I am no gambler… but I know a sure thing when I see it. This is a story of when I saw an opportunity to win and I took it, against all the advice.
All in pubs
I am no gambler… but I know a sure thing when I see it. This is a story of when I saw an opportunity to win and I took it, against all the advice.
This weekend I took the plunge - 4 years in development and just over 6 weeks in preparation - The Tabla train has left the station. My route to market may or may not work as planned but I will get there in the end - I will end up soaked in success or failure. But I love being soaked.
Here I discuss the importance of entertainment. I have always hired staff based on their attitude to entertainment.
13 years ago, in an effort to change gears in life, I began working as a part time barman at a small corner pub in a sleepy part of Dunlin 4.
3 months later the owner asked me would I be interested in running the bar for him. I suggested that he let me do a SWOT analysis and provide a report to him.
The following week, I met the owner in his own kitchen. He had reviewed my SWOT analysis and was happy to proceed.
I now put my terms in front of him. It was a basic salary just above the average industrial wage with one simple bonus structure.
20% of any additional Gross Margin above the average gross margin in 2006. To most publicans this was a no brainer. They had experienced amazing boom years but the smoking ban, closing of stadium and an expectant recession painted a bleaker future.
He signed without negotiations. I knew then he had no idea what I saw.
The other day I found that file. The original SWOT analysis from May 2006. For anyone thats interested in pubs or achieving a vision or even going against the grain.
Here it is.
SWOT Analysis Slattery’s Pub
This analysis has been compiled after 3 months of working in Slattery’s Pub. It only covers those areas which I have had some experience in and this report will be expanded in the coming months.
I will aim to produce a more comprehensive document covering a 3-5 year business plan. To do this I will need more hands on management experience of the pub and access to revenue performance and cost analysis.
In my opinion there is an opportunity to grow the revenues of the business by 10% to 20% however I require more detail to make more accurate forecasts.
Location- Located in a newly affluent area which boasts 4 to 5 major office blocks within 5 minute walk. In addition many new luxury apartment blocks have been built in recent times accommodating young, well educated and highly paid people.
Close to Dart Station which transports many of the local office workers to other affluent areas in Malahide, Howth, Blackrock and Dalkey.
Close to large Sports Facility and Gym, Lansdowne Stadium, some major Hotels and Shelbourne Dog Track all of which provide activity centres adding footflow to the area
Brand-The pub is very well known and has appeared on many city guides advising tourists visiting Dublin as to where they may find one of Dublins most traditional drinking establishments
Strong association with Guinness and provides one of the best quality pints in Ireland let alone Dublin
Although in a traditionally working class area the pub has maintained a well behaved, respectable clientele. This has been achieved mainly through its hardworking, experienced staff.
The Slattery’s Brand seems to stand for Tradition and Quality, almost perfection through simplicity
Staff - The pub is staffed by 4 full time barpersons and 3 part-time staff in the food department. All staff are professional, hardworking, trustworthy and contribute hugely to the ongoing success of the pub
Unusually all staff are Irish and local to the area again adding to the Brand in its traditional sense
The staff know the pub and its operations. On big Match days the pub can generate 10 times a normal days business without too much fuss before or after and only requiring a handful of extra staff.
Guinness - The pub has a unique ability to serve EXCELLENT GUINNESS, this is due to a number of reasons 1) The Flow on the Guinness due to its popularity 2) the distance from the Tap to the Keg 3) The excellent cellar and cold room facilities 4) The attention and dedication of particular staff to the glass washer 5) Use of Guinness Tulip Glasses with all pints
Pub Look and Feel The pub has a very unique look, more then just traditional. With its large full width windows the old world is viewable from the modern world outside. Passing pedestrians and motorists can look right in and almost taste the Guinness and feel the warmth.
Inside, the pub has traditional seating and one is surrounded by wood, paint and the odd mirror – but even the mirrors are undecorated. The pubs look and feel is PERFECT – it looks and feels exactly the way it means to do.
Staff - For most 1st time customers, their experience of the bar staff would be negative. These are the negative aspects of any traditional pub – conservatism, resistance to change and fear of the unknown. While the staff are perfect for keeping the pub the way it is, the way they work and treat customers is not ideal for maximising the brand and seizing the opportunities that may exist.
While the day to day tasks are completed with diligence and efficiency the extra spark of personality and enthusiasm for growing business does not exist.
Management - The current management have been in place during a difficult period for the industry. It has during its time achieved to carry on inspite of losing 20% of its workforce. This consolidation period is now coming to and end and the pub should considers a more enthusiastic and optimistic growth strategy.
