The pictures of football fans rejoicing at Croydon's Boxpark during the World Cup were wonderful – but also a stark warning to the pub trade.
I was inspired to write this blog by an opinion piece in the Spectator where the author watched England games at home, at the pub...and at a Japanese food hall in Shepherd's Bush.
This is a typical negative thinkpiece you see in national newspapers and periodicals on pubs. But I also think it is broadly true of the Millennial experience – and closely mirrors my own World Cup watching.
I tried to watch as many games in the pub as possible, but inevitably a couple of matches were viewed at home and in a public space with foodie options. Why? Because they worked well as a compromise for all my friends.
Alongside Croydon's Boxpark were other food and drinking spaces such as Millennium Square in Leeds, the Great Northern Square in Manchester, and across London at venues such as Flat Iron Square in Southwark and Pergola in Paddington, where you can pick up a range of food and booze and watch the footie.
The sheer range of places you could watch the football meant choice – surely the byword for Millennial hospitality – was king. And the reality is that food halls work incredibly well with a younger demographic. You can go with your teetotal mates, your vegan or veggie mates, and your boozed up kebab eating mates.
Also the screens are huge.
I was disappointed to find in a couple of pubs I visited the same small wall mounted tellies they usually have around the bar area, and the licensees hadn't invested in big screens or projectors. I wondered if this was due to previous European Championships and World Cups where England's failure has made publicans reticent about big ticket tech purchases?
If so, this a dangerous play and pubs must now rise to the challenge alongside (hopefully) a resurgent England team and punters interest in national footy. Build it, and they will come, to quote Wayne's World.
Why not get in some additional street food vendors, pop up cash bars, and new entertainment kit for the Euros in 2020? After all it is less than two years away, and if you are looking to really cash in, you should be looking to invest in 2019. I know, England have to qualify first...
Also, think about the conviviality of a pub compared to a food hall, and market this fact. While munching down on street food on benches is good for maybe one or two hours, if you are looking to settle down for an evening chatting with friends in a comfortable space, nothing beats the pub. And if you prefer your food on a plate with a knife and fork rather than (normally at a similar price point) out of a polystyrene box, the pub is your saviour.
Maybe a cheeky flyer or note on the A-board inviting people to avoid cramped benches, windy halls, and cold shipping containers could do the trick...