Contact Us

Throughout our history, we have counted on one thing above all others: the steadfast quality of the British pub. This year, there have been some major changes in how people and businesses operate in pub sector, but that core value hasn’t diminished. If anything, it’s gotten stronger. We’ve spoken to industry experts who back this up.

In the same vein as our UK hospitality round-up, here are three expert perspectives on where pubs are headed – and the initiatives they’ll be implementing – in 2019 and beyond…

Jonathon Swaine (Managing Director, Fuller’s Inns)  

“Our business has been around for 173 years, so it’s fair to say we’ve seen tectonic shifts in the industry over that time. The smoking ban, Deliveroo and Uber Eats have all made their impact, but we must place history in context. We have always survived, and we will continue to. Why? Because pubs offer something that restaurants rarely do: a familiar, friendly experience that rejuvenates our social life.

“When you sit down next to a roaring fire, pad across a flagstone floor, and soak in the atmosphere of a quirky local bar… nothing can beat it. In a world that’s increasingly disconnected, pubs give a warm welcome. They tempt us away from our screens, which manifests – in Fuller’s, at least – in repeat visits and even event hire. We host birthdays, graduations, engagement parties and more. In 2019, we’ll see other venues offer these services in a bid to remain unique and competitive.

“Saying that, screens are useful when there’s a much-anticipated game or sports match to show. The World Cup was a heartening display of national unity. Our pubs were full of people; others would do well to capitalise on communal TV viewing, which is a rarity these days. Meanwhile, customers are drinking less but drinking better. They aren’t rushing to the bar for the cheapest lager, so rum and gin (sales of the latter have hit 41% growth this year) are gaining traction for higher demand.”

Monica Jones (HR Business Partner, major national pub chain)

“Let’s be honest: Brexit is looming, and no one knows what it will look like. Since a large portion of pub staff are European, we have to be creative if they’re due to leave in the next few years. There’s a war on talent as entry-level roles for chefs, kitchen staff and bar trainees dry up. This means that incentives are more important than ever. We really have to take care of new hires, to help them stay and develop with a brand.

“On the customer side, we’re expecting continued change in Saturday night behaviour. People are more inclined to watch Netflix, grab a Deliveroo, and nestle down with a bottle of wine… But that only stimulates the brilliant offers at our business, bringing fantastic service to the fore. Good listening skills, local knowledge of menu items, and a strong incentive scheme can power a team to victory.

“The liquor market is buoyant as well – alcopops have died a death, replaced with rum and exotic cocktails. We have to predict what the next trends will be in this arena, to stay ahead of the curve. That’s also true of food marketing, which really has to express what makes a dish unlike any other.”

Brian Bagnall (Non-Executive Director, Hydes Brewery)

“I’ve been in this business for 38 years. It’s a bit of a cliché, but the pub sector has always been about people – the crowds, service and product that align for an unmissable day or night out. No matter how many apps are built to speed up a bartending order, for example, you’ll always need that personal contact.

“With that in mind, I think customers are more adventurous than they used to be. Social media allows us to see things that are beyond our direct experience. Whilst rum, gin and cocktails have flooded the market, its not just about food and drink; a good experience counts too. Venues with escape rooms and ping pong tables are becoming mainstream. It’s a sign of the sector’s great capacity for innovation. A beer garden is just as pleasurable as an interior, if it’s done right – that’s why we’re witnessing five-star furniture, heating and aesthetic invention, both indoor and out. External cooking equipment, such as clay pizza ovens, are fairly affordable and deliver something that customers enjoy.

“Independents are leading the way. They have license to break the mould. Without them, it’d be a stagnant and poorer industry. This is evident in the emergence of micro pubs, challenging perceptions in the mainstream – which can only be a good thing.”

Both candidates and employers have a lot to bear in mind when weighing up the state of UK pubs, and how they might succeed in a shifting landscape. In summary:

  • An experiential focus will remain a top priority for the pub sector, driven by local menu specials, great service and event bookings.
  • People want and expect more, for less. Premiumisation for great value is absolutely key.
  • Gin selections remain a headline draw, but will cede some ground to rum and creative cocktails in 2019.
  • Incentive programmes are the answer to the skills shortage – brands that can offer more security and rewards will have the edge.

As executive headhunters, SPE Resourcing are looking to the hires, clients and trends that come together to take the industry in its fresh direction. If you want to use that expertise, speak to our team. We’ll help you find or strengthen your place in this much-treasured sector.