The World Cup kicks off on Friday 11 June and with it comes the potential to cash in on the excitement. Andrew Pring talks to pub, hotel and bar operators about how they're planning to generate extra business during the tournament and offers plenty of tips to make sure the party goes with a bang, whatever the outcome of the matches.
As if you didn't know, the 19th World Cup kicks off in South Africa in a fortnight's time. For the nation's millions of football fans, and even those who only know of Ashley Cole through Heat magazine, it's going to be massive. Normal life will take a back seat while the 64 games are fought out from Friday 11 June through to the final on Sunday 11 July.
If it's sure to be tight on the field, it's a different matter in the World Cup hospitality stakes. The contest between hotels, restaurants and pubs for who makes the most money off the back of the World Cup will definitely not be going to penalties. The universal view is that pubs and bars, with all their tribal, bellowing excitement, provide the natural home for most supporters to watch their team's progress.
In anticipation of football fever, pubs are gearing up for a beer bonanza. And as the tournament will be shown on terrestrial TV, unlike the Premier League, non-Sky pubs are also looking to cash in on the tournament.
Across the trade, pub chains and individual licensees are investing millions in new plasma screens (many with 3D, though this will still be a 2D World Cup). The 39-strong Aussie-themed Walkabout bar chain, for example, has bought £400,000 worth of new TVs - each site has 20 to 30 screens. JD Wetherspoon's 700+ outlets will be making much more of the World Cup opportunity than the last time in 2006, when they tentatively first introduced TVs to their pubs. And many licensees are creating excitement by erecting marquees in the garden and raffling fun attractions like "the director's chair," the best viewing seat in the house, with waiter service throughout the game.
Brewers are confident of selling an extra £125m of beer in the month of football - 50 million pints - and they and pub operators have been planning their World Cup campaigns with Capello-like precision. Given the dire times both have experienced in recent years, the tournament represents an open goal they can't afford to miss. Being picky, they'd have preferred the big games to be at 5pm during the currently dormant mid-week periods - that would have been truly incremental business - rather than on the busier nights of Friday and Saturday when England's fixtures are scheduled for 7.30pm. But as weekend drinkers come out far later than they used to, getting them in "early doors" for the games is clearly a good thing.
George Wright, head of marketing at the 220-strong Town and City Pub Company, says its 66 Yates's pubs will be pushing a package of more than 20 different football-linked drinks and meal offers. They include chilli con carne for £1.99 and a pint of Fosters or John Smith for £1 during two England games. As a nice touch, they'll be offering a "de-brief" breakfast plus a Red Bull for £5 on the Saturday morning following the previous night's England v Algeria game.
Some pubs are chasing the corporate pound rather than the conventional football crowd. Browns, part of the Mitchells and Butlers group, is offering private viewing packages (£19.95 to £40 per person) in its splendid Covent Garden Courtrooms in London. Fullers is doing good trade already with the business crowd, hiring out whole City pubs for private football parties for Saturday games, when they would otherwise be closed.
Some hotels (even the Dorchester) and many restaurants will nevertheless still be scrapping for their slimmer share of the £2b estimated boost that the World Cup could give our economy. But they know it's not a level playing field, and most restaurants are facing up to the fact that it's going to be a tough four weeks - made even tougher if England live up to the bookies' expectations and reach the semi-finals or even the final.
"It'll certainly have a negative impact on the restaurant trade," says analyst Mark Brumby of Langton Capital, "and I'd put it at somewhere between ‘annoying' and ‘material'. From the restaurants' point of view, the sooner we exit the tournament, the better."
Vikki O'Neill, marketing and branding manager at 36-strong family restaurant group Giraffe, says: "I think most restaurants are facing up to the fact it's going to be a tough month. We have an outside area at our Spinningfields site in Manchester and we'll be showing all the England games, with a mobile bar outside and taking food out. But for the other sites, we're hoping viewers get hungry and pop in after the games."
Graham Turner, chief executive of Tragus, the UK's largest independent restaurant group with 282 sites and brands such as Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Strada, agrees restaurants will take a hit. "We're budgeting for a drop in trade while it's on," he explains. "The pubs are going to be the places that benefit. TV screens in restaurants are not good for customers - they're a distraction, and it's not the right environment for those that want to watch the game, so you end up with the worst of both worlds."
