Britain’s pubs are increasingly becoming weekend haunts and that weekday business is weakening, according to research by The NPD Group.
Between 2011 and 2012 weekday visits to pubs declined -3.7%, while weekend visits increased 5.9% in the same period. This change in visiting patterns is also reflected in sales, with a -3.9% decrease in weekday sales, and a 6.1% increase in weekend sales, researchers found. Also in 2012, weekend sales accounted for 39.3% of sales overall and 37.5% of visits.
While lunch has been a significant casualty in recent years, with visits declining by -3.9% annually since 2009, pubs are becoming more popular as breakfast venues. There were 23.4% more breakfast visits to pubs in 2012 vs 2011. This reflects a growing trend, with an annual average increase in sales from pub breakfasts from end 2009 to end 2012 of more than 30%.
Despite breakfast having a relatively high share for some pub chains (eg in Wetherspoon where it accounts for 14 % of visits), overall it is still a small part of the picture accounting for 6.5% of pub visits in 2012 in contrast to lunch attracting 35.4% of visitors and dinner bringing in 38.5%, with the rest coming from snacking. Dinner is still the major source of pub sales, accounting for more than 48% of sales in 2012. For 2012 vs 2011, lunch was the only other eating occasion to see an increase in sales, although this was a modest 0.7%. Sales from dinner were down -0.8% and from snacks -7.9%.
A notable recent development concerns branded pubs – such as Wetherspoon, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater, Harvester, Toby Carvery – where the ABC1 socio-economic groups increased their share of traffic by 2.2% for the year ending March 2013, The NPD Group reports. ABC1s now account for nearly 57% of branded pub traffic.
Although overall visits and sales have reduced in recent years, Britain’s pubs worked hard to attract customers in 2012 with an increasing focus on deals and promotions. Visits prompted by deals and promotions rose by 3% in 2012 vs 2011, with more than a quarter (28.4%) of all visits to a pub in 2012 driven by this kind of marketing activity.
Guy Fielding, director of business development for The NPD Group, said: “The slight recovery at lunchtime seen in 2012 provides a glimmer of hope. Lunch is now in recovery across the quick service and food service retail sectors so there’s a real opportunity to use the lunchtime occasion to build weekday business in pubs too. A streamlined weekday lunch offer enables pubs to cash in on this growing market – it’s more about pies than pints.
“Publicans will know that dinner is the major revenue driver and will be looking at tactics to bring back weekday trade. For those who run branded pubs, the growing ABC1 traffic presents the perfect opportunity to drive growth in evening meals.
“Publicans generally would benefit from looking at their foodservice offering across breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another good target for weekday lunchtimes would be the 50-to-64 age group and the over 65s. Sales to these segments declined in 2012 vs 2011 and in the case of the 50-64 age group there was a sharp sales drop of -5.8% for the same period. Whatever route they decide on, the enduring popularity of deals and promotions makes for an excellent overlay on any initiatives they take for building weekday business. Publicans should strive for ‘meal value’ rather than ‘value meals’, which means promotions must drive loyalty and repeat purchases so they can build a base for their business.”
According to these latest figures, when Britons do visit the pub, it’s increasingly a family affair. Adult-only visits have posted consecutive year-on-year declines of -1.2% on average since 2009, a trend that was accelerated last year when the decline jumped to -2.7%. In contrast, parties with kids of all ages have enjoyed increases. The desire to eat as a family or spend time as a family is increasingly being cited as a primary motivation for visiting the pub. Visits for this reason accounted for 14.2% of all visits in 2012, up 2.3% on 2011.
Fielding said: “The way people visit the pub has undergone a significant change in recent years as impromptu visits and an emphasis on drinking have given way to planned, family outings where food takes centre stage. So in terms of building business, pubs need to work hard to adapt their offerings to cater for this family/food formula and ensure that their product and service offerings are sufficiently differentiated from the rest of the casual dining market in order to achieve growth in this competitive field.”