Meal deals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, or even their plate of fish and chips, but meal deals look set to play an important role for pubs next year.
As part of Inapub’s All We Want campaign to boost business in those quiet months after Christmas we conducted a YouGov poll to find out what would encourage people back to their local.
And of the 2,000 surveyed, more than half (58 per cent) said a meal deal would give them the nudge they need. The stats are even higher for women, with 63 per cent saying they would be interested in meal deals.
Getting a chunk of the female pound has always been important for pubs because women often control family budgets and, also, where women go out, men tend to follow.
However, utter the phrase ‘meal deals’ in polite company and you can be met by scrunched up looks of disapproval by pub purists who associate such offers with the lower-end of the market.
 But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Meals can of course be two-for-ones or discount vouchers but there are plenty of other innovative ways of providing a value offer.
One of my recent favourites is a ‘777’ deal, where customers can choose from seven options for £7 before 7pm. It works as a way of getting people in at quieter times of the day and keeps the menus fairly straightforward for chefs.
Some licensees who run these kind of offers go for the exact same meal served to diners later in the evening while others might protect margins by providing slightly smaller portions.
Bounceback deals are another good way of persuading punters back. Now is the perfect time to do this by giving people who book for Christmas parties a discount return package in the New Year.
Others can look to extend the party-booking season into January for those workforces that want to go out as a team but may prefer a better value offer in the New Year.
Value, or perceived value is still the key here. People do not want to stop going out but they do want to feel they are getting a good deal on something that can’t easily be replicated at home.
This could be where more findings from the research come in handy. Live music and live sport will also entice people in January and February.
Perhaps events combined with food offers can do the trick. Bands and bangers, football with half-time snacks or final whistle meals might just keep people coming back. Though I am sure the great, creative pub operators out there will come up with more original ideas than this.
How will you be generating custom at this time of year? We would love to write about your ideas as part of the campaign to help the trade as a whole.
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Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley