Sunday, 28 June 2015

Action not words

Market research organisation Mintel has recently published an interesting report on pubgoing in Britain. Amongst the results are that one in five people visit a pub each week, which raises the obvious question why four in five don’t. It would be illuminating to compare this with the situation thirty years ago.

It also stated that 20% would be more likely to visit pubs if drinks were cheaper, while 54% could be encouraged if pubs offered more appealing food. 72% of those dining in pubs opted for homemade dishes, and 54% preferred dishes with locally sourced ingredients, with 38% picking those with seasonal components.

But all of this has to be taken with a large pinch of salt. Asking people what they would like to see in a pub is very different from what would actually motivate them to go to pubs more. As I argued here, these surveys often give disproportionate weight to the opinions of those who rarely visit pubs anyway. Before the smoking ban, large numbers of people said in surveys that they would go to pubs more often if smoking was prohibited, but in practice virtually none did. And going every three months rather than every six is unlikely to do much to help the pub trade.

There’s a well-known case study where McDonalds introduced a range of “healthier” menu options in response to customer research, only to find that sales fell well below projections. It seems that many people are happy to say what they would like to see in pubs, but that doesn’t mean they would actually consume these products, or that their availability would make them visit more often. “I think pubs should stock more alcohol free beers, but that doesn’t mean I will actually drink them.”

In market research it is far more important to track how people actually behave rather than what they say they will do viewed through a filter of political correctness. Most people surveyed would probably say that pubs should offer a wider range of soft drinks, and charge less for them, but it’s very doubtful whether that would make much difference to whether or not they chose to visit.


  1. You're not wrong. I read these here beer blogs and think people want cask bitter and quiet boring pubs and beery contemplation of hops.

    Then I go in a pub, turns out people want noisy kids, cheap burgers, gorgeous ice cold fizzy lager.

  2. Stated and revealed preferences. What people say they'll do isn't always what people will do.

    The problem for pubs is that pubgoing begets pubgoing. If your colleagues at work go to the pub after work on Friday, you will probably join in. If you're someone who wants to go, and you ask the team if they fancy a beer and everyone says no, you aren't going to go on your own.

    It's not just that the smokers left. It's that with them gone, I've got no reason to call in for a swift one when walking the dog.

  3. @Cookie - it would be interesting to know where these thriving kiddy, burger, lager pubs are in Stockport. As far as I can see, the busiest pubs are the multi-beer freehouses.

    @Stigler - yes, "revealed preference" is the thing. Market research asking what people will do is largely useless. I remember a few years ago public sector unions claiming that pension changes would make working for the council hugely unattractive compared with the private sector. But I didn't notice any mass exodus.

  4. Believing beard club propaganda there Mudge. The most popular gaffs are not the beardy multi beer pubs. They may be busy friday, saturday evening when the nice people come out for discerning enjoyment. The busiest pubs are saturday, sunday lunchtime at the hungry horse, greene kings, John barrases that welcome families and flog high margin meals.

    All the gaffs the beards ignore. They may pop into spoons to moan about the plebs because Timbo gave 'em some tokens, but they never notice anywhere the Dads drink a Fosters or Wainwright whilst buying nuggets for the kids because a purple slide is round the back and a free colouring book and crayons is on every table.

    They have the largest turnover, footfall, whatever measure you like, apart from maybe flogging obscure undrinkable weird filth.

  5. You can get a rump steak at a hungry horse for £6.99! Make sure to ask for it very rare, and then you might get it medium well if you're lucky.

    But you couldn't make it at home for that.

    I also noticed they had GK XX mild on at the bar. It gets bloody everywhere, that stuff.

  6. Cooking Lager: may I point out, as a clean-shaven CAMRA member, that I actually quite like Spoons? Nothing to do with the tokens; half the time I forget to take them with me and end up throwing them away because they're out of date. The Sir Henry Segrave, our local Spoons, usually has beers that I like. It's not the price either: £1.95 spent on a pint you don't like is a waste of money.


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