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What’s Keeping Operators Up at Night? Heineken Research Reveals Challenges for the Sector

New Heineken UK Research Reveals the On-Trade’s Biggest Challenges and Priorities for 2021

· HEINEKEN has commissioned a pub perception survey to understand on-trade operators’ concerns, challenges and expectations

· The research reveals attracting and retaining customers, managing costs, and recruiting and retaining staff are the three biggest challenges facing operators’ businesses, while plans to futureproof include upgrading outdoor spaces and bolstering food offerings

· HEINEKEN is addressing these issues, offering dedicated support, insights and resources as part of the HEINEKEN Benefits Bar to help on-trade businesses ahead of the reopening period and for the rest of 2021

To better understand operators and therefore provide the right support that they need, HEINEKEN has commissioned research into the on-trade’s biggest concerns, challenges and expectations ahead of reopening. This new insight – provided by real operators managing wet-led and food-led venues across the UK – will assist HEINEKEN in delivering relevant support at the right time to give on-trade businesses every chance of success in 2021.

Commissioned in December 2020, HEINEKEN’s research revealed that the three main challenges facing operators are attracting new customers (20%), retaining current customers (18%) and managing costs (17%). Recruitment and retention of staff was also a key concern for food-led operators.

Driven by these research results and feedback from HEINEKEN’s own customers and its Star Pubs & Bars, HEINEKEN created the Benefits Bar. HEINEKEN has built and gathered all the benefits of simply working together into this virtual local, serving up the products, services and ideas operators need to help them run a profitable pub business. Offering a flavour of the vast pub expertise and insight available to its customers, HEINEKEN has shared top-line advice for future proofing your business, in line with the key concerns outlined in the research.

· How to attract new customers

A digital presence is the best way of helping people discover and visit your venue – especially when 87% of people search online before they choose where to spend their money. If you don’t already have a website or feel yours may not be working hard enough for you, we recommend Useyourlocal, which is accessible at a discounted rate via the HEINEKEN Buying Club – one of many tools that sit within the HEINEKEN Benefits Bar. Useyourlocal can help you create a great looking website in just 20 minutes! Once your website is set up, your regulars can like or follow your pub to receive newsletters and updates to encourage repeat visits. The service also integrates with your social media channels and the team can even help with maintaining your site on an ongoing basis – all geared towards keeping your members up to date with planned events and to attract new customers.

As restrictions start to ease, your online presence becomes no less important. After months of remaining at home watching Netflix, the ‘Staycation’ is likely to be a big part of 2021. With over 200,000 visits per month, offers a great opportunity for potential customers, locals or people visiting the area to discover your pub based on their location or search criteria.

When used effectively, your social media channels can not only tempt existing customers back but help reach new prospects. Drive awareness of your offering, focusing on good food and outdoor space – the top two traits consumers will be looking for in an on-trade venue. Even before the government announcements, 53% of people are more likely to visit a pub if it has a beer garden, increasing to 67% among 25 to 34-year-olds. Capture attention by posting regular, relevant content with images and video and keep your tone light, upbeat and chatty – just like you would if you were talking face to face.

Via The Pub Collective, HEINEKEN offers support on what type of content to share (and when) to connect with customers, as well as free social media training for operators, in partnership with our Star Pubs & Bars.

· How to retain current customers

Your customers are looking forward to a perfectly poured, quality pint from their local. Reminding current customers of all the reasons they love your venue and showcasing the ways in which they will be kept safe will boost confidence and encourage them back into your business – from displaying social distancing signage and sanitising tables in between covers, to hosting events like curry or quiz nights. Establishing these lower-tempo ‘Rhythm of the Week’ activities will help drive footfall and loyalty during quieter periods, rather than relying so heavily on the weekend trade. This led to the creation of POS Direct, so our customers could access professional point of sale and digital assets, from safety and reopening POS to personalised events and promotions.

You can also offer your venue as a great remote working space, with speedy Wi-Fi and a business offer lunch included, to bring in more customers. Wireless Social is a tool that sits over your existing Wi-Fi network and allows you to capture customer data then retarget them based on their demographic, likes, interests or how often they visit – helping you drive footfall. Through the HEINEKEN Buying Club you can receive a 55% discount on the annual fee of Wireless Social, helping you drive more traffic for less money.

Recent HEINEKEN consumer sentiment research shows 42% of consumers are excited to try new drinks brands and 37% plan to make their on-trade visits more special by choosing more premium drinks and food. Your customers are after a quality experience, so taking time to properly train your staff is an investment worth making – especially with new starters and people who have been on furlough so may be less confident. From delivering perfect serve and new hygiene protocols, to recommending dishes on your menu or great drinks pairings, this will help enhance your customer experience and encourage them to return again and again.

