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Picture a typical British pub in the 21st century. What does it look like? Well, it probably offers an array of big-brand beers, lagers and ciders, plus wines and spirits. It probably has music. It might have noisy electronic gaming machines. It is likely to offer food; indeed, the rise of the gastropub is one of the big stories in the pub world in recent years. And there’s a good chance that it will have a large TV screen (or several) showing major sporting events. It might have a coffee machine for customers who’d rather have a cappuccino than a pint. And if there’s space there might be a family area outside.

Now imagine a pub that has almost none of these things. It’s small. Tiny, in fact. It is basically one room. It does nothing except serve drinks, mainly real ale, and perhaps a limited selection of bar snacks. It’s called a micropub, and there are a lot of them about.

Changing Britain’s Pub/Bar Licensing Laws

It all started in 2003, when the then Labour government changed Britain’s licensing laws to make it easier for anyone to open a pub. Under the new act, which became effective in 2005, applications to sell alcohol would go to local councils, rather than the courts, making it harder for objections to be made, and the whole process was made considerably less expensive. This act inspired Martyn Hillier to open the Butcher’s Arms in his home village of Herne, Kent, in 2005. Measuring three metres by four and occupying the front room of a former butcher’s shop, the Butcher’s Arms took the idea of the pub right back to basics, stripping out all the accoutrements of the modern pub and giving customers instead a simple set-up: a room, and some ale, leaving it up to the punters to make their own entertainment, which they proceeded to do by... talking to each other. Hillier showed that with the micropub, the pub owner benefits by having very low overheads (no music licence to pay for, for instance), while the customers benefit from lower prices and a convivial, homely atmosphere.

The black dog micro pub

The Micropub movement (micro-wave)

With the Butcher’s Arms, the micropub movement – what’s been called a “micro-wave” - was born, and before long micropubs were opening up around the country in tiny spaces – former taxi offices, railway station waiting rooms, old shops, hairdressing salons. To begin with, they were concentrated in Kent, but soon began to spread across the country. Last year the Financial Times reported that there were more than 100 micropubs across the UK; now, the Micropub and Microbrewery Association’s website lists 256. Mike McWilliam, the owner of the Black Dog, a micropub in Whitstable, Kent, told the FT last year: “It’s not rocket science — just take the good bits from existing pubs and remove the bad ones.”

What Are Micropubs?

Micropubs, then, are small, quirky and idiosyncratic (one in Margate, Kent, is called Ales of the Unexpected). An application to the local council for a “change of use” is normally required; in Chatham, Kent, an application has been made to open a micropub in premises in an arch beneath a railway viaduct. This would involve a change of use from its previous function as a public convenience. Another micropub in Nottingham is called Doctor’s Orders, as it operates from a room that used to be a pharmacy.

Doctors orders micro pub nottingham

The Rise of the Microbrewery

In parallel with the rise of the micropub, we have seen the rise of the microbrewery – small breweries that cannot compete with the giants in terms of quantity but which offer a much wider range of flavoursome ales brewed in small batches; these brews, sometimes called craft beers, are perfect for micropubs, which typically offer a changing selection of four or five cask-conditioned ales (many will allow customers to taste the beer before buying). You are unlikely to find a micropub that sells lager, which is regarded among the micropub fraternity as a fizzy and noxious brew, though many will serve proper cider and perhaps a small selection of wines.

black dog beers and ales on tap

Micropubs Tips – ‘Keep it Small, Keep it Simple’

In keeping with its origins, the original micropub, the Butcher’s Arms, is furnished with tables made from butchers’ blocks. This rudimentary aesthetic is typical of the aims of the movement, which are summarised in the motto: “Keep it small, keep it simple” (abbreviated to “KIS KIS”). So micropub owners will need to be careful about how they furnish their premises, if they are to stay true to the spirit of the movement; shiny chrome chairs and glass-topped tables are unlikely to go down well with real-ale drinkers in search of an authentically quirky micropub. So perhaps it would be best to stick to traditional pub furniture designs, and to mix them up, to create a properly “organic”, rough-and-ready feel. Comfort is important, but what’s crucial is that micropub furniture should be simple, functional, sturdy and unobtrusive: tables and chairs in good, honest materials such as solid wood and cast iron.