Toilets - this could be considered the negative side to having a traditional pub – No matter how traditional, the pubs’ customers live in the 3rd millennium – they don’t want a total transportation in time. The toilets are not up to standard and while they may not affect current trade too largely they do affect brand perception and value for money and these aspects will affect the extra trade required for growth.
Space - This may be perceived as a weakness, another negative aspect of the traditional pub is space, the pub has a lack of space. In reality it can only provide room for (max)20 sets of four or 80 covers which is plenty for most small restaurants. For food the pub has plenty of capacity and should food revenues grow space upstairs could be made available. For drink, the pub often becomes crowded adding to the atmosphere – however there is a large under-utilised space outside where people occasionally smoke. The pub has a very underdeveloped smoking area.
Air-Conditioning - In winter the open fire is an extremely attractive feature. In Winter the lack of modern temperature control often result in some customers complaining about the heat and others about the cold. This lack of air conditioning also contributes to various odours which are noticed and commented upon by customers (especially new customers).
Security - While there is an excellent CCTV system in place there is also an over confidence with cash on the premises. It might never happen but the current attitude to cash can only lead to a more lax attitude which may eventually end in some form of negligence.
Communication - There is none. This is due to the consolidation period the pub has been going through. Keeping the status quo has been the overriding objective. When growth is required, so too is change and to achieve change communication must exist.
TV Maximisation - Just like the toilet issue, we are not forced to provide a TRADITIONAL TV too! The pubs’ maximisation of televised sporting events is well below average.
Lighting & Music - the pub also has a sound system and dimmer lights which are never used. It is sometimes a very bright environment (why so?)
Food - food is served Mon to Fri from 12.00 to 2.30. The menu is basic and poorly presented. The food is not much better. It is however functional and value for money. The pub lunch trade is full of regulars who come in almost every day – it is rare to see new customers who come again never mind become regulars themselves.
The pub also offers no food outside lunch hours. A Hungry customer is offered one type of nut or crisp both of which are very expensive yet provide little profit to the pub. The hungry customer is not only unsatisfied by the measly bag of nuts but is also annoyed at the pubs lack of choice. This is another example of where the Traditional culture of the pub clashes with a more customer focused culture of the modern business.
The same can be said for wine, Wine is one of the best selling products and yet gets little mention or attention. Customers are given whatever is in the fridge and there is little or no promotion of the bottled (750ml) wine. Again the same clash can be observed with Coffee – its filter coffee or nothing – while the machines exists to produce cappuccino or espresso it cannot do Latte or hot chocolate. This is an area the pub needs to look at – it must take the good of traditional and leave the bad. It must look at its day time trade and realise that traditional café type food and drink will not clash with the traditional pub yet fill a growing demand very well indeed.
Lunch Trade there is a great deal of capacity for food during lunch. Within 5 minutes there are 3 companies with over 2000 employees, that’s just in one direction. Pfizer, Esat, Google, AIB, Iona, Accenture as well as many more blue chips occupy the offices of surrounding buildings. The pubs’ revenues are closely aligned with days the local office workers get paid. Yet we have no loyalty system in place and no marketing or communication system to take advantage of this massive market right on our door step.
A business card collector could be located at the door offering a monthly prize. This would encourage customers new and regular to provide us with their details (email) through which we could email them with menus, reservation details, special offers, promotions etc.
Loyalty scheme which could provide customers with every 10th dinner free for example could encourage more new customers to become regulars
Food overhaul – there is a great opportunity to create a brand new menu however for the short term the focus should be to improve the relationship between the pub and its potential market
Night and Weekend Trade - The demographics of the area have changed significantly. No longer is the area working class or blue collar. The area has become a very sought after address full of young white collar workers most of whom have moved into the many new modern luxury apartments or are renting old style, former council houses. These young financially able people have little or no connection with the pub. The traditional Slattery’s is slow to make their acquaintance. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a long and profitable relationship with these young people who are themselves in search of a community feeling.
Corporate Scheme - The pub relies too heavily on Match Days and The ‘Dogs’. These additional revenues accruing from external activity centres, once the cream are now bread and butter. The business cannot rely on these as the main source of revenue. The lack of credit cards been left in for use as a tab is also indicative of the pubs lack of a corporate relationships. The pub is an ideal after work spot but is not promoted as such. Relationships with management in local businesses should be improved and initiatives to generate more corporate business pursued.
Savouries -An opportunity exists to provide savouries for free. In cafes and bars all around the world savouries are offered free. After looking at the profits from crisps and nuts and the fact that they never really leave the customer feeling satisfied, why not put the same investment into good quality food items like olives, crackers, nuts and other type of savoury snacks. These could be well presented in special containers along the bar and/or on tables. Customers would feel that they are getting something back, that they are getting something in return for their custom. In addition, they are not getting “crap”, they are getting more choice. The pub must sell itself to new customers – one way to do this is to make their visit memorable – a nice savoury for free is one way to make a mark.