· How to manage costs

From equipment to utilities, we understand running a pub business isn’t cheap – and now more than ever you’ll want to make financial savings where you can. Simple measures like introducing more energy-efficient light bulbs, better insulation for boilers and pipes, and using more seasonal products in your menus can all help to chip away at running costs. Reviewing your supplier base is always an opportunity to ensure you continue to get value for money, although this can take time to fully research and negotiate with suppliers.

That’s why we created the HEINEKEN Buying Club to offer our customers exclusive discounts and better commercial terms with leading suppliers to help manage costs. Sharing the combined buying power of HEINEKEN and Star Pubs & Bars saves an estimated £5,000 per pub per year, as well as time negotiating with suppliers. Whether it’s utilities, waste disposal, catering equipment or marketing tools, the HEINEKEN Buying Club has you covered. For example, you can get up to a 32% discount with wholesale foodservice supplier Brakes, 30% off catering equipment at Nisbets and 25% off outdoor furniture with Woodberry. Also, you could receive an average annual saving of £1,500 with Biffa and save 10% on business insurance.

· How to recruit and retain staff

HEINEKEN and Star Pubs & Bars recommend Remit, one of the UK’s top providers of government funded apprenticeship programmes, whose recruitment and training solutions help businesses effectively and affordably. Under the government’s #PlanforJobs, you could be eligible for a £3,000 cash injection for every apprentice you take on from 1st April 2021. Per the revised Kickstart Scheme, you could also receive £1,000 for every new hire – no longer subject to taking on 30 staff.

Well-trained staff are typically happier and more loyal. However, in an industry with traditionally high staff turnover, training can be costly and time-consuming. Hello BEER is a staff training app providing courses in beer and cider quality from cellar to serve, ultimately helping you to deliver a great customer experience. Priced from just £2 per learner per year, the app is easily accessible for all staff and could help you tap into an additional £25,000 worth of profit – plus it’s available free via the HEINEKEN Buying Club.

HEINEKEN’s research also revealed that to futureproof their businesses, operators are looking at upgrading their outdoor spaces and bolstering their food offering.

· How to upgrade your outdoor space

First impressions are everything; you can drive footfall and promote dwell time with a smart, clean environment. Simple housekeeping like pressure washing the path up to your entrance or adding flowers and benches will make your space attractive to passers-by and shows you care about safety and hygiene. It’s also worth investing in coverings, lighting and heating to weather-proof your space and encourage people to stay longer. To help finance these up-front costs – which pay dividends – you can access unique discounts from top suppliers like Woodberry (quality outdoor furniture) via the HEINEKEN Buying Club. Our Facebook group, The Pub Social, is also a great source of recommendations from other operators.

Ensure you promote your great outdoor space on your website and via social media. Customers won’t be visiting if they don’t know it’s there! Your garden should feature at least twice in your nine most recent social posts alongside relevant hashtags like #beergarden. Video content is key and attracts higher engagement than still photos, meaning your photos will get pushed to the top of your followers’ newsfeeds – increasing your chances of attracting customers.

This is just a taster of the operational expertise and advice shared by our Star Pubs & Bars. Through the HEINEKEN Benefits Bar, we are able to share further support for maximising any size of outdoor space, ensuring it remains compliant, and real experience and insight from Star Pubs & Bars with our customers. All easily accessible via HEINEKEN Direct or your HEINEKEN representative.

· How to bolster your food offering

A venue’s food offering has become a major motivator for consumers when choosing where to go. When building your food menu, start by thinking about your customers, local competitors, food trends and planning your commercials (like setting dish RSPs and an overall target dry GP). Providing quality, locally sourced options and prioritising al fresco dining can increase the number of covers, boost profit potential and open up opportunities for events like barbecues. Challenge yourself to expand your menu and offer a point of difference, for example pulled pork or loaded hot dogs beyond simple burgers, which also adds a premium to your pricing. Wet-led venues without a kitchen could consider partnering with a local street food vendor to create a new, exciting experience. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to ensure you deliver consistently high standards and utilise your digital presence to promote your offering to customers.

In trading with HEINEKEN, you will have access to the HEINEKEN Benefits Bar and its insights, tools and advice. We are proud to share the experiences of our Star Pubs & Bars with our customers, such as how to plan a new menu, adjust an underperforming one and encourage trade up – giving you everything you need to deliver a strong food offering in your own venue.

While the past year has seen numerous challenges, the research revealed that the suppliers delivering great customer service, regular communication and flexibility came out on top. For 99% of respondents, customer service is the most important factor in choosing a drinks supplier and it’s important to us that we deliver on this. Our UK-based contact centre, online portal and HEINEKEN representatives are all available to give practical support in a way that works best for you. Whatever your request, whatever your query, we are here to help.

For more information on The HEINEKEN Benefits Bar and growing your business, visit:


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