Spotlight: Pubs

Although alcoholic drinks are the biggest purchase from pubs, good food is the most potent factor when choosing a destination. Beer is still a strong draw across all social classes, but fine wines are most popular with ABC1s, according to excl

Pubs are still a firm fixture in the social life of most British people. Almost two-thirds of British adults went to a pub at least once in June – almost exactly the same proportion as the last time Spotlight looked at the market, in June 1996.

NOP’s exclusive research for Marketing Week divided pub-goers into three main categories. Occasional visitors, who made up 38 per cent of the sample, use pubs less than four times a month. Regular users – also 38 per cent – went to the pub between four and ten times a month, although the majority of this group went fewer than seven times. Frequent users, who went at least ten times in the four weeks before the research was conducted, made up just under a quarter of all pub-goers – but the number of their visits means they accounted for about 55 per cent of total use. Regular customers contributed to about a third of all visits, leaving occasional users to contribute more than ten per cent.

Two-thirds of frequent pub-goers were men, and they were almost twice as likely as women to have been to a pub. More than half – 56 per cent – of frequent users are less than 35 years old, split fairly evenly between 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 34-year-olds; less than a quarter of young people had not been to a pub at all, compared with 28 per cent of 35- to 45-year-olds, and 56 per cent of over-55s.

Food and drink

Alcohol is still the mainstay of the pub business; eight out of ten customers had bought just an alcoholic drink in the month before the research, twice as many as had bought only a soft drink. But NOP’s research also highlights the importance of food: 44 per cent had bought a bar snack during June 2000, and six out of ten had a full meal.

The purchase of “just alcohol” or “going out for a drink” is most popular with under 45s; although, surprisingly, 18- to 24-year-olds are the most likely to stick to soft drinks. This is as true for young men as women.

Food is more likely to be bought by ABC1 patrons, who made up 57 per cent of customers for both bar snacks and main meals, although they comprise 48 per cent of the adult population, and 52 per cent of pub customers. Four out of five buyers of bar snacks are under 55, compared with 72 per cent for full meals.

Choosing a pub

NOP asked pub-goers to rate five possible features as very, quite or not very attractive. Nine out of ten customers liked to be able to sit outside, and 48 per cent found this a very attractive asset. “A non-smoking area” had a similar “very attractive” score, but was appreciated by fewer – 73 per cent – customers overall; three-quarters wanted “plenty of car-parking”. By contrast, only half the market was interested in “satellite television for sporting events (although at the time of the research England were still in Euro 2000) and in “games such as pool or darts”.

Compared with the first three facilities, satellite TV and pub games appeal to a far more restricted and cohesive target audience. Seventy-three per cent of enthusiasts for satellite TV, and 64 per cent for games are men; and both features have a far stronger pull for customers under 35 years old. But they are both favourites with heavy users, and so obviously cater for a profitable sector.

When NOP asked how influential six factors had been in users’ choice of pubs visited in the past four weeks, “good food” emerged as the prime discriminator. Eighty-eight per cent of users acknowledged “good food” as a factor, three times more than any other mentioned; for seven out of ten customers it was a major attraction. Eight out of ten women were very motivated by “good food”, compared with 63 per cent of men; it was a major factor for three-quarters of ABC1 (professional and white-collar households), falling to two-thirds of C2DEs (the blue-collar and unskilled grades). Young users (under 25s), were least likely to be influenced in their pub choice by the standard of its food – although this disregard is mainly a male phenomenon.

Nearly four out of ten users rated “they encourage children and families” as very influential, rising to seven out of ten people with children under 15. Family-oriented pubs were more popular with C2DE patrons, and among infrequent and occasional users. About six out of ten pub-goers had chosen a pub “decorated in an unusual or interesting way”; for a quarter this was very important. Although women seemed to be slightly more interested in dcor than men, there was surprisingly little difference between the various age groups’ reaction, or in terms of customers’ frequency of use.

Slightly more customers were influenced by the choice of wines than beers. Fifty-eight per cent had chosen a pub because it “served good wine”, compared with 51 per cent by real ale, and 45 per cent by unusual beers. However, both wine and real ale were major factors for 29 per cent of pub-goers, compared with 19 per cent for “unusual beers”.

Both real ale and unusual beers had a mainly masculine appeal; two-thirds of those strongly influenced by either were men. Wine, on the other hand, takes most of its support from female customers. Thirty-eight per cent of women are very attracted by good wine, compared with 22 per cent of men; but although wine is “very important” when choosing a pub to as many men as unusual beers, it scores 13 per cent less than real ale.

Although the influence of beer was similar across social classes, “good wine” was very important to a third of ABC1s compared with 27 per cent of C2DEs. Wine had more sway with over-45s, but the dramatic increase came in the over-55s. Good wine was a major motivator for four out of ten over-55s pub-goers, compared with about three out of ten 25- to 54-year-olds, and only 17 per cent of the 18- to 24-year-olds.

Main Findings

  • 79 per cent of pub-goers bought just an alcoholic drink
  • 59 per cent bought a full meal
  • 88 per cent were influenced by good food
  • 58 per cent were influenced by good wine
  • 50 per cent were influenced by real ale
  • Analysis: The Human Factor

    Contact: Elaine Hunt

    Telephone: 01993 831202

    NOP Research Group interviewed a sample of 998 adults over-15s using its Weekend Telephone Omnibus

    Contact: Carol Bernasconi on 020 7890 9565

    <b><b>Vital Statistics</b> </b> How many times pub used in past month % of all adults aged 18+ Not at all 35 One to three 25 Four to six 18 Seven to ten 7 Ten to 15 10 More than 16 6

    Vital Statistics

    Reason for using pubs in past month % of all users Alcoholic drinks or drink without food 79 A full meal 59 Soft drinks or drinks without food 41 A bar snack 44

    How many pubs used in past month % of all users Only one 18 Two 24 Three to five 37 More than five 21

    <b>Reasons for choosing a pub – % of all users </b> V Q N It serves good food 70 18 12 It encourages children and families 38 23 38 It serves good wine 29 29 42 It serves real ale 29 22 50 It is decorated in an unusual or interesting way 26 37 38 It serves unusual beer 19 26 55 (Key: V = very; Q = quite; N = not at all attractive)

    Reasons for choosing a pub – % of all users

    <b>Attitudes to pub features – % of all users </b> V Q N It has a non-smoking area 49 24 27 It has an outside seating area 48 41 11 It has plenty of car parking space 42 33 25 It has satellite TV for sporting events 25 23 53 It has games such as pool or darts 22 28 50 (Key: V = very, Q = quite; N = not at all attractive)

    Attitudes to pub features – % of all users

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