Snacks –There is no reason the pub cannot sell pre-made sambos at night time. There is also no reason why we cannot distribute baby sausages on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This is something many pubs do to help keep customers drinking and not thinking of leaving for food.
Upstairs - There is a terrific opportunity to turn upstairs into a “comfy chilled out lounge” for all those locals who want a more special place to go for a drink. A place where they can relax on old leather couches in low level lighting and have chilled out music coming from the speakers. The other pubs in the area are all competing hard for their customers yet none of them (at the moment) would capture our target market. Downstairs should never change but there may be an opportunity to look at opening upstairs for a particular demand in the area.
Tourists - the closing of Kitty O’Shea’s pub provided an insight into how many tourists are in fact wandering the D4 streets. There is a terrific opportunity to promote the brilliant Guinness we serve. In addition, the lack of a developed front smoking/outside area does not invite the passer by. There is an opportunity to work with local restaurants and hotels and help promote each other to the tourists that frequent the area.
Branding - The pub has no visible brand other then the physical pub itself. We have no business card, no flyers, no marketing material whatsoever. The pub should have a business card with a location graphic and it should have a flyer type card, which can be left in local restaurants and hotels providing them with information regarding our location and facilities.
Product Availability - The selection of Wines and Spirits is poor. Many women are now drinking wine. We need to get more women in to the pub. We should be more knowledgeable on the wine we serve and make it more of an experience. Almost every weekend someone asks for a common spirit that we don’t have. In addition, our selection of glasses is unsatisfactory – many drinks should be consumed in particular glasses – We have only two shot glasses on the premises, no Heineken or Carlsberg glasses both which are known to improve the quality of their beer.
Televised Sports -the pub fails to deliver a quality sports televised environment. The TVs with the exception of one are out of date and provide poor quality images. This Summer sees the 2006 World Cup and the Ryder Cup. The pub needs to maximise the revenues from serving those who want to watch these events in a local venue.
There is a location in the pub, which is ideally suited to a projected image on a pull down screen. The pull down screen means that when there are no major matches (or major crowd) the screen can be released back into its compartment, which is attached to the roof. When minor games are being shown they can be shown on the other TV options.
Coffee Machine - The pub has a filter coffee machine and a small cappuccino dispenser. Both of which are inadequate. There is an opportunity to put in place an all in one solution which would improve margins and selection. We should be able to offer Lattes, Mochas, Hot Chocolates as well as Espressos and Cappucinnos.
WiFi Internet -Broadband has been ordered and a WIFI system will be put in place allowing people to log on to the Internet through their own laptops as they sit anywhere inside or outside the pub. This will provide customers with something no other pub has in the local area. It is also something that we can add as a feature to a business card or flyer. It is something that might be seen by a resident of a hotel on a Monday night and entice him to do his work in the pub over a few pints.
Outside/Smoking Area-The pub has a unique opportunity to add 33% of space without any real cost. The area directly in front of the pub could easily be enhanced to provide a very sheltered, comfortable and warm environment all year round. There is nothing more enticing then seeing others enjoying themselves and what better advertisement to entice passers by.
Technology - The business takes little or no advantage of technology. Everything is stored on paper notebooks, nothing is recorded electronically and therefore the only reports that exist are those generated by the accountant or suppliers. At some point the company must move forward and technology can be used very easily to keep stock records, order files, staff information, revenue reports and forecasts.
Staff - Resistance to change. The current level of communication is a threat to the firms ability to take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Staff are unwilling to create more work for themselves which is natural. However, staff also want to be busier. The way opportunities are presented and the various strategies communicated are crucial to achieving growth without creating staff issues.
Unmotivated, tired and bored staff exhibit the symptoms. New customers must be honoured not ignored. Staff must want new customers to come back again. The traditional small pub mentality creates an almost intimidating atmosphere for first time customers.
Staff issues due to change – it is very likely that a change in management will create discomfort. New staff would be welcomed. There is a definite lack of a female touch in the place.
Competition - With Kitty O’Sheas now gone – the hotel managers will be taking over. We can assume a more aggressive campaign for their lunch and night time trade. The Shelbourne House looks like it might again change hands and the new managers may also have more ambitious plans and aggressive style which could pose a danger to the pubs current trade
Stadium Issues - There will not be an international football or rugby match in the area for 5 years at least. This is not just a threat but an actual 15% loss in revenue per year. The main threat is that the stadium may never get built.