Branding specialists have this week been eyeing the anticipated merger between Punch Taverns and Mitchells & Butlers for new business opportunities. What can design do for the UK’s pub chains?
The current economic environment is posing the most serious challenges the industry has faced in recent years. Design could play an important role in key areas. Last July’s smoking ban has had a detrimental effect on sales. Communicating the positive aspects of a smoke-free environment could encourage non-users to become new customers. Also, licensee vacancies are at uncomfortably high level. A refreshing design approach could revitalise the benefits of running your own pub business and appeal to a wider recruitment pool.
Lin Dickens, Managing director, Aricot Vert
‘The pub’ is a brand in itself. Each is individual. Heavy branding doesn’t work for pubs, particularly in outlets where the audience is all ages from 18-80, of both sexes and all classes. Pubs shouldn’t be stamped with corporate branding like a Starbucks or KFC, but be quirky, thought-provoking, comfortable and engaging. Linking Mitchells & Butlers’ managed estate with the community-style pubs of Punch Taverns could bring benefits, but they could also move towards kitsch and uniformity.
Iain R Loe, Research and information manager, Camra
At a time when drinkers are looking for more individuality and sophistication, it seems odd that these bar chains don’t use design more to stay relevant. Good design is key to them delivering the ‘stylish, contemporary, cosmopolitan’ personality they aspire to, but many of these chains are looking dated and recessive. Design can bring total refreshment – from new formats to new ways of engaging with consumers. Standing still creatively can’t be a viable option.
Brendan Martin, Communications director, Identica
Pubs are at a very interesting juncture. The smoking ban, combined with the increased number of operators now substantially improving their food offer, is bringing a wider range of people – and some completely new customers – into pubs, meaning plenty of opportunities for more inclusive branding and changes in space-planning and design treatments. This all has to be balanced with the traditional and authentic roots of pubs – and their fundamentally social role as places for jollification.
Tim Mutton, Director, Blacksheep