The rise of the micropub, then, offers a small glimmer of hope in an age of apparently remorseless pub closures. As pubs run by the big commercial corporate chains close down because they are unprofitable, perhaps micropubs will fill part of the gap left by their absence: these are real local pubs selling real local ales, places where conversation can flourish without the intrusion of blaring music or the clang of gaming machines.

Behind Every Micropub There is a Story Worth Telling

The rise of the micropub comes at a time when British consumers are seeking more authentic alternatives to the mass-produced offerings they find at supermarkets and in their identikit high streets: in everything from food to furniture, they are increasingly seeking the handmade, the original, the quirky: something with a story behind it. And behind every micropub there is doubtless a story worth telling - and someone who will be happy to tell it.

Related reading

Here’s a few of our related stories which we hope you will find interesting.

- Bar furniture buying guide; tips and advice

- How pubs can join in with English Tourism week

- Discover how bar furniture can turn the traditional pub into the third office

Written by David Cheal

A story has been going around for years about the furniture at McDonald’s restaurants. The theory is that the chairs at the fast food chain are designed to be uncomfortable so that diners do not linger, but move on and make space for more customers. It may be an urban myth, but there is no doubt that furniture is a vital part of any restaurant’s offering: if your customers are not sitting comfortably, they will not stay for long – or come back, for that matter. So unless you are a global fast-food chain or seeking a fast turnover of customers, comfortable furniture is surely the way to go. A glance through the restaurant reviews section of restaurants on the customer review site Trip Advisor shows that customers will not forget, or forgive, a restaurant with uncomfortable chairs, however good the food or service might be. 

And it’s not just a question of the chairs and tables at which diners eat (we’ll be coming to these shortly). If you have a bar area, it’s vital that it has comfy chairs (though not, as in Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch, used as a form of torture!). Now, it’s likely that space in your bar area will be limited, so it probably won’t be possible to scatter tub chairs, club chairs or leather sofas around like a gentlemen’s club. But perhaps a couple of snug armchairs or a small sofa could be placed in corners or up against walls, with low tables for drinks.

As for bar stools and tables: people's preferences tend to differ; some like the freedom provided by backless stools, whilst others enjoy the support that backrests can provide. A stool with a supportive backrest will improve comfort enormously, as will a padded or upholstered seat. Footrests help, too. Tables should be at a good height, and – this is crucial – they must not wobble. The same goes for stools: wobbly stools are likely to leave you with wobbly customers. 

In the restaurant area itself, as in the bar, there will inevitably be a trade-off between space and comfort. Chairs that are more comfortable generally take up more room. You might think it best to squeeze more diners in, but using fewer, larger, more comfortable chairs and larger tables could be seen as a long-term investment that yields loyal, returning customers. Diners will appreciate the space, and it will make it easier for anyone moving between tables to do so without fear of knocking someone’s drink over. It will also give diners more privacy. Again, it’s vital to avoid the “wobble” factor: floors should be even, tables stable.

The art of design always involves a trade-off between functionality and beauty. Some designers have almost totally ignored comfort to create chairs that are aesthetically amazing but almost unusable, as in the examples on this blog (The World’s 13 Most Uncomfortable Chair Designs), but mainstream furniture designers will see comfort as their chief priority.

The style of your chairs will of course depend on the surroundings. The theme in restaurant interiors, design and furniture these days is that... well, there is no theme. It’s fine to mix and match, placing old alongside new, classic alongside contemporary. The idea is to give a restaurant or a bar a homely, handmade atmosphere. 

