Remembering your customer is the most important aspect of a successful pub, according to business experts. A conference organised by the Licensed Vintners Association heard that publicans need to set their businesses apart and to create a unique offering, while knowing what their ultimate aim is, and who exactly they are targeting to come in the doors.
Owen Barry of Create Brand Consultants kicked off proceedings by emphasising the need for a focused business plan, claiming that "if you don't know your customer profile, you have a problem." "Who are they?" he asked the room of over 130 publicans at Dublin's Marker hotel. "Are they old or young? Male or female? What is your competition doing to attract them? It's something that we all have failed to do on occasion - you have to see what you are up against. Remember, your competition is anywhere where people spend money that isn't your bar. You need to stand out. Be unique."
LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said the pub trade was undergoing significant change and that publicans needed to keep ahead of the competition. “What worked in the past for pubs won’t work in the future. The game is changing and publicans need to view their pubs as businesses and put the right business plans and models in place. But they then need to follow through and implement them. We are seeing some positive signs in the trade right now but we need to build on that to provide a sustainable future. For now it’s all about creating a unique experience for the customer and ensuring they return on a regular basis." Hugo Arnold, a leading food consultant, said that food will play a central role in this process and that publicans are well placed to exploit the new trend for informal and affordable dining. “If publicans are serious about food they need to create a vision for their pub, research it and then persevere with it. This requires a shift in mindset. Pubs which serve watery coffee and lukewarm, over-cooked carvery lunches will struggle to survive in the future” he said. Arnold said pubs had competitive advantages and they need to remain as pubs which serve quality food, not become restaurants. “Pubs are flexible and very accessible. Customers want casual, quality dining at a fair price. It’s complicated and requires hard work but pubs that get it right will prosper” he concluded. Gerry Hussey a performance psychologist stressed the importance of building a high performing staff team to provide exceptional customer service. “Dublin publicans are well known for their hospitality but must continuously invest in their staff to ensure they are trained and motivated to the highest standards. Both the consumer and the competition are evolving and publicans must keep pace with them Staff have a central role to play in the future success of pubs” he said. Elsewhere, Marina Bleahan of Action Coach said the key for publicans was having a winning mindset and taking ownership of where they are with their business. "Who is driving their business? And who is having their business driving them? You need a business plan."