Pub businesses need to target the right customers. Here’s how…

Target pub customersDo you know who your target customer should be?

Working out the answer to this question should be a key part of your business strategy.

Because targeting the right pub customers can be the difference between success and failure in running a pub.

This article offers useful tips for doing just that.

But, first, I want to explore…

How and why some publicans cater for the wrong customer

The new publican starts off with an idea of the target customer. The needs and wants of this target customer is influenced by the publicans own experience in frequenting pubs.

Such an easy mistake to make!

They instinctively want to offer the kind of food they enjoy and a drinks range they’ll savour. It’s likely too that this publican’s ideas are influenced by their peer group.

And so, what they end up creating is a pub which caters for them and their buddies. Which is all well and good if they’re running a pub in a catchment area with needs and desires which match their own.

But what if they don’t match up?

Then your pub business strategy is set on flimsy foundations.

You have two options:

  1. Establish a pub in an area with clientele who have similar tastes to your own.
  2. Adapt your vision to the catchment area.

By correctly identifying and understanding the customers in a pub’s catchment area, you will have a firm understanding of the kind of service your pub needs to provide.

This will also create a solid foundation for all your marketing endeavours.

How to discover the needs of customers in your catchment area

Catchment pub customersWhether you’re a publican looking to improve your business or someone getting ready to run a pub for the first time, then it’s time to turn detective.

You need to get a firm idea of the potential pub customers in your catchment area.

Current working publicans have the advantage of being able to analyse current trends. For example, you can examine itemised end-of-day reports for what customers are eating and drinking.

Plus, you can gather the opinions of pub customers, either face-to-face or via a suggestion box.

Alternatively, it’s always worth checking out feedback on TripAdvisor or any mentions on the major social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook.

Now, let’s look at the vital research you need to carry out, whether or not you’re already running a pub.

There are two main types of research you need to undertake:

Real Life Observation and Desk Research.

Real Life Observation requires you to experience the area around your pub. Try sitting in pubs (including your own) and cafes in the area and observe customers and passers by. Get a real feel for the area at different times of the week, at different hours of the day.

Who are the customers in the busiest pubs? What are they providing that the quiet pubs don’t?

In other words, experience the area, talk to people and gain an understanding of what people want.

For Desk Research there’s a useful website called Check My which enables you to enter a specific postcode and get information about the residents in the area.

The data includes the types of resident (families, students, young professionals etc), the types of employment they are in, income levels, credit ratings and more.

Let’s start thinking in practical terms about the three main areas for establishing a pub.

The city centre pub customers

city centre pub customersIn this location you may attract a vast range of different pub customers, including: nearby workers, residents, tourists, pub crawlers, pre-club drinkers, entertainment seekers, social drinkers, impulsive passers-by and more.

Competition is fierce in city centres and so the challenge is to stand out from the crowd. Many central areas (particularly those areas of historical, cultural and artistic significance) will likely attract a more affluent customer. While other areas may have a a younger, edgier feel, depending on the town or city.

Understand the specific area your pub is in by observing rival pubs, cafes, nearby shops, offices, and residential types. Spend time observing your catchment area. By day and night, weekday and weekend.

The suburban pub customers

suburban pub customersThere are affluent suburban areas and then are those with high levels of deprivation. Of course, there are also areas with a variety of income types.

In the suburbs, catchment areas are more strictly defined than in city or town centres. This makes it even more crucial that you know your local area.

Again, you should observe the current customers in your pub. Are they representative of the local community? Or are they mainly friends of the former pub landlord and part of a small social clique who traditionally meet there?

As with city centre pubs, observe the clientele at different times of the week. What’s the weekday or daytime crowd like? How about the weekends evening and daytime?

Also, you need to observe the local businesses and shops. Spend some time in a local cafe and observe their customers and passers-by.

Finally, undertake the desk research as suggested above.

By combining real life observation with statistical data, you should be able to come up with a good idea of your priority customer-types.

Country and village pub customers

country pub customersMuch of the information above is relevant to country and village pubs.

A country and village pub usually has the benefit of a captive customer-base. Often, the nearest pub is a fair distance away.

Nonetheless, you can’t take your customers for granted.

If you don’t provide what they want, they will be less likely to frequent your pub. So, again, do some basic research about the local community both via observation and online research.

Many people will go out of their way to find a quality country pub. A wonderful country pub will be deemed worthy of a special journey.

You’ve gathered the information, now what…?

With a greater understanding of your catchment area, you have a better idea of how to provide the right service for them.

Is the competition missing a trick? Is there a market not being catered for?

Now it’s up to you to fulfil that need. Keeping abreast of the latest drinking and dining trends will ensure you keep up with changing tastes.

One of the key initial marketing tools you should use to promote your new improved pub is the humble leaflet or postcard.

Letterbox marketing has a long track record as one of the most important aspects of running a pub marketing campaign. It also ensure you reach those living in your catchment area.

You may also be interested in reading our comprehensive checklist of pub marketing ideas.

Good luck!

Dog photo by Mike Mozartcc

City centre pub by Davide D’Amicocc

Suburban pub by Ewan Munro – cc

Country pub by Dave_Scc


  1. […] Pub businesses need to target the right customers. Here’s how… […]

  2. […] For practical advice on how to research the customer-base in any given area, check out our article ‘Pub businesses need to target the right customer, here’s how…’ […]

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