Now that sounds interesting.
Cahoots in London is a perfect example of this. This bar embraces British history and quirky vibes with a ‘hidden’ bar underground. Complete with a train guard at the door, the bar is set in an old Tube carriage and filled with stories of its previous life as a shelter. The theme runs through the whole bar too, with menus presented as old newspapers and themed cocktails that stand out from the usual fare.
This isn’t something you could replicate at home, even if you attempted to remake the cocktails. This bar isn’t pulling crowds just to try the drinks (though that is no doubt one selling point) — it’s offering a full package experience with your friends.
Good quality food
Granted, not everyone can create a post-war bunker bar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt and offer an experience.
It may seem obvious, but high quality food is certainly a major selling point for restaurants. People aren’t just out to eat, they’re out to photograph their food too. #FoodPhotography has around 30 million photos under its tag, and #Foodgasm has over 40 million photos. Increasing food offerings from standard fare is vital for bars, pubs, and restaurants to survive and draw in customers. That means improving not only the quality, but the range available too. For example, clean eating, health-conscious, and vegan options are all buzzwords in the modern day. Without offering these, establishments are potentially missing out on huge pools of customers.
Research of 1,485 participants showed that over half would be more tempted by high quality food than cheaper drinks. Home-made, locally-sourced food will quickly travel by word of mouth in the area.
Work to your strengths
Although restaurants and bars can’t compete with shop pricing without their profits taking a massive hit, they can compete with the drinks trends and offerings that simply aren’t as accessible from store sleves. For example, the growing trend for slushie cocktails caters to experience-seeking and a touch of quirkiness, while also being something different from what you can get at home. They can also be mixed to suit mainstream trends, like the love for gin or none-alcoholic options.
A popular trend trickling down from an increasing interest in wellness is alcohol-free drinks. Catering to non-drinkers will certainly appeal to those in a friend group who may otherwise duck out of a night out or make a night in sound easier to cater to all. Adapt by making the bar more flexible in its offerings and it’s an easy display of catering to the customer. Plus, the offering of non-alcoholic spirit-style or wine-style drinks is rather lacking in supermarkets right now — a perfect niche for restaurants and bars to tap into.
As bars and restaurants evolve with customers’ changing expectations and preferences, with the right elements adapted and innovated, people will definitely be encouraged to go out rather than stay in!
We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Snowshock. For more features, please pay a visit to our food & drink page.