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Quality food & employment issues top Star licensee 2020 poll

Offering quality food is the biggest opportunity for pubs in 2020, followed by attracting millennials, according to a survey of 500 licensees who attended Star Pubs & Bar’s nine regional forums this autumn.

More than one-third of those surveyed said better food was the key to growth, whilst a fifth opted for more millennial customers.

When considering food, backing British products was identified as the most important trend by 37% of forum attendees. Healthy eating and a sustainable approach to menus ranked joint second, with one in five of the surveyed licensees highlighting each as the standout food trends for the year ahead.

Unchanged from last year’s Star forum poll, employment issues emerged as the number one problem facing the pub sector in 2020: 58% of attendees put it at the top of their list of concerns. One-third said staff recruitment and retention were their main headaches, whilst 25% (up from 17% in 2018) pinpointed rising staff costs.

Despite a year of political and economic uncertainty, 83% of licensees were positive about trade in their pubs. 43% described themselves as “satisfied” and trade as “fair”, whilst 40% reported that 2019 had been a “very good year” and that business had increased.

Star’s regional forums are held in cities around the country and aim to help attendees grow their sales by sharing the latest industry trends, market insight and best practice. Voting results on key issues are collated to give an up-to-date national perspective on licensees’ top concerns and priorities.

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Star Pubs & Bars, said, “The forums give licensees the chance to get out of their businesses and meet up with others in the industry. Listening to our licensees’ views and experiences is a central part of our forums, and we’ll be adapting the support we provide in line with their feedback.”

Ushma Vithlani, of The Apple Tree, Haslemere, attended Star’s London forum, and said, “It was a really valuable event and full of energy. I’ve come away with lots of information on future trends.

'The main one for me was food, as I’m planning to launch a new menu. Thanks to the day, I’ve got some clear pointers on the approach to take, including the best ways to source produce locally. The event was packed, so it was also a fantastic chance to talk to other licensees and hear what they’re doing.”