A RELAXED APPROACH
Rival chain La Tasca takes a more bullish view. Thirty-three of its 60 sites will be showing the football, targeting the "Continental football viewer" to drop in and watch games on a screen in a back bar, sitting on bar stools while enjoying a World Cup bar tapas menu (croquettes, bread and olives, calamari and chicken wings) or sharing a Champions' Platter. For £10, they can buy four bottles of San Miguel.
Wagamama, the 100-outlet noodle bar chain, also believes it can get some value out of the tournament. It's still finalising details of the football-related activities it has planned, but it will have a tie-up with STA Travel throughout June and July to offer travel prizes and deals. It will also be hosting a football-themed game on its website. And no doubt its new iPhone ordering app will play a part in proceedings.
However, for many restaurants - and even some more food-oriented pubs - the big opportunity lies in presenting themselves as World-Cup-free zones. At the other half of its chain, in the 27 sites not showing the football, La Tasca will be encouraging customers to take a break from the festival frenzy. Tragus is also presenting itself as "the place to escape," particularly for football widows. Hall & Woodhouse's pub the White Hart in Bishops Caundle, Dorset is having regular "natter and chatter" evenings for women who want to escape from the footie. And the Geronimo pub group, while making sure its regulars can watch all the games, is running a Champagne and rosé festival for women.
Thistle Hotels is another that recognises not everyone is football crazy. Thirty-three hotels will be red-carding any football talk in their Otium Health and Leisure Clubs. Heiko Figge, managing director for Guoman and Thistle, says: "Guests wanting to escape the football can look forward to a warm welcome in our spas." Special 90-minute spa and leisure passes will entitle guests to make full use of the swimming pool, hot spa bath, gym, aerobics studio and sauna and steam rooms.
Wadworth, the family brewer located in Devizes, is also pursuing a "cherchez la femme" policy at many of its 250-odd pubs. It has split its estate into Football Havens - pubs that won't be showing the football - and Football Heavens, which will. How they will divide into these camps is being left to individual pubs to decide, but at the Havens, Wadworth will be running a South African wine competition with 50 mixed cases up for grabs.
The food-driven Peach Pub Company - which ignored the last World Cup and lost 10% of its sales - is not making the same mistake this time. It has private dining rooms with screens in eight of its 13 outlets and is inviting local companies or groups of friends to dine there before watching the game, with waiter service and buckets of beer for £25-£40 a head. It also intends to stage World Cup barbecues in the pubs with gardens.
And for the pubs without private dining facilities, Peach will be marketing the venues as football-free. The only concession to the tournament will be waiters holding up football score-cards, boxing-ring style, as they walk round the pub.
Hotels are the rank outsiders in the Hospitality World Cup but QHotels is determined to give it a go (see above) and the Dorchester is offering private party packages to watch a game at £135 per head. The Grove at Watford, where the England football team often stays, is more low-key, suggesting a round of golf followed by the football to residents and non-residents.
The Salford Quays Ramada at Manchester will be promoting a range of food and beverage offers (including team-themed pizzas) to hold on to its mainly corporate guests after they've concluded their business. It will be offering half-day conference packages with a World Cup game tagged on afterwards - for £25 per head, guests can enjoy wine, beer and a buffet through the game. General manager Paul Gallon says they considered hosting Sex and the City screenings alongside the games to attract women but the move was vetoed by his female staff, who wanted to watch the football.
If England really can live up to their pre-tournament billing, the feel-good factor comes in to play and the nation's spirits rise, that could deliver the boost our ailing economy so badly needs. And a final graced by England is a game that millions would want to watch…
YOUNG'S LOOKS SET TO SCORE WITH TECHNOLOGY
If your image of Young's is of a sleepy old family brewer, think again. Not only is it no longer a brewer, it's also a very switched-on modern retailer (with 123 managed pubs and 99 tenancies) making full use of technology.
Its World Cup website shows all managed pubs screening the games, plus the facilities they have to offer (indoor or outdoor screens, bar snacks, pre-match meals, table reservations, etc). It details the games that individual pubs are showing and allows customers to book directly with the pub. There's also an application that allows football fans to download all fixtures onto an Outlook calendar.
Jayne Nelson, Young's marketing manager, says it's important not to alienate existing customers when the football starts.
"The World Cup attracts a lot of viewers who would not normally watch football - which is why we're showing all of the games in most of our pubs. But we don't want to turn ourselves into sports bars for the summer. We want our customers to be able to enjoy the games in comfort, with good food and table service. But we'll be careful that football doesn't dominate the pub so there'll be separate areas and dining rooms for those who don't want to watch."
