UK pub openings rise for the first time in years following increased tech investment

| December 11, 2019 | By

The number of pubs and bars opening in the UK has increased for the first time in a decade, according to new data from the ONS – and the rise of tech-led customer experiences is a running theme.

UK pub openings rise for the first time in years following increased tech investment

This is good news for an industry that last year was battling a brutal environment.

More than 11,000 outlets had closed their doors in just ten years – that’s almost one in four pubs or bars – according to the ONS.

In a turnaround of fortune, we’ve seen a net growth of 320 pubs and bars in 2019, creating a possible cash turnover of £740 million.

This comes from a new report by Scottish hospitality startup Stampede, which includes data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

England saw the biggest increase, with 345 new pubs and bars. Scotland lost five and Wales saw 25 closures, but Northern Ireland recorded a gain of five new pubs.

The data suggest we could be witnessing the start of a slow recovery for a (until recently) ailing pub industry, which has faced a nation-wide smoking ban, a financial crisis, increasing business rates and rising beer duty.

So what’s changed? Consider what a few of the big pub chains have been up to in 2019.

All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers reported like-for-like sales increasing 3.5% in the year to September, with total revenues rising to £2.23 billion.

The pub group’s chief executive, Phil Urban, said the performance boost came after a strong focus on outlet refurbishments across its brand portfolio, which also includes Toby Carvery. 

He went on to cite significant investments to improve technology, including the launch of new app-based customer experiences.

Young’s pub company reported a 7.3% increase in the year to September, with total revenue up to £168.2 million

In March, the pub chain launched an app that enabled customers to pay for their bar tab and share the bill with friends.

JD Wetherspoon owner Tim Martin has just announced plans to spend £200 million on expansion, an investment he says will create 10,000 jobs.

The pub operator was the first to take mobile-led customer experiences seriously, launching its Order & Pay app in 2017. 

The utilization of technology to improve the customer experience in bars and pubs looks set to be a key focus as the industry moves into 2020.

More than half (54%) of today’s consumers consider customer experience to be the main reason they remain loyal to a brand (source: DMA). 

This is unsurprising, considering we are all so used to the fast, convenient and personalised online experiences delivered by the likes of Amazon and Netflix.

And when four out of 10 consumers (42%) want the ability to order in advance, nearly half (49%) want to skip queues and three quarters (77%) agree that mobile wallets are more convenient than contactless cards, pub chains are now trying to work out a digital solution that can seamlessly deliver these services to customers.

Wetherspoons, which for years has been a massive thorn in the side of its fellow pub chains, started doing this two years ago. The rest don’t just need to catch up…they need to go further.

Yoyo’s AI-powered technology provides a suite of customer expereince-enhancing products that are proven to boost customer footfall, retention and long-term sales by delivering:

  • Fast Mobile Payment
  • Automated and Smart Loyalty
  • Order Ahead
  • Pay at Table
  • Bill Splitting
  • In-depth Customer Insight
  • Personalised Rewards
  • Hyper-targeted marketing

As a result:

Bars powered by their own Yoyo-powered app experience have surpassed industry trends this year, with average sales increasing by 13% (in the year to November).

As one of Yoyo’s favourite quotes of the year reveals:

“Retail isn’t being destroyed, but is in the process of being redefined.
How retailers decide to define themselves will determine if we’ll see them on the other side.”

The same goes for pubs if they want to survive and prosper in 2020.


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