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Twelve years ago a radical new law changed life in Britain forever. The Health Act 2006 came into force in July 2007 and smoking in public places was banned. This had a huge effect on many of our public places, and one in particular, that great British institution: the pub. A habit that had become synonymous with drinking and pubs was outlawed overnight. Think of comic characters such as Andy Capp, with his pint in one hand and a cigarette eternally attached to his lower lip, or scenes from great British films from the 1960s such as Kes and This Sporting Life, depictions of working-class life in which a cigarette and a drink were constant companions. All this was gone, and there were many who mourned its passing.

Did the smoking ban kill the pub?

There were predictions that the smoking ban would kill the British pub, and it’s certainly true that pub numbers have declined since the ban – but there is little evidence that this is due to the smoking ban. In fact, since 2007 pubs have come up with ever more inventive ways to accommodate smokers: smoking shelters, outdoor areas, outdoor heaters (it was said, half-jokingly, that the smoking ban would contribute to global warming thanks to the increased use of these heaters). Necessity is the mother of invention, and the increase in outdoor smoking areas and shelters led to a surge in demand for outdoor pub and bar furniture – and pub furniture companies such as Trent Furniture responded with pub chairs and tables for outdoor use that were durable, stackable and weatherproof. Many pubs now have a special area for smokers where they can sit and enjoy their habit in comfort and even warmth. Pub gardens that were previously tatty and under-used are now properly fitted out with comfortable furniture and made attractive with plants, trees, fairy lights and other decorations.

And while the smoking ban almost certainly deterred a certain type of drinker – older, male, smoker – it also meant that pubs were suddenly more attractive to women, younger people and families, as well as those who had previously hated inhaling second-hand smoke and emerging from a pub smelling of stale tobacco. Asthmatics, too, relished the newly fresh air, while bar staff could stop worrying about the damaging effects of passive smoking, and their jobs no longer involved unpleasant tasks such as emptying ashtrays. Pubs became cleaner, brighter, free of nicotine-stained ceilings. And because people began to feel more comfortable about bringing their children into pubs, there was a rise in sales of food in pubs – which, again, had a knock-on effect as sales of dining furniture rose in response. Pubs became cleaner, brighter and more inclusive.

The rise of vaping

Now the pub trade is facing a new challenge: vaping. Sales of e-cigarettes have rocketed in recent years as people discover safer ways to get their nicotine “hit”. Billowing clouds of flavoured vapour drift from these devices, and special shops have opened to supply the paraphernalia required – batteries, cartridges of “juice” (the liquid that is vaporised on contact with heated coils), and the devices themselves.

E-cigarettes have been around in various forms since they were first invented in the 1920s, but it was in the early 2000s that a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, began taking out patents on what was to become the modern electronic cigarette. (Hon Lik was motivated to come up with a safer alternative to smoking after his father, a smoker, died from lung cancer.) Today the UK vaping market is worth more than £1 billion annually. There are 1.9 million fewer smokers than compared with when the smoking ban was introduced, while three million of us are now vaping.

E-cigarettes come in two broad categories: closed and open. Closed systems use a cartridge of liquid that is simply clicked into place. Open systems are refilled by the vaper and the fluid can be customised. The vapour is inhaled, giving that all-important nicotine “hit”.

Vapour is safer

Vaping is popular because it is much safer than smoking. Some health experts have argued that it is a kind of “gateway” to tobacco smoking, and it is certainly true that it has introduced people to nicotine who may not have used it otherwise. But the fact remains that it is comparatively safe, both for vapers and for those around them. Nicotine itself is a relatively safe substance – the dangers of smoking cigarettes come mostly from the chemicals released by tobacco when it burns, and while e-cigarettes do produce some harmful chemicals, these are released in very small quantities.

But what is the legal situation around vaping? There is no UK law banning e-cigarettes from public places. In Wales a ban was proposed but the legislation was defeated. Many public facilities such as railways, railway stations, the London Underground and airports have introduced their own bans on e-cigarettes. But vaping is not in itself illegal in public places.

Nor is it illegal in pubs. It is entirely up to pub landlords as to what they allow; some chains have introduced bans across all of their pubs, while some have left it up to individual landlords.

But regardless of its legality, the truth is that vaping is not allowed in many pubs. Some pubs are worried that seeing someone’s device emitting clouds of vapour can be worrying and disconcerting. Some have banned vaping because the smell of the vapour itself – which comes in an array of weird flavours, including bacon and beer, as well as the more widespread fruits – can be offputting, especially if food is being served. Some pubs will allow vaping as long as the odours are not offensive and it is done considerately.

Pubs can profit from vaping

So in many pubs, vapers are essentially in the same boat – or, rather, the same shelter – as regular smokers. Pubs that have spent money accommodating cigarette smokers following the smoking ban can rest easy, knowing that they have the infrastructure in place, though perhaps they will need to extend or expand their outdoor areas to cope with the extra numbers. Vapers do not need pubs to supply ashtrays or any other equipment. They just need somewhere to sit and enjoy their habit, and Trent Furniture’s range of outdoor furniture is perfectly suited to the task.

