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What Makes a Great Modern Pub

So, what in 2016, makes a great British pub? Why do people still choose them? Here are 10 factors that go towards making a cracking pub today.

Alongside an inability to cope with bad weather, an unfailing tendency to constantly apologise and a wicked line in sarcasm, us Brits regard the bar or pub as something of a birthright.


Unfortunately, not everything is rosy in the (beer) garden of the great British boozer. There are challenges for the bar & pub industry on all sides. Numbers continue to fall. Since 1980, over 20,000 pubs have closed their doors*.


Other obstacles include: cheap supermarket booze, declining alcohol sales, the continued fallout of the smoking ban in 2007, updated health advice from the medical profession urging us to drink less and, of course, speculative property developers lurking in the shadows eager to transform a bastion of British society into a trendy block of flats


And yet, the pub survives. A recent Mintel report into Pub Visiting found that 47 per cent of pub goers felt bars & pubs remained an intrinsic part of British life. In purely financial terms, total pub turnover increased in 2014 by 2.7 per cent to £22.6 billion. Analysts expect this growth to continue, with estimates putting the pub market to reach a value of £24 billion by 2019.


So, what in 2016, makes a great British pub? How have those that have survived not only done so, but actively flourished? Why do people still choose pubs? Here are 10 factors that go towards making a cracking bar or pub…


1. Food For Thought


The emergence of the gastropub 25 years ago has had consequences for the entire industry. Quality has risen — indeed Mintel found that 54 per cent of pub goers said this increase was a factor in return visits. Turnover from food is expected to rise by 20 per cent by 2019. Food now accounts for 32 per cent of total pub turnover. Food and sport can go hand-in-hand.


2. This Sporting Life


When nearly 50 per cent of people watch live sport outside their home* — at the pub — can you afford not to show the latest Champions League matches? With more live games screened than ever, showing sport can increase midweek and weekend trade. Screens are improving all the timeAnd with 2016 shaping up to be a spectacular year for sport, it’s clear why so many pubs and bars devote time to screening the best sporting action. So, turn up the commentary, get those sight lines sorted and let the atmosphere rise.


3. That’s Entertainment


Pubs have adapted. It’s not just about beer and spirits anymore. The best pubs & bars now offer a range of entertainment from music and comedy nights to bingo, knitting clubs, film nights, book clubs and ukulele clubs.


4. Community Service


Pubs remain a focal point in the community — hence the rise in landlords seeking to list their premises as Assets of Community Value (ACV).  Those that offer free Wi-Fi have become work/community hubs. As coffee shops have begun offering alcohol, pubs that offer Wi-Fi and decent coffee have added an extra dimension to their business. A recent study by the Newcastle Business School found that rural areas with a local pub had a greater sense of social cohesion and enhanced community.


5. Adding Value


Pubs have to offer a welcome as warm as the reassuring log fire in the corner. A YouGov report in 2013 found that cleanliness, a good atmosphere and friendly staff are paramount. Likewise, unhygienic toilets and unhelpful staff are cited as a turn-off.


6. Quality Treats


The craft beer revolution, niche breweries (especially local) and new and innovative spirits have helped raise the quality of the drink on offer. Drinkers are far more discerning. They want choice and quality.


7. Be Individual


Wherever possible, be unique. Give your pub a personality.


8. Female Friendly


Those pubs that have become aware of female needs — clear signage to toilets; an array of soft drinks, better wine, more seats — are more likely to see return visits. All Bar One was one of the pubs to spearhead this shift and it is constantly adapting to meet its customers’ needs.


9. Get Online


A connected pub or bar with an informative website and an entertaining and instructive social media presence helps you stand out. Nearly half a million conversations about pubs & bars happen on Twitter and Facebook every month. BT Sport’s customer zone, The Manager’s Office, has a dedicated area devoted to getting connected via social media. Our partner can help you get a social media presence. Free promo kits are available for most fixtures.


10. Opportunity Knocks


Loyalty cards and discounts —like those offered in coffee shops — have gone down well with pub goers.




It’s clear there are a number of challenges facing the pub industry, but those bars & pubs that can adapt — especially to the needs of the local community — can survive and ultimately thrive. The 10 headings above should serve as a springboard for your bar’s success. Come on, be bold, be brave, be British.


*Mintel Pub Visiting report May 2015