But whatever style or theme you choose, comfort is key: arms and backrests are ideal; or chairs with a high, supportive back that enable diners to relax properly. Of course, for reasons of cleanliness and practicality it’s important that furniture can be cleaned properly and easily – but today’s synthetic fabrics can withstand all kinds of punishment. Sturdiness is important, too: diners need to feel that they are sitting on something solid – flimsy furniture can leave people feeling insecure.

Another key issue is noise. The trend these days is for restaurants to have hard surfaces: concrete or tiled floors, bare walls, bare tables, metal chairs, often a metal foodservice counter. These are surfaces that reflect sound so that it bounces around the room. The move towards open kitchens has made things even noisier. The result is a barrage of noise that can give diners a headache and make conversation difficult. Upholstery will help to absorb sound. Likewise, tablecloths will soak up some of the noise. A restaurant owner in Spain has even launched a movement which he has called “Eating Without Noise” to encourage a quieter, softer kind of dining.

There’s also something special about a pristine, pressed white linen tablecloth: it makes the occasion more of an event. A few years ago BBC2 ran a “reality” series, The Restaurant, featuring Raymond Blanc, which included a survey of public attitudes to eating out. Asked what they wanted on their tables, 82 per cent replied that they wanted a white linen tablecloth. (87 per cent also said that they preferred a “warm and inviting” interior to one that was “sparse and contemporary” or “bright and bold”.)

And then there are booths and banquettes. Customers love these, especially when dining in groups: they offer comfort, flexibility, intimacy and privacy. It’s almost like having your own private dining room. 

It also pays to be flexible. Among younger consumers especially, dining out is something that’s increasingly done spontaneously, in groups, and, because of irregular working hours, not always at set mealtimes. So restaurateurs should be prepared to accommodate groups of diners who might arrive, say, in the afternoon or early evening, and who will want to sit together. So your furniture should reflect this: it should be easy to rearrange tables and chairs to create a larger dining surface. You could even consider installing a large “communal” dining table: these are popular with groups of younger diners. They are also popular with younger customers who have no qualms about dining alone and are often happy to sit at a table with others and socialise. 

Finally, one vital issue to bear in mind is that your customers may be disabled or have problems with mobility. So it’s important to ensure that your furniture is flexible and moveable so that customers can reach their table with minimum disruption. It would be wise, too, to keep a supply of cushions on hand in case your customers need extra support or comfort.


It’s that time of year again, the sun comes out and everyone rushes outside for their annual British Summer BBQ. The trick is replicating this feeling through your restaurant to ensure you are the first port of call when the sun makes an appearance.

While not every space has the ability to work with open flames, you can still ensure your restaurant is the go-to location for those warmer days. Whether you have a small patio space or a vast outside dining area, there are many things you can do to optimise your space and keep diners coming back throughout those warm weather days.

Creating the perfect outdoor dining area

There can be many things that help encourage people to return, a survey undertaken by Upserve, highlighted that the top way to improve customer retention is to put service first for customers. This may seem like a given, but there is more to this than just smiling servers and great food. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is a big part of what makes delivering great service simple, and ensuring you have the right décor is just one of things that can contribute to this.

Your outside area is an extension of your restaurant, so cheap plastic tables and chairs may not portray the image you would like. Comfortable chairs, well dressed tables and warm lights are great ways to encourage customers to eat outside. Enhancing the natural environment which accompanies your restaurant is an ideal way to pull your surroundings together, whether beach-side or inner city, incorporating local aspects such as plants, lighting or colour makes all the difference when creating a fantastic atmosphere for your customers.

Ensuring there are separate areas for those wanting to get away from smokers is important, especially when food is involved. Make it clear which areas are ok to smoke, and which are ensures everyone is happy when getting outside.

