The Quest for a Quality Serve

Katie Jenkins, Marketing & Partnerships Director at KAM shares recent research carried out in partnership with Budvar looking at just how important the quest for a quality serve can be for the on-trade.

“Any of you who have seen KAM present recently will have likely seen the stat that 88% of us want pubs/bars to provide an experience we can’t get at home. Customers are increasingly looking to spend their ever-tightening disposable income on memorable experiences as opposed to physical goods, particularly within the younger generations.

We’ve seen a boom in Competitive Socialising venues where you can throw axes or have a round of crazy golf while you socialise (sounds exhausting!) but at the most simplistic level, a quality experience can of course be achieved through providing a quality F&B offering that can’t be replicated in our kitchen or an atmosphere you simply can’t get from hosting at home.

Which brings me on to our latest research, carried out in partnership with Budvar UK, which identified that perhaps our beer customers in particular aren’t getting quite the experience we’d hope for in the UK on-trade. The fact that 93% of beer drinkers had been served a “bad pint” suggests that a sub-standard experience for many beer drinkers is currently costing the on-trade significantly.

In a time when ‘experience is everything’ but also ‘every penny counts’ the research exposes a pressing need for our industry to address this issue fast.

Publicans share how they guarantee a quality serve

A top-quality pint

Serving a top-quality pint plays a vital role in delivering customers an experience that they can’t easily replicate at home. The theatre, the serve and the taste are just things which makes the British Pub so special. However, not everyone is getting it right. Steve Alton, CEO BII, put it well when he said that “beer served through dirty lines is like food served on a dirty plate”, and yet around 1 in 4 beer lines in the UK are currently deemed to be unclean.

What is the reality for beer drinkers?

The vast majority of beer drinkers have been served a bad pint (93%) and 7% say this happens “often”. That may not seem like a huge figure but that equates to a LOT of bad pints and poor customers experiences.

The cost of not getting ‘beer quality’ right is significant, especially to the venues which serve it. The majority of customers told us that one bad pint (and a max of 2) is all it takes for them to leave the venue and not return. So, it’s 2 strikes and you’re out.

Furthermore, if we have a bad pint, we blame the venue (not the brand) and it gets worse; 82% of customers will tell friends and family if they are served a bad pint meaning there’s a risk of losing future customers too.

Blind slots around beer quality

As part of the research, we also spoke to publicans to gauge their current understanding of beer quality and what their priorities are. Most acknowledge the issue of quality in the wider industry, however, many have a blind spot to their own business, with nearly all of them believing that they don’t have any issues with bad quality beer. Something just isn’t adding up.

I recently chatted to Hance McGhie, Global Sales Director at Chemisphere UK on this very issue: “you might get the cash in the till from the 1st pint, but if the quality is not there then you won’t get the cash from the 2nd, 3rd or 4th.” This is crucial and might go some way to explaining this blind spot, for a pub’s sales will only show what they’re currently making, they won’t show what they’re missing out on.

Customers see the venue as responsible for the “quality” of the drink served with 88% thinking the overall quality of a pint they are served resting on the treatment of the beer in the pub/cellar/bar. It’s absolutely vital therefore that brewers continue to raise the importance of ‘a quality beer experience’ from cellar management to pour and serve.

What is a quality pint?

What is “a quality pint” to customers? No surprise that taste is absolutely king. The research showed that critical factors which customers actively notice are cleanliness of glassware and temperature of beer. Other important factors to them are the smell, colour and cloudiness of the beer as well as overall cleanliness of the bar area. A beer being served in the correct of branded glassware is a ‘nice to have.’ (Publicans tend to feel this is much more important than customers do- it may well help with overall experience but it won’t make up for getting the other factors wrong!)

As a valued member of SIBA I’d expect you to know your way around a quality pint, but feedback from publicans suggested there was significant room for further knowledge sharing and training which informs as well as inspires on this topic. For example, when asked what the ideal temperature was to serve lager, there was a 17℃ difference in answers with 36% refusing to answer. And remember we only spoke to the managers and licensees- ensuring skills, knowledge and passion filters all the way through to the bar staff is another challenge for the industry.

Opportunity for brewers to raise the profile of the issue

The good news is that publicans do actively want additional knowledge and training, overwhelmingly in cellar management (70%) but also how to master the ‘correct pour’ (21%) and correct serve (18%). There is a significant opportunity for brewers to continually raise the profile of this issue and offer ongoing support to operators.

According to Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive Officer at British Beer & Pub Association, “We all love a sexy pint!’ She’s not wrong, and this recent research, in partnership with Budvar UK, certainly backs this up.

As an industry, the challenge is to make sure that we’re not taking beer for granted. Being ‘drinkable’ shouldn’t be the benchmark. We shouldn’t be aiming for acceptable; we should be aiming for amazing. This is critical in continuing to attract customers to venues and away from their sofas. We should be telling our friends about the amazing pints we’ve had, not about the bad ones- spreading the love, supping quality beer, and supporting the Great British Pub.

If you’re interested to access more Hospitality research take a look at our Knowledge Hub (lots of free insight!)