Pub Round Table Event March 2016

04/04/2016
Key Findings and Recommendations


The Guestline Pub Round Table event consisted of a group of 14 key industry representatives from pub companies, industry bodies (the ALMR and BBPA), Stay In A Pub and VisitEngland. Pub companies represented included Young’s, Fuller’s, Greene King, Shepherd Neame, Oakman Inns, Entreprise Inns, Brakspear and Punch Taverns.

The discussion focused on the growing trend driven by consumers for licensees to increase their revenue through letting rooms and the addition of boutique style accommodation.

The following points with regards to the current state of the market (strengths and weaknesses), the opportunities that are available to this sector and the threats that need to be considered.



Strengths

  • The overall offering is different to that of budget hotels and B&Bs with regards to the food and drink provided in-house.
  • Everything is under one roof which is convenient for guests – sleep, eat and drink in the pub, no need to go anywhere else – especially good for lone travellers and to avoid drink driving.
  • Traditional charm and character of pubs - log fires, friendly atmosphere, quaint locations.
  • Offers a pleasant guest experience – ‘home from home’ and personal customer service.
  • Good value for money.
  • Uniqueness of properties – every pub is different compared to branded chains or budget hotels.
  • Bar staff can be trained to process check-ins, eliminating the need for standalone check in desks.

Weaknesses 

  • Low brand profile compared to branded chains – this differs across the sector but generally the pub companies have a lower profile in the accommodation market.
  • Low awareness, especially amongst pub goers and people wanting to book rooms – the habit of booking a pub over a hotel is low.
  • Digital capabilities are limited – poor visibility online and poor user experience /customer journey.
  • Limited /slow online booking platforms and limited integration with industry bookings sites.
  • Identity crisis! Where do the pubs align themselves - a pub with rooms or a boutique hotel? What category do pubs with rooms fall under?
  • Fragmented market – lots of individual pubs across multiple groups.
  • Disparity of offering – varies immensely across market and across pub companies – companies want to retain uniqueness of pubs but need an element of brand consistency across the estate so they’re easier to market and recall.
  • Operational experience - pubs companies offering accommodation is a relatively new concept for some companies who have little ‘hotel’ experience compared to running a pub.
  • Higher cost of guest acquisition.

Opportunities 

  • Improved sales and awareness online – through improvements made in SEO, online booking platforms, websites (with quality photos).
  • Growth in mobile bookings through mobile enabled websites.
  • Strength in numbers – develop a central reservation / marketing platform online specifically catering for pub accommodation.
  • The ‘home from home’ experience – pubs can offer guests a homely, welcoming service. Capitalize on the popularity of Airbnb who offer consumers a different experience to hotels.
  • The unique USP – guests experience a hotel and pub all in one.
  • Increased sales and revenue from food and beverage sales amongst guests (introduce room service?).
  • Higher margin with rooms compared to food/drink.
  • Online check-in facility and online concierge services to improve customer service.
  • Growth of staycations and tourism across UK (£18.1 bn spent by British residents on domestic trips in 2015) and more people are now taking a portfolio of shorter trips.
  • The appeal of pubs to international visitors (£18.9 bn spent by international visitors).
  • Star ratings and the VisitEngland Accredited Pub scheme with the BBPA – establish an official endorsement and accreditation so pubs can differentiate themselves in terms of facilities. Offer guests more reassurance of what they’re going to get.
  • Online reviews – appeal the younger generation via Facebook reviews.
  • Reduce OTA commissions by generating repeat bookings direct.
  • Discover England fund - there are funds available to boost your digital presence in the ‘technology’ category.

Threats

Independent and group hotels who...

  • Already provide seamless online experience and simple online bookign facility.
  • Already have a good brand profile with high brand recognition/recall.
  • Offer a consistent product offering so are considered a 'safe' bet.
  • Have an extensive experience of offering rooms.

In Summary - Key areas to focus on:

  • Consolidate efforts and expertise across all the pub companies to compete against big brands.
  • Grow awareness of the market -
  • Develop an improved digital platform to cater for today’s online traveller (4 out of 5 travellers now book their accommodation online - Google) by improving the customer booking journey (remove booking barriers) and catering for mobile bookings to reduce high cart abandonment (46% of mobile web travellers are unlikely to return to a slow loading site - Google).
  • Improve SEO to benefit from the non-branded search terms for searches based on location e.g. ‘hotels in Wandsworth’ and simplify the travel search across devices and websites.
  • Promote the offering and consumer benefits – make it inspirational to stand out from the crowd and highlight USPs that budget/ branded hotels can’t offer.
  • Capitalize on local expertise and drive local partnerships to differentiate from the more impersonal budget/branded chain hotels.
  • Additional training and resources (specifically serving the needs of the pub market) – for example, on rate and revenue management and digital marketing.
In conclusion, Guestline, ALMR and Stay in a Pub will be working together to explore further opportunities for the sector mainly focussing on digital marketing, online booking platforms and training provisions. We will keep you updated with further news as and when we have it!

Guestline Solutions:

For more information on how the Guestline solutions have benefited a range of pub companies, please click here for a selection of case studies. www.guestline.com.

Partner notes:

VisitEngland – Please click here for further information relating to the Discover England Fund: https://www.visitengland.com/biz/tourism-england/funds/discover-england-fund.

There are two VisitEngland accreditation options for pubs. The new Pub scheme is ideal for pubs with or without rooms that would like an accreditation and assessment that focuses on the food and drink, service and welcome. The established Inns scheme is perfect for those that want a star rating for their rooms. Both schemes comprise a mystery shop debrief and written report and for the Inns scheme this involves an overnight stay. In each case the assessor will do a thorough review of the Pub’s online presence before visiting, including online reviews. All our assessors are trained to provide guidance and advice on how to increase bookings and encourage repeat visits.

VisitEngland are keen to work on pilot projects with individual pub companies, using their accreditation options as a route to increasing bookings and improving conversion rates, especially to attract more overseas visitors – a key new focus for VisitEngland. If you are interested, please contact:

Pam Foden, Head of Industry Development - VisitEngland

T: 020 7578 1425 | E: pam.foden@visitengland.org