Make the most of al fresco dining

Al fresco dining is becoming a bigger trend as the days get longer, encouraging customers to enjoy their food outside not only gives you additional space for covers, but increases the eating dynamic you are able to offer your guests. Many restaurants are located with outdoor areas that utilise their setting, whether gorgeous views or secluded sun traps these locations are ideal for outdoor eating. This being said, even the most unlikely settings can create the perfect outdoor eating area, potted plants and twinkling lights are great additions to make any space accommodating. The problem with al fresco dining is that many restaurants are offering more of the same thing; thinking out of the box and trying something new will always bode well with guests, and encourage them to come back time and time again.

There are many positives that go hand in hand with eating outside, aside from that feel-good factor! Happiness and concentration levels have been found to increase simply from being outside, as well as ensuring daily doses of Vitamin D have been reached. Making sure your diners are safe with shade for those with sensitive skins ensures you are catering for all audiences, as well as keeping a supply of sun cream close in case the sun really decides to appear!

Offer something light

Unhealthy eating is often associated with eating out, and this really doesn’t have to be the case. Having a variety of options on your menu, whether light bites, snacks or something similar, is a great way of encouraging people to get through the door, especially when the weather is great and a light bite is all that is needed. Having your menus easily accessible both online and outside your restaurant is a great way to encourage people in without forcing them inside. Offering nutritional values on food is also a great way to engage customers with your menu.

Keep it cosy

Getting cosy outside is now even easier than before with everyday items becoming more versatile for outdoor use. Outdoor decorations and lighting are now easy to source and can create stunning areas with minimal impact on running costs.

Warm blankets, cushions and heaters add warmth for those areas that get chilly as those summer days turn into the evening, ensuring that both inside and outdoor areas are available for the entire duration of the day opens up the space for more guests, as well as appealing to a wider audience when they are thinking of places to visit.

Keeping inside areas cool and welcoming offers the perfect combination for those wanting to get out of the heat as well as those wanting to soak up the sun; by giving your customers options you are keeping them in control.

Try something new

Maybe your restaurant is fairly small or you are located in close vicinity to a park or open space, thinking of out of the box ideas are a great way to still get your food out there, even if space isn’t an endless luxury you have access too. Ideas such as picnics or take-out afternoon tea, created in house with the option of taking away from your restaurant, is a great way to share your food, without putting limitations on dining options for those hot days. This takes away the stress from diners and ensures you are optimising your restaurant to its full potential.

This summer it’s Euro 2016, by the end of August it will be the return of the Premier League. Soon after that the Champions League will be back. If you have a bar or clubhouse that regularly screens football matches, there are plenty of reasons why fans might be paying you a visit to enjoy a football match on a big screen or meeting up with with other fans for the atmosphere – and the draught beer.

Since Sky started broadcasting live football regularly in the UK in 1992, many bar owners have appreciated the extra custom that televised matches bring on a quiet Tuesday evening in November or a wet Wednesday in March.

Over the years the reputation of football fans as being mindless thugs has long gone. And whilst there may be the odd incident at grounds, most football supporters are well behaved and – aside from visiting your establishment to enjoy the football match and your comfortable bar furniture – there is no reason that they won’t return for other reasons. Perhaps they will come back with friends or family. Here are five tips for turning football fans into loyal customers.

Show the future 

Decide which matches you are going to screen and make it easy for people to find out that you are screening them. Chalk up in the bar area fixtures over the next few weeks and their start times. Advertise the matches outside your front door. Add the matches to your website and Facebook page. In short, if somebody has come in to watch one match, make it easy for them to come back again by giving them clear information on what other matches you are screening and when.

Return visit

During the Euros, offer an incentive to watch the next match. One bar I know of has been offering vouchers to customers watching England play for a free burger at a BBQ before the next England match. Cost of a burger? Just a few pence. But getting returning customers to watch each match at the pub is worth a lot.

Not just football

Promote other types of activity in your bar. Do you feature live music? Sunday Carvery? Breakfast service? Advertise around the bar or in the toilets the other types of entertainment that you put on for customers. As soon as people walk through your door, you should be educating customers about what else you offer as well as screening football matches.

Loyalty cards

There are many different types of loyalty cards available – from simple slips of card that can be stamped, to credit card style electronic systems. Whatever card or discount you offer, make sure you capture data from the customer.

