Food-led pubs can learn vital lessons from the burgeoning fast-casual sector this year by concentrating on increasing their speed of service, research from retail consultancy him! has shown.
Speaking at Restaurant magazine’s R200 conference last month, him! director Tom Fender said research showed that pub-goers were more motivated to spend money if they were reassured their food would come in a reasonable time, than they were by specific meal deals.
Its research, taking in 15,000 pub customers, found that only 17 per cent bought food on promotion, but 26 per cent of customers would eat if they could be in and out in under 60 minutes.
“One of the key things is the need for speed,” said Fender. “When we asked customers why they hadn’t had a starter or dessert and what would encourage them to have one, people said they would if they thought they could get it in time.
“They are deliberately keeping their money in their pockets because they don’t have the confidence that pubs will be able to get their food to them quickly enough.”
Pre-ordering equals value
Fender said restaurants that encouraged pre-ordering and were able to adapt to customers’ service requirements not only encouraged diners to order more food, but improved their overall perception of value.
“When you get the speed of service right – either quicker or more relaxed – it has a direct impact on the consumers’ impression of the value for money they have received,” he said. “Speed of service has a bigger impact on value for money than promotion. If you are trying to create a value proposition, it isn’t always about price.”
Mike Staniforth, director of Probably A Pub Company, which operates five pubs in the Derby area, said that customers’ expectations of food and service had increased over the past few years and that pubs had to adapt as a result.
“We do set menus for large parties and if a work party has only 30 minutes for their lunch break then they can phone their order in advance.”
While Staniforth’s pubs don’t offer regular set menus, they do offer a menu that has been designed so it can be cooked and served quickly if necessary.
“It is about adapting to the needs of the customer,” he said. “Everybody’s expectations are different - some customers want to eat quickly, some want a long leisurely lunch. A good pub is one that offers a wide choice of options.”