QHOTELS PLANS ITS WORLD CUP CAMPAIGN
"We've been planning our campaign for months - and we're confident we can attract both our resident guests and other customers," says Paul Baylis, resident manager at the Midland Hotel, Manchester. He is also in charge of QHotels' World Cup marketing programme across the group's 20 English hotels and its sole Scottish venue (which, for understandable patriotic reasons, may be less behind Baylis's plans than its sister properties).
"We're aiming at the corporate market, and anyone else who wants to watch the football with us. And we're also promoting a non-World Cup offer, where people can use the spa and leisure facilities if they don't watch the game," Baylis explains. "We already have a number of corporate events booked around that period, and we're saying to them: ‘Why don't you stay on for the game afterwards?'.
"We've created a World Cup offer: a platter of 10 dishes, themed to various countries, and beers, for £9.95. And we've done a deal with Bibendum for four World Cup-themed wines."
QHotels is also talking with Molson Coors about creating a 10%-off beer promotion, which it hopes will draw in the outside crowd, and has struck a free-drink-for-drivers deal with Coca-Cola.
"People love an offer. We're confident both these will attract people in," says Baylis.
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ENGLAND
In 2002, when the World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea, the town of New Malden in Surrey, which is home to thousands of Koreans, went wild. Local bars and restaurants did special promotions, with some offering bigger discounts the further South Korea progressed in the tournament. When they made it through to the semi-finals, the town erupted as a good-natured crowd of thousands sang and danced in the streets - and, of course, ate and drank in the local venues.
Most places are unlikely to experience the same level of excitement, but to attract business for the non-England matches, it's important to make other fans feel welcome, particularly if you have ethnic communities nearby. The simplest ways of doing this are:
â- Use international bunting instead of just England flags, or get your staff to wear international shirts or team colours.
â- Have a selection of international beers, wines and food at the ready and run a promotion for each match - for example, serve tapas and Spanish wine during Spain's games.
10 WAYS TO TEMPT THE WORLD CUP CROWD
1 Football fans love their beer, so persuade your beer supplier to help you offer a cut-price deal. Fans also get hungry so do something similar with your food supplier and have lots of easy-to-hold snacks and bites available throughout the games.
2 Offer special "Best seat in the house" deals to customers, complete with waiter service throughout the game. You can auction these for charity if you like - you may lose the cash but you'll draw in lots more business if you promote them correctly.
3 Make sure they know you'll be showing the games. Plenty of outside signage, including flags if they're consistent with your image, is essential if you're to attract the footie crowd. Most serious football fans will have a regular viewing venue - it'll be harder to persuade them to switch to your place. So catch the less committed fans by letting them know they can have a great time with you.
4 To make sure they do, build up the atmosphere in advance at your venue with flags and banners, music, staff in England shirts - and don't wait until the afternoon of the big game to set it up… it must all be planned weeks in advance.
5 As part of your marketing promotion, do boast about the size of your plasma screen/s. It inspires confidence in fans.
6 Get the buy-in of all your staff and enlist them to promote the World Cup and what your venue is doing. Receptionists should be asking all customers to watch with you.
7 If you can't put on a World Cup show, you can still offer customers a post-match drink and meal plus a chance to discuss the game in calmer surroundings.
8 Business people love the chance to meet their peers at sporting events. Target professionals in your area and offer them an opportunity to entertain clients while watching the game.
9 Hire a football celebrity to host your World Cup event. It doesn't have to be a big name - even an old pro can add something to the occasion.
10 Run a competition. It'll be hard, and expensive, to offer South Africa tickets as a prize, but a day out at the first game of the next Premier League season would interest many people.
THE WORLD CUP 2010 ON TABLE TALK
We are looking for some of your best photos that showcase what your operation is doing during the World Cup. All you need to do is upload your photo(s) to a dedicated gallery on Table Talk (www.caterersearch.com/worldcup).
To get the ball rolling, Orchid pubs are signing up for Project Fair Play - a football-themed charity campaign. Initiatives include a "shirt amnesty" where each pub is asking locals to donate unwanted kit, which will be taken over to townships in Johannesburg as well as disadvantaged youngsters in Cape Town in time for the World Cup.
So if you are up to anything fun and exciting connected with the tournament, share your photos at www.caterersearch.com/worldcup