An email address is probably the most important but if you can get hold of a birthday that is useful as well (to offer people a free drink around their birthday). Armed with an email address you can stay in touch with future relevant events, new opening hours, Christmas menus – you name it, you can contact people who have signed up to your loyalty card.

Pub passport

Want to encourage customers to try out a range of drinks and foods over time? Why not create a pub passport?

For every country in the Euros, you can list a drink or food item for people to try. This could be anything from Carling Black Label (UK) Kortenberg (France) to Roast Turkey crisps (Turkey). They get a stamp for each country they ‘visit’ and if they complete the set they can get a voucher to be spent within a specified period of time at your bar.

You could even throw in a competition prize such as a weekend trip to Dublin (to visit the Guinness brewery) or something equally exciting as an overall prize. This encourages visits at non-football screening times as well as during matches. This will plant the idea of visiting at times that have nothing to do with football.

But this doesn’t have to be restricted to the Euros. It can equally work for the World Cup in 2018, the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup. It can work for any large scale sporting event with an international component that you want to encourage returning visitors.

Of course the main way that you will encourage returning visitors is to provide a pub, restaurant, bar or clubhouse that people will want to return to! By making people welcome, providing comfortable and attractive seating and tables, good quality food and a well-stocked bar, people will look to return.

But remember, you want to encourage people to come back a few times in a short period of time and they will develop a habit of choosing your venue over other places. Once people find themselves sitting comfortably, looking round and thinking ‘I like this place’ then you have every chance that they may become a loyal customer.

Trent Furniture offer a wide range of pub and bar furniture that helps to make your customers comfortable and want to stay longer in your company.

Euro 2016 is now well under way, it’s the topic on everyone’s lips and it’s taking the nation by storm. For businesses it’s also a chance to attract customers and maximise profits.  However, it seems that many aren’t doing enough to turn the Euro into pounds for their business.

A Mintel pub visiting report in 2015 found that 50 per cent of people chose to watch sports away from home, and we’re sure that this number will rise as casual fans catch football fever as the tournament progresses.

Just a few small tweaks can make your venue the go-to place for the next month and beyond. We’ve put together some simple ideas that your venue can implement to get fans through your doors.

Run with the theme

Have some fun with your food menu and run some new interesting dishes that play on the football theme. Take inspiration from the nation’s food; each dish can pay homage to a country’s cuisine. You could have a Welsh Bale burger (made with lamb, of course), Portuguese piri-piri chicken or a German Muller hot dog (Bratwurst sausages).

As for drinks, bring in speciality beers and ales from the competing countries. Perhaps have a discount on the team’s drink who are playing at the time.

Cater for groups

Fans are most likely to be coming to watch the football with groups of friends and family – these should be identified as your main target market. Make sure your space is right for those watching the match in groups.

Drink pitchers and food sharing platters are a great attraction for those watching in groups - finger food is the best option for food during the game. Promoting ‘VIP packages’ including reserved booths, increases the likelihood of pre-bookings, making sure you know how many people to expect per game.

Post and pre-match entertainment

Extending the activities further than the 90 minute football match is a great way of maximising customers’ time spent in your establishment. Post-match celebrations will definitely be in order should one of the nations win!

If you have a garden, use it to your advantage by providing free activities with something for all ages. To keep visitors even after the full-time whistle is blown, offer social engagement. Having games machines / pool / foosball tables caters for groups whilst providing out-of-game entertainment.

Zone the football

Throughout the championships it is important not to alienate your regular customers who aren’t interested in the football. Offer divided areas for those who want to enjoy a family meal or catch-up drinks with friends.

As an incentive for your faithful year-round customers to join you throughout the football, offer double points on loyalty cards or special deals.

Trent Furniture has supplied furniture to a number of establishments that have revamped their interiors in the run up to the Euros. To find out how we can help you, call 0116 2988 970.

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