At times, they’ve tried to fight back, as with the late 60s “trendy” renamings and refurbishments, and the mid-80s vogue for “fun pubs”. However, these things have never stood the test of time, illustrating the point that if you go along with one short-term fad, it won’t be long before the next one comes along. I always associate the fun pub with rolled-up jacket sleeves and the Escort XR3i.
More recently, it has been widely observed that there has been a general decline in alcohol consumption, most notably amongst the younger age group, and that the growth of social media has reduced their interest in socialising in pubs. Clearly this is a concern to pub operators, and Marston’s have been conducting a Pub of the Future project to work out how they can respond to it.
Some of the responses aren’t exactly surprising:
- “the restrictive nature of pubs puts me off”
- “the traditional food served doesn’t appeal to me”
- “light and airy is definitely the way forward” (I can see where this is heading - Ed)
- “the addition of relevant technology into the pub will entice and engage a younger customer”
Appealing to the young is a real challenge for pub operators, but history suggests that a conscious attempt to attract them is doomed to failure. It is better to see what actually works on the ground and try to replicate that.
It doesn’t necessarily follow that pubs have to be modern to attract younger customers. In my student days in Birmingham, the Great Stone was the most olde-worlde pub in Northfield, but had the youngest clientele. And recently in Durham I was struck by the sight of groups of students participating a a pub quiz in Sam Smith’s resolutely traditional Colpitts Hotel. They even might find it a novelty to visit a pub that doesn’t have wi-fi.
Does any “modern” pub interior from the 1960s still survive? But plenty do that were already old-fashioned then.