10 Ways Today’s Pubs are Adapting to Survive and Prosper

Survive and Prosper

24th August 2022

By Richard


Steven Covey famously quoted: “If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.”

Let’s face it, every day we are bombarded with news about rising energy bills, rising food costs, rising staff shortages – the list goes on.

No doubt the hospitality sector as a whole is currently facing huge cost challenges. There have been multiple calls from trade associations to the government to take urgent action. For the British Pub Industry, Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), reported: “Our sector hangs in the balance. Rising energy bills are crippling pubs across the country, with only one in three turning a profit, and that figure is only likely to worsen as winter approaches.”

First it was unprecedented times during the pandemic, now it’s uncertain times as a recession approaches.
Uncertain times can either break a business or take a business to new heights of success. The best performing pubs throughout the UK have been actively innovating and changing their business strategy in order to survive and prosper.

Here are 10 ways Pubs are adapting to increase their revenue and continuously attract customers through their doors:


1. Strong Brand Story

Pubs that are able to tell their story through strong consistent branding are creating more memorable guest experiences. Whether that is weaving in the story of the pub building’s history or the local history; it is vital to be unique and craft a clear, memorable narrative for customers to connect with.

When we completed Alban’s Well, St Albans operated by Young’s Brewery & Co, we added a distinctive, eye catching contemporary angel sculpture, which was a nod to the local cathedral. We also installed a faux Gin distillery, with sage green panelling contrasted against raw stripped back building materials like steel and concrete, together with a mystical artwork shadow painted over concrete in the style of the local artist, Edward Robert Hughes which changed appearance and contrast during the day.


2. Gaming/Activities

Traditional pub games and pub leagues for darts, dominoes and cards are making a come back. Popular escape room, crazy golf and skittle alley concepts are being incorporated where the space allows. Having games and alternative activities alongside food/drink offers, incites customers to visit and spend.

Concepts such as The Flight Club have grown in number as todays customers are looking for places that offer social entertainment. Flight Club have reinvented darts for the twenty first century, through developing a range of fast and exciting multi-player games, built to bring people together and designed to keep you entertained and full of joy.


3. Community Events

Involving the local community in events will strengthen the pub’s status in the community. Events could include: traditional pub quizzes, tasting evenings for beer/wine/food, book clubs, local pop up shops, local fast food trucks in garden areas and arts/crafts events hosted by the pub.

The Eagle and Child, Ramsbottom is a great example of how an owner has developed a unique pub, that has it’s own community allotment which provides the majority of fresh vegetables on the menu, as well as being a local community hub for Ramsbottom.


4. Theatrical Service

Creating theatre with the preparation and service of food, theatrical ways of serving food to the customers at the table plus action and interest at the bar, and entertainment, all add to the memorable experience guests now expect.

The White Bear has been located in the heart of Kennington Park, since 1780, Young’s brief for Harrison was to create a traditional pub which had a modern look and feel about it, without losing its heritage. The first floor is home to the White Bear Theatre, and intimate fringe theatre which encourages new writing as well as reviving lost threatre classics.


5. Fresh Meat Displays

Fresh meat displays to highlight fresh and locally sourced products. Customers enjoy being able to choose their own cut of meat and see it being prepared. There could also be an option to sell takeaway products to customers.

The Butchers Tap, Marlow is a well known example of a popular pub which has incorporated a traditional butchers shop, all in one. The Butchers shop sells a full range of fresh, locally sources meats to take home, expertly prepared by their own in-house master butchers.


6. Microbrewery/Distillery

Additional revenue for pub and interest for customers with bottle shops for takeaway products. Microbreweries and Distilleries on site all provide theatre and compelling touch points for guests.

The Goose Island Beer Company is a craft brewery that originated from Chicago, Illinois with a number of brewpubs named after an artificial island in Chicago. The founder John Hall, created the micro-brewery following a tour of Europe in 1998 sampling different beers pint by pint.

Harrison were asked by the owners Anheuser-Busch to translate and adapt the unique personality of the US based operations into Shoreditch, East London. Our design was influenced by Chicago’s stripped back Warehouse interiors. The space was broken into a number of discrete areas accommodating live music, an authentic US micro-brewery and comfortable lounge and dining areas away from the main bar area. We also developed an ingenious way to reduce or extend table tops depending on the time of day. As the founder said, “America deserves some damn fine beer like this, too.”


7. Technology

There are a number of ways to integrate new technology for a seamless guest experience: pre-paid self-service beer taps, mobile app for ordering and paying for food/drinks, tablets on tables for ordering and payment, sockets and USB points on tables to encourage working in the pub to increase daytime trade.

All of our recent projects with Young’s Pubs and Co, have incorporated the needs of todays consumers, through the App you can book tables in advance, order food and drinks from the comfort of your table and pay online.


8. Room Hire

A pub can become multi-functional and not limited to food/drink opportunities. If a pub has additional rooms, they can be used for hire as meetings rooms/family celebrations/wedding receptions, all to generate revenue.

Smaller meetings & events offer a potentially significant revenue opportunity for pubs. Just one small meeting (15 delegates) per week could drive a pub’s revenue by over £25k pa. Meeting revenue is, typically, a high margin opportunity with delegates consuming higher than average GP% food & beverage and revenue coming from the rental of the room – an existing asset of the business.


9. Social Responsibility

Customers are taking an interest in being as socially responsible as possible, looking for options that can help them to feel they are playing their part. Growing fruit/veg on the premise or sourcing locally will cut down on food miles. Setting up beehives in the garden where the honey can be used in the kitchen or sold separately. LED lighting can now create the warm atmosphere needed in a pub, whilst also saving energy and resources. Cutting down on single use plastics wherever possible as well as cutting down on food waste – offering smaller portions for smaller appetites.


10. Gardens

Gardens can be enhanced to create further inviting spaces. Soft lighting can cultivate a warm atmosphere, whilst creating covered areas can also maximise the space during colder/wetter days. Adding outdoor bars, fire pits/barbeques and food trucks all attract customers looking for a more diverse experience.

Your outdoor space, of course, should reflect your brand as much as your inside space – your customers should feel like they’re eating and drinking with you, despite dining al-fresco and trying to keep warm! We worked with the team at Youngs to create several distinctive outside spaces that can be used throughout the year. At The Windmill, Clapham we developed a stand alone food shack, unique heated pods and an outstanding games area.


These are the avenues top operating pubs are taking to achieve higher revenues and survive these uncertain times. Perhaps you’ve already started planning to incorporate one or more of these concepts already. Do you have a project in mind that you want to discuss?


We’re here to help you with your brand and design strategy, drop us a message.