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There was a time when customers seeking out a really good Bar or Restaurant went in search of one they had heard about where they worked, or outside of their immediate locality.

Not anymore!

Our evidence is telling us that consumer behaviours – changing all the time in response to external factors – now seek out really good pubs, bars or restaurants within their own locality, especially if they offer a range of services including food and drink. This is making life difficult for brands reliant mostly on alcohol sales to compete with those offering much more in a venue close to the customer’s home. Only recently Wetherspoons warned of losses as beer sales fall. In contrast, we are seeing smaller venues winning over customers to their offering simply by supporting their local community and giving customers what they want most.

So what can you do to capitalize on these changes in consumer behaviour?

First and foremost you need a plan. This is much easier than it sounds. With a plan you can put in place simple but effective changes to ensure that your venue is attracting (and keeping) loyal customers. Your plan will ensure that you are focused on your locality – aiming to attract people working from home, as well as those for whom time is a more leisurely concept.

Here are some tips for you.

How do you reach your target audience? Social media plays an important role – but so does the old-fashioned telephone call for many!

How good is your social media profile? Have you ever had honest, anonymous feedback?

Does your online presence encourage upselling of products? Do you respond to any enquiries quickly and with knowledge and warmth?

Are your staff – Manager, Front of House and Waiting – trained to the highest level possible?

Do you respond quickly to comments left by your customers? They are mostly local, and word of mouth will either make or damage your reputation!

Are you offering what local people really want? I’m sure you think so. But do you know?

There are many examples of venues (and brands) making healthy profits from venues which have tackled these sorts of issues meaningfully and with consistency. Take Loungers for example. Their pace of expansion is phenomenal. It’s café-bar group has just opened its 200th venue and has expanded its roll-out plans to 30 sites a year, up from 25. They are benefiting from changes in consumer behaviour, with more people staying and working local, as well as demanding exceptional service with professionalism and a smile!