People chatting while drinking beer with a Christmas tree in the background

With Christmas on the horizon, we delve into the insight our consumer team gained from interviewing pub-goers after last Christmas and highlight some key opportunities for this year.

The festive period is, as we are all too aware, one of the key trading periods of the entire year – so it’s absolutely critical that we enter this important period fully up to speed on what your customers might be looking for when they visit your venue over the next couple of months.

To help us understand what they are looking for, we undertook a survey of 1,300 pub-goers in January this year, just after Christmas, to learn more about what they want from venues during the festive period, what’s important to them when they do visit a venue and how they choose a venue to visit.

1. DRIVERS OF PUB CHOICE AT CHRISTMAS

It’s the six-million-dollar question: how do consumers choose which venue to visit when they are out for a festive day or night out, whether that’s for a work’s Christmas dinner, a family get-together, a catch-up with friends or just a few relaxing drinks to help settle them into the festive spirit.

Key Point: VALUE, QUALITY AND CONVENIENCE ARE THE KEY DRIVERS OF PUB CHOICE AT CHRISTMAS.

It will surprise no one to learn that our respondents told us in no uncertain terms that ‘value for money’ was their top priority in 2022. It was the highest-ranked priority, with more than half of all consumers (54%) telling us value was vital. The cost-of-living crisis was in full swing in 2022, of course, but 2023 hasn’t seen much of an improvement on that front, so we can fully expect that value for money will again be really important for many of your customers this year.

Similarly, almost half of consumers (48%) told us that ‘low price’ was a key driver for them. Conversely, however, a very significant proportion (44%) highlighted that ‘quality’ was an important driver for them when choosing which venue to visit. This is in line with much of the research we have shared during this year in the pages of Value for Venues which shows that visiting a pub or other venue is still hugely important to consumers and they still want to have a fantastic time when they are out. They may not go out as often as they once did, but when they do, they really want to enjoy it.

This has important consequences for venues regarding the quality of drinks and food they offer. Value for money does not necessarilymean low cost. It simply means that consumers want to get the best possible experience for the price they pay. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘convenience’ was also an important driver, with 47% of respondents citing it.

Finally, 37% of consumers said that if they previously had a positive experience at a venue, they are more likely to visit again, making itvital that you ensure that your customers enjoy a great experience every time they visit.

Implications: THE IMPLICATIONS FROM THE FINDINGS ABOVE ARE CLEAR.

Delivering the best possible experience, particularly regarding the quality of food and drink offered, for the price paid will guarantee consumers feel they’re getting good value for money – and will make them more likely to return. A previous positive experience is a key driver of pub choice – so it’s important to target existing customers with your Christmas offer.

 

 

2. MAKING PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS

Let’s be honest, many of your customers will already have started making plans for Christmas. The last few years have seen customers begin planning earlier and earlier and this year will be no exception.

Key Point: CONSUMERS START TO MAKE PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS FROM OCTOBER. THE MAJORITY START TO GO OUT FROM MID-NOVEMBER FOR CHRISTMAS FOOD AND DRINKS.

While some consumers start making plans as early as October – on 3 Oct 2022, 43% of consumers claimed they’d started to make plans for Christmas – this ramps up considerably in November. By 28 Nov 2022, 71% claimed they’d started to make plans for Christmas.While 35% claim they start to go out for food and drink for Christmas celebrations mid to late November, 29% claim they start to go out from early December.

Implications: IT’S ALL ABOUT GETTING IN ON THE ACTION AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE AND GIVING YOUR VENUE THE BEST POSSIBLE CHANCE OF SECURING THAT ALL-IMPORTANT FESTIVE TRADE.

Make sure you’re ready with advertising and social media schedules as early as possible so that your venue is front of mind when consumers start to think about Christmas plans.

3. COST OF LIVING & CHRISTMAS

It has been a very tough year for many consumers with enormous pressure on their budgets, so consumers’ priorities in 2023 will likely be similar to those in 2022.

Key Point: LAST YEAR MANY CONSUMERS HAD TO CUT BACK ON CHRISTMAS SPEND. THE MACROECONOMIC SITUATION IS IMPROVING SLIGHTLY, BUT CUSTOMERS WILL STILL BE LOOKING TO GET THE BEST VALUE FOR MONEY WHEN EATING AND DRINKING OUT AT CHRISTMAS.

Last year 47% of pubgoers claim they had to signifcantly cut back on the cost of Christmas due to the cost-of-living crisis. While inflation is beginning to ease and energy prices improving slightly, there are still headwinds such as high interest rates which could mean another Christmas where consumers need to watch their spend.

Implications: CONSUMERS WILL BE LOOKING FOR VALUE FOR MONEY AND LOW COST, BUT THEY ARE ALSO SEEKING TO GET THE BEST POSSIBLE BANG FOR THEIR BUCK ON A FESTIVE DAY OR NIGHT OUT. THIS REQUIRES A TRICKY BALANCING ACT.

Promote offers, discounts and food quality as well as excellent service to show that you’re delivering the best value experience for consumers at Christmas.