But there is also an opportunity here for pubs to increase their revenues and retain their customers. There is nothing to prevent pubs from selling vaping paraphernalia.  Selling this equipment via vending machines or from behind the bar will help to increase revenues in two ways. First, the vaping equipment itself will bring in extra revenue. And second, it will prevent the need for customers to nip off to a shop to replenish their e-cigarettes, which would otherwise have meant a loss of drinking time for the pub. Times are changing, and pubs need to keep up with those changes. Meanwhile, Andy Capp – who is still going strong in the Daily Mirror – stopped smoking in 1983, though he has yet to take up vaping.

A new survey from VoucherCodes has revealed that 56% of Brits expect the cost of international travel to go up this year as a result of Brexit. With staycations offering a cheaper travel option, 40% of respondents said they plan to go on multiple trips around the UK which is good news for bars, restaurants and cafes looking to benefit from domestic tourism.

So how can you draw in the crowds looking for the perfect spot for a holiday dinner or drink in the sun?

Make sure your decor and furniture make a great first impression

First impressions are incredibly important for attracting customers who may be visiting the area for the first time. If they don’t opt to search for dining establishments using tools like TripAdvisor or Google Maps, then they may simply look for options as they explore a new area. By ensuring your restaurant, bar or cafe decor is looking fresh and inviting you stand the best chance of attracting these types of customers.

Provide outside dining options

Although the British summer weather can be unpredictable, offering outdoor drinking and dining areas is a fantastic way to draw in customers. If you have a large outdoor space, then going all out with a garden dining area can be a big attraction. Even if space is limited, offering even a few outdoor tables can attract people looking to stop and enjoy a drink in the sun as they pass by. Storing outdoor furniture can be a hurdle to overcome when space is limited, so opt for stackable options to store vertically and save on precious space.

Trent Furniture has a great selection of outdoor furniture to choose from, including wicker, wooden and metal options - many of which are stackable.

Offer seasonal drinks and dishes

Alongside the alfresco seating options, why not adapt menus and dishes to feature summer favourites? If the local area is famous for a particular type of food or drink, then adding this to the menu can be the perfect way to attract customers looking to indulge in the local cuisine as part of their trip.

Utilise social media and reviews

Websites like TripAdvisor and tools such as Google Maps mean it’s easier than ever for potential customers to do their research and plan ahead when it comes to their dining choices. Setting up your profile on these services using plenty of stunning pictures of your interiors, dishes, promotions and more can set you apart from the competition and entice customers. These kind of photos and posts can also be shared on social media, allowing your brand to reach even more people.

What is flex-casual?

Flex-casual restaurants provide diners with the convenience of counter ordering by day and full service at night. Think of it as a cross between fast-casual and casual dining and a way to offer your customers the best of both worlds.

The term was coined by Randy Murphy to describe his business model at American dining establishment Mama Fu's and the concept has since taken off in the hospitality industry.

The benefits

The flex-casual strategy presents an opportunity to capture both the lunch and dinner crowds. At lunch customers are often on a tighter time limit and are looking for a more economical option, making counter service the ideal fit. In the evening however, guests often prefer dining at a leisurely pace and tend to pay more with a higher priced dinner menu.

Not only that flex-casual allows restaurants to target different customer bases, for example busy professionals looking to grab something quickly at lunch and the family and couples crowd looking for a more relaxed sit-down meal in the evening.

Tips to go flex-casual in your restaurant include...

Consider your floor plan and furniture

It’s important that your restaurant can transition smoothly from counter to table service and that customers understand where to go instantly based on the floorplan. You could also consider a switch in lighting and music to set an appropriate atmosphere for the time of day and dining style.

Furniture and decor also need to be versatile to match both settings. Easy to clean and hard-wearing tables, chairs and booths are perfect for the quick turnover of a lunchtime rush, but they need to be stylish and comfortable for evening diners who will spend longer in your establishment. 

Create a seamless transition

Ensuring that employees fully understand how flex-casual works and have been provided with training is the most important element of making the transition run smoothly. You may also need to consider which roles are needed when, for example, waiting staff will be needed in the evening to greet, seat and serve diners, whereas in the daytime counter staff will be essential.

Choose the best days to go flex-casual

Whilst some restaurant owners may try the flex-casual approach 7 days a week, others have found that it’s perfect for Monday to Friday, but they focus on table service through the weekend. This choice depends entirely upon factors like the kind of customers that frequent your restaurant, your location and even cuisine type.

How what, and where we eat has changed immensely over the last 10 years, and technological developments have played a significant role, with home delivery apps enticing a large number of us to stay at home at the weekends and in the evenings. Making your establishment more eye-catching and attractive to the passer-by is a sure-fire way to get them off the sofa and over the threshold.

