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Experience is key

Partner gives opinions on market trends and the importance of giving an unforgettable experience in the Leisure sector

While operators have faced many legislative challenges, like the Agent of Change planning bill, Late Night Levy or cumulative impact zones, which have all impacted the ability of businesses to trade over the last decade, it’s the constant consumer demand for ‘something new’ that has really hit home for me.

The last nine years have seen significant changes in the eating out market, a drinks-led renaissance for pubs and bars, and the growth of the experiential segment, along with the rise of fast-casual concepts, the growth in the delivery sector, and the move of street food into the mainstream.

In many ways, the last nine years has seen the UK’s pub and bar sector come full circle, from headlines about the death of the Great British pub to recent findings from the latest Market Growth Monitor from CGA Insights and AlixPartners that the long-term ‘clear out’ of unsustainable wet-led pubs and bars appears to be nearing its end.

Brands that are delivering compelling premium drinks offers and striking the right balance with food have been driving the resurgence of the sector; they are able to trade across more day parts and importantly are bringing an experiential aspect to the consumer.

The value of experiential consumerism has risen across the sector over the last few years, with food and drink outlets having to offer much more of an event to guests and customers than they have ever done before. This has also led to the rise of food halls and markets, such as Dinerama and Market Halls, but also to the re-invention of some more traditional games – darts, bingo, table tennis and crazy golf.

Competitive socialising

Competitive socialising is the umbrella that many of these concepts from Flight Club to Bounce and PuttShack now come under, including a personal favourite – axe throwing. These concepts host occasions that bring people together to enjoy a competitive activity, driving a part of the sector that has seen a dramatic increase in popularity among UK consumers.

Pub operators have embraced the need to become more experiential and many have led the way in terms of innovation. For example, Fletchergate Industries, a Nottingham-based, independent operator, has a site called Penny Lane, which provides a selection of arcade games. Its uniquely interactive environment is the perfect place to socialise with friends and family alike.

Other operators, such as Laine Pub Company, have turned their pubs into multi-roomed, multi-levelled venues, featuring immersive experiences like virtual reality games, escape rooms or theatre performances. All providing unique opportunities for generations of consumers that want once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

It’s clear that consumer habits are changing, as young people in particular now look to spend their money on memorable experiences rather than simply eating and drinking out. A lot has happened in the last nine years, but creating memorable experiences remains key to being a success, whether that is delivering good pasta, a great cocktail or teaching someone to throw an axe!

For more information on this topic or anything else licensing related, please contact any of our licensing solicitors.

This article first appeared in BII News, summer edition 2019. To read this and any other article head over to https://www.bii.org/.

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