10am could be the new 10pm in hospitality, with pub desks

It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the new 10pm curfew has come as another huge blow for the hospitality industry.

The government keep commenting of the loss of “an hour” of opening times, but for many operators it’s a lot more than that. Only a certain proportion of venues close at 11pm. For the majority of pubs and restaurants if could mean a loss of the second dinner seating – or the additional sales of cheese plates, desserts and highly profitable coffees and after dinner drinks.

Our research also found that the introduction of the curfew means that 13% of UK adults are now more nervous about visiting a pub or restaurant. 14% said they will visit pubs and restaurants less frequently as a direct result of the curfew. Not good news for the hospitality industry as a whole.

So, what are operators doing to protect their businesses? Already we’re seeing positive and innovative operators bouncing back with new ideas trying to maximise different day parts.

Say hello to brunch

There is no doubt that after 6 months the way people live their lives has changed, meaning the way we consume will change too. This offers a huge opportunity to maximise footfall during off-peak times, and flatten the traditional peaks throughout the day, to keep a steady and safe stream of customers. Yummy Pubs, for example, have been advertising that “10am is the new 10pm” in their outlets- pushing breakfast and brunch throughout the week.

We had a chat to Tim Foster at Yummy Pubs to find out what they’re doing to grow ‘brunch’ and other day time occasions in their venues.

“We’ve seen a real shift in how people are using their time. I’ve recruited a new chef specifically for breakfast and added in breakfast and brunch treats to make it a specific trading day part. The music is different, our FOH team have been retrained on hot drinks, we’ve added new cocktails & mocktails and a bottomless brunch.” Tim Foster, Yummy Pubs

Say hello to pub desks for remote workers

There are multiple new drinking and eating out occasions to go for. Although many operators are concerned about a fall in ‘workers’ visiting for lunch or post work drinks, many consumers are still looking for a change of scenery now that they are (back/still) working from home. Or need to get out of the house once the kids are home from school!

Operators in residential areas are already jumping on this opportunity with “pub desks”. The White Horse in Harpenden is offering “coffee and a desk” for two hours at quiet times of day. This means coffee will need to be a leading category, with unquestionable quality in order to compete with local coffee shops for ‘remote worker spend’. Strong and reliable WiFi as well as wide availability of power sockets are also absolutely key.

Pubs are increasingly realising the opportunity to attract ‘remote workers’. The BBC recently covered the growing trend of ‘pubs desks‘ highlighting a village pub in Kent which is offering remote workers a table by a plug socket, wi-fi, a sandwich and unlimited tea and coffee for £10.

We’ve seen very few offer this concept as a subscription model yet, ie daily desk plus coffee for £X a month, ala Pret a manger and Leon. Brewdog are leading the way on this by developing their remote work-space offer even further in recent weeks. Previously you could claim a table for the day for just £7, including WiFi, unlimited tea and coffee and a pint at the end of the day. This offer has now been extended to a monthly pass for £70. 

Maximising each day part will be key

Other daytime eating and drinking occasions which have and still can grow include opportunities for earlier family dinners, or the need to ‘escape’ for a morning coffee. As well as an alternative venue for work meetings, for example, or brunch/breakfast with friends instead of after work drinks, the list goes on.

There is an opportunity for food service operators and suppliers to think differently. How does range, offer and comms need to flex to attract different customer occasions. For example, the current low and no-alcohol range will need to be spot-on for some of these daytime occasions – customers still want a good experience and operators need the margins- a lime and soda or a glass of tap water won’t cut it for either side.

Food delivery and “Dine in at home” will also grow

It’s  likely that both delivery and take-away propositions will be massively important again to many businesses, as both can continue past the 10pm curfew. Operators will once again be looking for menu and packaging solutions to help continually improve their offer. As “dining out at home” grows, operators will want support offering a more complete ‘experience’ for their customers. Some savvy operators will focus on ‘take-away’ dessert and after dinner drinks. Sustainable packaging, on-brand cutlery and napkins, branded delivery bags etc will be in demand.

Stay close to changing consumer behaviour

This is an incredibly tough time for hospitality and those who support it. We need to support each other in continuing to think differently and ultimately give customers every reason in the world to want to socialise safely in a pub or restaurant, whatever the time of day. More than ever we can’t rely on what has worked in the past. We need to stay very close to what is changing in consumers’ lives and continually challenge ourselves to think what can be done to better deliver against those needs.

For more consumer insights and trends take a look at our resources page.