As specialists in the industry, we know a thing or two about keeping your restaurant looking inviting, and the importance of it looking its best. From refurbishing and upcycling your furniture to changing layouts, we’ve got simple and easy tips to keep your customers happy.

Freshen up your furniture

Innovative designs have flooded our bars and restaurants, from the well-known chains right down to the independent eateries. From eco-friendly to Instagram-ready spaces, the look and feel of your restaurant is now just as important as the food and drink on the tables.

Dining is an experience, regardless of whether it’s just a whistle-stop coffee break, a catch-up lunch with friends or dinner do and finding furniture that reflects the sentiment of your restaurant is really important. Customers are looking for that together feel. You may not realise it but your choice of furniture says a lot about your establishment. It’s not all about looks but on a first glance, if your furniture looks tired, old, and dirty, you could be scaring off potential diners before they have even sat down. Your customers will judge your restaurant on what they can see from the outside. If a deep clean can’t bring it back to life, start looking for some new pieces.

Changing your furniture completely can give your restaurant a new lease of life, and indicate to the customer the different direction your restaurant is taking. Take into consideration the trends of the coming year, which for 2020 include multi-use, eco-friendly furniture. Also, think about your customer base, if you’re targeting families and or large parties of people, booth seating is a popular choice for the added privacy they bring. At Trent, we stock and supply a wide range of contract furniture suitable for use in restaurants, from contemporary chairs to dining tables, you’ll find all you need to upgrade the furniture in your restaurant.

If you’re not looking to invest in new furniture, upcycling your tables and chairs can be a great way to inject new life into the furniture you already own. With just a lick of paint, your tired-looking table can be transformed into something chic and contemporary, making a great addition to your space. See our latest helpful restaurant furniture hints and tips!

Don’t love your layout? Switch it up!

A fresh approach to your layout can help your restaurant to feel brand new, and understanding your clientele is paramount to finding spaces that work for you. Do you serve breakfast, lunch and dinner? Or perhaps just one of the three. Are you targeting the busy passer-by in the city or the families venturing out for a meal on a Saturday evening? Whatever your style, finding the layout solution can work wonders. 

Consider the space you have to work with, too many tables can crowd the space and drive customers away from your establishment, whilst too few can give off the dreaded empty feeling. It’s a fine line which all depends on the market you are trying to target and the ambience you are giving off, for example, a quick service restaurant will be designed towards fast eating for a quick table turnover, whilst family-orientated or finer dining eateries will have a shorter turnaround.

Keeping your customers happy is paramount to the success of your restaurant, therefore taking into consideration their needs when refreshing the look of your restaurant is important. For example, optimising each table for guests can be challenging, but avoiding placing guests near the kitchen and bathroom is a good start. The mobility of both your customers and staff is important too, there should be enough space between the tables to avoid an accident as customers are leaving and serving staff are carrying the food!

For more hints and tips to take your restaurant to the top of the menu, head over to our blog posts. If you’d like more information about any of our products, or to chat with one of our friendly customer service team for advice, don’t hesitate to call us on 0116 2986 866. With over 50 years’ industry experience behind us, trust us to help you get it right.

The pub. A social hub of activity that has been a part of British culture for decades.

Over the years, the pub has no doubt seen plenty of change as they have had to adapt and adjust in response to the latest customer trends and industry changes. Craft beer, high-quality food and a smoking ban are just some of the introductions that have swept across pubs throughout the country.

Pubs that find innovative ways to remain attractive to consumer continue to succeed in an industry that sees 18 pubs close every week. It’s a constant battle but for a pub to move forward, it needs to progress and move with the times.

The latest change the pub is seeing is a rise in the number of non-drinkers. Should pub owners be tapping into this market?

The rise of teetotallers

The number of non-drinkers in the UK has seen a stark rise in the past few years. A study by University College London found that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who don’t drink alcohol has risen from 18 per cent in 2005 to 29 per cent in 2015.

The main driver behind it is health benefits and cultural factors. Researchers on the study found that teetotalism was becoming ever more common amongst the younger generations, whilst drunkenness was deemed less acceptable. 

Attracting non-drinkers to pubs

Generation Z includes those born after 1995. 78% of those in this generation surveyed believe that pubs need to make themselves more inviting to customers who don’t drink alcohol. This is according to a Nitro-Generation report from Nescafé Azera.

And there is more to embracing non-drinkers than simply offering them a pint of Coca Cola. By providing something different to this market, you immediately identify as a pub who appeals to non-drinkers. This could be anything from offering alcohol-free beer, coffees, specialist soft drinks and mocktails.

Give your pub a refresh

As well as giving your menu and offerings a refresh to attract non-drinkers, a third of those questioned in the survey also felt that pubs are becoming outdated. Another way to appeal to younger and older generations alike is to update your pub’s interior. Be honest, how long has it been since you’ve had an update?

Trent Furniture has a range of pub furniture that is ideal for bringing your pub up to date. 

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