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A place to meet, not just to eat: why are bars prospering over restaurants?

The opening quarter of 2018 has seen a flurry of UK restaurants consulting with administrators, falling into administration or closing a significant number of their branches. With news that one-third of the UK’s top 100 restaurant chains are currently operating at a loss – a 75% increase on last year – the question is what can be done? 

Market analysts highlight a number of reasons why restaurants are struggling, including delivery apps, market saturation, rising food prices, economic conditions, increased business rates and the living wage – all of which are, to all intents and purposes, outside of one’s control. However, another major reason – which does lie very much in the hands of business owners – is that of the lack of some restaurants to provide a strong enough differential in branding and offering from their competitors.

At the same time that this is happening, there are bars and pubs serving food that are not just profiting, but prospering and expanding rapidly. Revolution Bars, New World Trading Company and Cameron’s Brewery are just a few examples of the chains enjoying great success.

Ian Jones, Managing Director of T&J Installations, said: “Through our work in installing and maintaining drinks dispense equipment around the country, we observe an insightful cross-section of the market at any given time. We see chains that are growing over the same time-period that a variety of food chains are shutting down or closing branches.

“Some brands are currently enjoying rapid expansion and their food offering may well be close to, or on par with, some of the restaurant chains that we’re seeing reported to be in trouble in the news.” 

Bar burger

 What separates these areas of the market?

Over recent years, the predominant trend T&J has seen is a growth in popularity of premium drinks, served at optimum conditions. Customers, of various demographics, have demonstrated – voting with their feet and their wallets – that they are happy to pay more for a better experience, and that’s not just about the drink or food they are consuming. 

Ian continued: “Strong, unique identity and ingenuity in the fit out and offering of a venue – or chain – seems now to go a long way. Providing a stimulating and engaging environment for your customers means that premises are seen much more as a place to meet, rather than just a place to eat (and drink).

“With food delivery services, such as Deliveroo, having risen sharply in popularity since their introduction, getting customers out and about, in your venue and spending money, requires you to offer an experience they can’t get at home.” 

‘Theatrics’ and scenery are two such elements, but providing high quality drinks and food – best sampled at the point of service – are key devices for putting bums on seats, or elbows at the bar. 

New World Trading Company’s portfolio of venues has grown significantly in the last six months, as have their venues – they are T&J's foremost tank beer client, with seven installations of Budweiser Budvar tanks in 18 months. The tanks all add to the idea of the experience, complementing New World’s incredible fit outs.

Ian said: “That’s not to say that there is any ‘fool-proof’ process for creating a massively successful brand – if there was, anyone and everyone could do it – but there are certainly lessons to be learned from customer behaviour patterns. A restaurant consulting with us will find new ways to increase its revenue streams, customer footfall and drinks dispense efficiency.”

For any business looking to enhance its drinks offering, T&J Installations recommends getting in touch to discuss its vision for the future. T&J's restaurant consulting service will examine options available to them and the products on offer from T&J Installations that are designed to optimise serving conditions of drinks dispense.

For further information on T&J Installations' services and products, and to discuss your requirements, call lan Jones on 0121 783 8925, or email info@tjinstall.co.uk.


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T: 0121 783 8925