Friday, 26 June 2015

Survey: why we go to pubs

A survey by Mintel has thrown up a few less-than-astonishing findings. To mention just a few:
  • One in five people in Britain drink in a pub at least once a week.
  • One in ten regularly go to the pub for a meal each week.
  • 22% say food is the most important factor.
  • One in five say they'd visit more often if drinks were cheaper.
Other findings relating to food show that people increasingly expect it to be good quality and made on the premises with locally sourced ingredients; it seems that the attractions of cheap and cheerful pub grub are diminishing (although not for me!). This, the report states, reinforces the importance of food to the pub trade: while I don't disagree, I note that that if 22% consider that food is the most important factor (and that is a lot of people), logically 78% of those surveyed do not. 

The 20% who said they'd go more often if drinks were cheaper constitute a big loss of potential trade; as I've long thought, price is driving people away. Silly duty levels and exorbitant pubco pricing certainly have made pubgoing a costly extravagance for many, especially against a background of a long decline in the value of wages in real terms. I was interested to see that there was no mention of the smoking ban; after eight years, it's probably no longer a significant factor.

There is some acknowledgement of the social and community aspects of pubgoing. Mintel's Chris Wisson said: “In less urban areas in particular, pubs can be an important community space for residents to meet and socialise. Providing an experience more tailored to the local catchment area, by stocking products from local brewers and farmers for example, can be a good way for landlords to underline their importance and relevance to the community.” I can see that, but the same applies to urban pubs, perhaps in a more diluted form owing to the greater choice of pubs that's usually available. I drink mostly in town and city pubs and I have noticed that genuinely local beers do tend to be popular.*

The survey merely reinforces what most of us had assumed anyway: that food is increasingly important to the pub trade. With overall alcohol sales in decline, food makes up some of the shortfall for those pubs that are able to provide it, but that doesn't alter the fact that food isn't the most important factor for nearly four out of five customers. It also doesn't alter the fact that not every pub is able to put food on.

* Hence the significance of Molson Coors' decision to move production of bottled Doom Bar from Cornwall to Burton on Trent.


  1. There are probably at least three or four separate pub markets: I go to city centre pubs that don't do food but have cheap beer and are rammed as well as suburban ones that rely on serving meals and have dearer beer but are still busy.

  2. There's often a big gap between what people say to researchers and what they actually do. For example, people might say they would like to see more locally-sourced food because it's something that sounds good, but I doubt whether it matters much to the customer of the average Spoons or Hungry Horse.

  3. Yes, I agree Matt that we do go to different pubs for different reasons.
    CM: if we didn't know already, the recent General Election has shown that we cannot trust what people say to pollsters.


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