British pubs: More than just a place to drink

January 6, 2016
4 min read

Although pubs may not be the most popular subject for those gingerly looking back at their December festivities, they are nonetheless an ingrained part of British culture. Mintel’s Senior Drinks Analyst Chris Wisson explores the state of the nation’s pubs and just how much cash we are parting with in our favourite boozers…

Britain’s pubs remain popular for dining out

As many as 58% of Brits went to a pub for a meal and half just for drinks in the month to October 2015. And filling our stomachs remains high priority when in pubs, as pub dining is the most popular leisure activity overall, with almost a third of adults eating in a pub more than once in the one-month period, marginally ahead of the number who ate at restaurants.

Where do we spend the most?

Among those who drank in pubs, almost two thirds spent less than £20 on their last visit. However one third of adults are splashing the cash, spending more than £20 on their last pub visit, possibly indicating that ‘buying rounds’ remains commonplace, but also that there are opportunities for venues to stock more expensive drinks such as sparkling wines, premium spirits and craft beer. Indeed, pub landlords can use craft beer to tap into the increasing association between food and beer.

When it comes to food however, Brits are more willing to dig deep, as two fifths of adults who ate in pubs in the month to October 2015 spent £20-40 on their last meal (including drinks), and another one fifth exceeded £40. Overall spending on pub food is fairly comparable to restaurants, although restaurants do have a higher proportion of users who spent £40 or more.

Interestingly, over a quarter of nightclub/late-night bar goers spent more than £40 on their last visit to these venues, showing how there is also still significant money to be made in the late-night market.

Leisure Tracker 3

Dinner with a partner, drinks with friends

Pubs and restaurants are also very similar in terms of who their patrons visit and dine with. In both cases, half of visitors do so with their partner, showing how important it is for menus to appeal to both genders. However, the emphasis differs when it comes to consumers who visit pubs only to drink. Although two fifths of Brits who went to the pub for drinks did so with their partner, a higher share met up with friends. Predictably, the difference was even more pronounced when it comes to clubs and late-night bars: 29% had been with their partner, compared to two thirds who had been with friends.

High quality food can be an effective footfall driver

The British pub has changed significantly over the past decade and continues to do so. Pubs play an important role in the British psyche, with previous Mintel research showing that nearly half of pub-goers think they are an important part of the British way of life.

When presented with a list of pub-related activities, pub-goers were most likely to identify high quality food as the reason for visiting a pub in the month to October 2015. Over-55s are particularly likely to state this activity. Leveraging menu enticements such as handmade dishes, locally sourced ingredients and seasonal ingredients can help to substantiate pubs’ claims of having a premium food offering.

Landlords can also tap into the popularity of celebrations such as birthdays, with 18% of pub-goers having a celebratory meal in a pub/bar in the one-month period. High quality food options, designated dining areas and a wider range of sparkling wines are possible ways of making these special occasion visits feel special and memorable.

The same share also checked a pub’s website before deciding whether to visit, with women most likely to do so. That women are significantly more likely than men to have ordered a lower calorie drink or dish suggests that calorie information on the website would also probably be well-received by women in particular.

Leisure Tracker 1

Chris Wisson, Senior Drinks Analyst at Mintel, researches and writes reports on the UK drinks industry. He was also responsible for setting up Mintel’s Toronto office which opened in May 2014. Prior to joining the company, he worked for M&S/Park Cakes as a Bakery Merchandiser and as a Business Analyst at Moët-Hennessy. Chris has been quoted in a variety of industry and national publications such as BBC Online, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

Chris Wisson
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