When Is ‘Special Entertainment’ or a ‘Special Event’ Right For Your Pub?

All evidence suggests that rather than “We always go down the pub”, people now say “We go down the pub – if there’s a reason to do so”. The days of the 7-night-a-week pub-goers are well behind us. Instead, they prefer to say at home – because “Staying in is the new going out”.

Why? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Most of us have decent homes to stay and relax in (more often than not – nicer than the pub)
  • An infinite choice of on-demand films, sport and great programmes on your own 80-inch TV – 24 hours a day
  • Stacked fridges for fine-dining
  • Warm central heating in the winter
  • Low-cost fine wines and gin from Tesco (and other places)
  • Friends galore who want to visit
  • Skype – to see and speak to friends & family anywhere in the world
  • The internet – to do some home shopping
  • Facebook – to see what your mates are doing
  • YouTube – to watch just about anything ever documented
  • Spotify – to listen ‘free’ to any song or piece of music just about ever produced
  • Google – to establish the facts about anything ever discovered by mankind
  • A well manicured garden to sit in during those warm summer evenings

Come to think of it, why does anyone ever want to go down the pub these days?

Well, lots of reasons; here are just a few:

  • To socialise
  • Eat effortlessly – by not cooking and washing up at home
  • Celebrate a birthday or special day
  • Meet new people
  • Entertain mates
  • Play darts (or any of the other variety of pub activities that go on weekly, like the ubiquitous pub quiz)
  • Watch sport in a great atmosphere
  • Listen to music
  • Have a meeting
  • Just go out for a drink

… and of course, be entertained

So, if pub-going is more of an event rather than a habit these days, it follows that a special event needs to be laid on occasionally. However, these normally cost money. And this is where so many licencees get it wrong. Often you will hear the old adage, “We laid on a special do, and takings went through the roof … we took much more than our usual Friday night take”. But what so many fail to realise is that they probably halved their Friday night profit!!

Challenge yourself with this question; You lay on a disco and free snacks for your customers on a Friday night, as a special event at a cost of £300 (ex VAT), your GP is 50%. How much extra do you need to take on the night – just to break even?

At first glance most Licencees say, “As long as I take an extra £300, I reckon that will do it”. Wrong, wrong, wrong!!

If you were a “£300 will do it” answerer, and therefore got it wrong; try this equation:
Total cost of laying on the event divided by (GP% x 100) = Break even
So in the example above: £300 (divide by 50% x 100) = £600

So you have to take an EXTRA £600 just to break even. To make any real money, and to make it all worthwhile, you need to take an extra £900 just to make £150!! All ex VAT !!

Is it worth it?

This is where your judgement comes in – and a bit of market research would not go amiss. If you’re considering laying on any type of special event or hosting and entertainment event you should first ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Will more customers turn up for it?
  • How will you tell them it is on?
  • Is there anything happening elsewhere or on the TV that might keep them at home?
  • Should you put a small charge on to reduce a loss risk?
  • Do you need extra staff and have you accounted for this
  • Is it weather dependant?
  • What happened the last time you laid on such an event?
  • Can you talk to other licencees who have done such a thing, and how did they get on?
  • Should you go on an Inn-Dispensable course and learn in more depth about laying on special events?
  • What happens if it leaks onto social media and you get inundated?
  • Does your Premises Licence cover you for music and dancing, or do you need a Temporary Event Licence
  • Do you need some one on the door?

…and probably a lot more questions

You may of course decide that “It’s good for my business – just as a thank-you to my customers”. Well, that’s fine, but beware of being a BUSY FOOL. Customers will go on taking your hospitality until the cows come home. But you are running a business – not a charity!