In today’s world of 24-hour digital and social media it’s occasionally refreshing to revert back to face-to-face communication, writes Mike Berry.
Trade shows can be an important part of the mix when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends and new products in the sector. For pub operators – as busy as they are – they are even more important as it offers valuable time outside of the business, the opportunity to meet fellow publicans and hear about future developments in the sector.
Pub17 has fast become a must-attend event in the pub trade calendar. Over the three years it has run, the show has continued to grow, attracting high-calibre visitors, innovative new suppliers and industry big hitters.
For this year’s event, Fleet Street Communications (FSC) handled the press office and pre-show publicity, resulting in a record number of attendees. We also curated the show’s important ‘talks’ programme – inviting speakers for what is a key part of the show’s proposition, giving people another reason to visit. On top of this, across the two-day show we hosted a ‘media lounge’, offering an oasis of calm for press and industry friends to relax and catch up on work.
Insight & inspiration
The pub sector has had its difficulties in recent years, and 2017 is set to bring a whole new set of business challenges. But the seminar sessions didn’t dwell on the potential tough times ahead, but rather celebrated some of the fantastic pub retailers across the UK alongside providing some real insight and inspiration for years ahead.
A highlight for me was the Meet the Disruptors session, which addressed the fact the UK’s ‘traditional’ pub culture might be under threat and how some operators were responding. Pubs have long provided spaces for people to come together and socialise under one roof, but nowadays it’s increasingly about providing alternative ‘experiences’ and value for demanding customers.
Tim Martin, the bombastic boss of JD Wetherspoon, was on fine form during his on-stage Q&A with Propel’s Paul Charity. A packed crowd heard his views on the impact of Brexit and his journey to building a 900+ strong pub estate.
Other sessions covered the important topics of recruitment and retention, community engagement, social media and developing your food and drink offer – everything you need to be on top of as a successful publican.
My colleague Mark Stretton and I also hosted keynote sessions; on the challenges of multi-site pub ownership and the fascinating big-ticket State of the Nation debate featuring the heads of various industry associations.
Sense of positivity
What also struck me was the mix of suppliers happily co-existing under one roof, demonstrating how far the sector has progressed in recent years. Companies providing cutting edge digital loyalty and CRM systems exhibiting alongside firms providing pub games, quizzes and everything in between, as well as a raft of top notch food and drink suppliers.
Talking to visitors, media and speakers over the course of the two days left me with a feeling of positivity about the future. Yes, there are some significant challenges ahead, notably around increased employment costs and business rates, but the best operators see opportunity in adversity, evolve and push their businesses forward.
A lot can happen in 12 months, but the Pub17 show had the feeling of a great springboard for the year ahead. Pub18 is already in the diary for next year – 6-7 February!
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