Former Institute of Hospitality CEO Peter Ducker has spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry and is a member of P&G Professional’s Expert Advisory Council (www.pgpro.co.uk)
Last month, the whole of the UK was limbering up for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations and it’s no surprise that every consumer-facing business was hoping for a boost on that unique occasion. The degree of creativity is quite remarkable and nowhere more so than in the pub sector.
For centuries pubs have been at the heart of their community, in recent times many have worked harder than ever to leverage that position to attract a loyal client base. For them, a national celebration was too good a chance to miss.
I see pubs arranging garden parties during the day for families, special menus, free ‘Platinum Trifle’ desserts. Pubs are often open from breakfast through the day, serving different sectors of the community as the day unfolds. Nobody ever said running a pub was easy – they deserve to do well.
When I think of pubs as the ‘heart of their community’ my mind roams a little. Of course we think of their neighbours, maybe a five mile catchment delivering the lion’s share of their trade, and that’s right. But these days they can have another, larger community online, using social media platforms to remain visible and engaged, with a view to both long-term familiarity and spontaneous response.
I have seen at firsthand how effective smart social media activity can be. A young entrepreneur opened a bar in a residential suburb of London. His key market was mums during the day dropping in for coffees or snacks and young professionals in the evenings. He had an impressively large following online, and was savvy in how he used it – often enough to remain engaged, but not so often that over-exposure would be counterproductive. On hot days a special happy hour would be pushed out to his contacts’ inbox at just the time when thoughts were turning to an end of the day drink. Cocktail masterclasses worked well, as did ‘bring a buddy’ specials. So in our digital world, ‘community’ has a whole new meaning.
It’s not all about new tech. Consumers see their local pub as a beating heart of the community, evidenced by recent research commissioned by P&G Professional, which revealed that six in 10 UK adults have a go-to local, with half believing pubs bring people together. Pubs with private rooms can offer them to clubs and societies generating income, loyalty and goodwill that translates into further business. This sounds simple, but of course it’s all done for nothing unless the basics of great hospitality remain front and centre of the business – whether it’s a pub, restaurant, hotel or B&B.
The basics of great hospitality are as old as time itself. A warm welcome, good food and drink well presented in a pleasant, clean environment is always the winning formula. In our post-Covid world, cleanliness and hygiene are more important than ever, and as consumer confidence returns, so too have their high expectations.
In fact, according to research commissioned by P&G Professional, appropriate cleaning standards are a key factor in choosing which pub to visit, with consumers listing cleanliness as a top priority, along with good food. A competent cleaning regime using trusted products is expected and every business ignores this at its peril.
There is one other thing we need to think about nowadays. Whichever community we think about, they all have one thing in common. Nobody is immune from the challenges presented by global unrest and runaway inflation. Factor in the wage inflation caused by a labour shortage and you’d think nothing else can go wrong… then there’s the energy crisis with bills spiralling out of control.
We are told the recession will be short and sharp. let’s hope they are right. In the meantime, while it seems that the pent up demand for hospitality and quality leisure experiences remains strong, it’s a brave business that takes customers for granted at times like this.
It’s never been easy to run a hospitality business. The flip side of that is that in every job description the most important objective is to make people happy – I can’t think of a more rewarding career. The camaraderie with colleagues, the engagement with guests combine to make the challenges, the hours and the never ending search for improvement worthwhile.
Last but not least let’s revert back to the word ‘community’. To be part of a community is a strong human need, to support and engage with a community is a privilege and a responsibility. That’s why P&G Professional launched its #CommunityOnTap Awards in search of Britain’s best pub, celebrating those who have found creative ways to increase footfall, bring communities together and ultimately, run a thriving business in these trying times.
A business that becomes part of a community has a safety net – support a community and the community will support you. Over time as the community grows, so does your client base. Regular patrons can be your greatest advocate and your strongest critic – often at the same time. Word of mouth is a powerful force.