It’s been a tough decade for pubs and bars. As the country changes its habits and more and more people ease up on the sauce, boozers across the nation have been closing their doors for good, leaving many in low spirits.
But, while the years 2010 to 2018 did see a net loss of 5,855 pubs across the UK, things may be looking up. Last year saw a net gain: in 2019, there were 320 more pubs open in December than there had been in January.
The decade of hard times for the sellers of alcohol may be at an end – and this shift in the stats could signal that pubs and bars could still adapt to the nation’s change in habits.
There may still be a way to profit from your beers and ales in the modern age.
How? Let’s look more closely at a topical example.
It has long been a common new year’s resolution to cut down on alcohol – ever since the first hungover reveller woke up on New Year’s Day to be faced with a pile, or pool, of regret.
But the Dry January campaign did not officially begin until 2013, when the first event organised by the charity Alcohol Concern persuaded 4,500 people to cut out the drink for the first month of the year. The next year, they had 17,000 participants and by 2018 the number was up to two million.
The campaign doesn’t just aim to get people to abstain for 31 days – it aims to persuade people to keep drinking juice through the rest of the year too, by showing them the benefits of passing on the pint: in 2019, Alcohol Concern reported that 88% of participants saved money, 71% slept better and 58% lost weight.
These stats go to show that the campaign is certainly good for health – and it can’t be blamed for trying to improve the lives of those who participate. Like the broader shift in habits which we have seen across the UK away from heavy drinking, Dry January is a good thing.
The problem, however, is where that leaves the good old pub and the snazzy new bar.
What Do Drinking Holes Do in Dry January?
If two million people who typically spend £25 a week on alcohol stop going to the pub altogether for a whole month, the sudden change in cash flow can be catastrophic for a small business. It can mean letting staff go in the short term and it can lead to permanent closure in the long term.
But trying to fight the trend isn’t going to end well. The customer is always right, and if so many believe that drinking more moderately offers them a ticket to a clean bill of health, pubs and bars don’t have much choice but to agree.
Pubs and bars have got to adapt – and ensure that there is more to them than just the alcohol, to make abstainers feel as welcome as drinkers during the first month of the year, and beyond.
How have pubs and bars adapted?
In response to Dry January, the bar chain Be At One began Try January in 2015, an initiative which encourages punters to treat themselves to a novelty – to broaden their tastes. In its first incarnation, for example, Be At One offered discounts on certain cocktails.
Since then, a similar spirit has spread through the industry with many pubs and bars seeking to expand their food and drink offerings to invite customers to try something out of their comfort zones, while providing individual drinking spots with USPs to draw the crowds.
We’ve seen healthier cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails added to the menus of many bars along with a wider range of snacks. Meanwhile, pubs have expanded their food offerings and bought in new ranges of soft drinks – crafting themselves into family-friendly institutions.
Making your pub or bar less about the booze and more about the atmosphere, the food, and the non-alcoholic drinks is one way to respond to the health craze driving so many off the grape and the grain.
But, what happens if you want to stay focused on the beers and ales?
Not to be confused with Try January, Tryanuary aims to encourage pubs and bars to expand their alcohol offering – to boost their sales of beers and ales by introducing greater variety.
That’s because variety is a sure way to drive up profits: with a wider array of beers and ales, you’ll have your customers clambering over each other to try them all.
But variety also promises to introduce a sparkle of novelty to the typical pint, which is crucial in the current climate: with more people having fewer drinks at a time, anything you can do to make that drink feel extra special will make your customer more likely to return.
Out with the Carling, in with the craft ale.
Encouraging people to responsibly support their local by grabbing a carefully crafted pint or two from a local brewer – Tryanuary promises to reclaim January while working with the broader trend seen across the nation towards a healthier relationship with alcohol.
Which leaves the question open: how will you respond?
If you choose to Tryanuary, remember to:
Keep Your Kegs and Casks Cool
If you’re investing in a wider variety of beers and ales, there’ll be more kegs and casks to store and, with fewer drinkers about, they may be in storage for a little longer than usual.
So, to conquer the nationwide trend, and reclaim January next year, storage is key. You’ll need perfection in your cellar. You’ll need it kept at 12°C for your cask ale to be perfectly conditioned and for your kegs of draft to last for months. To find out how to get your cellar conditions just right with a cellar cooling system, as you introduce a spark of variety to your pub or bar, you’ll need to check out our cellar cooling buying guide.