The online dating industry is worth an estimated £2bn, with more people than ever slumped behind a computer searching for the love of their life. But where's the fun in that?

What about good old-fashioned chat and merriment down the local? It's time to prize these people away from their iMacs and in through your doors.

Tapping into the romance market is about more than just doubling the number of red balloons you install come Valentine's Day. It's about actively assessing the market and what others are doing — then locking horns.

Start small with special menu deals for couples and anniversaries, then get braver with speed dating and singles nights as the cash starts to come in. Music licence permitting, you could also try romantic live music, salsa and other music events.

And it won't be in vain. According to a 2014 survey by Greene King, more couples meet down the pub than anywhere else.

The research revealed 26 per cent of couples met in a pub, bar or club, with just 12 per cent meeting online. A further 10 per cent met at an event.

The research also showed that 51 per cent of us have dated someone we met in a pub, bar or club, and 69 per cent had a serious relationship with that person, with 36 per cent of those relationships resulting in marriage.

According a Greene King spokesman: "There is a lot to be said for dating down the pub, with so many people meeting their significant other in that way.

"Pubs can be comfortable, welcoming and friendly, ideal for meeting other like-minded people."

Pub partners

Happily married couple Zoe and Keith Thomas, who met at a Lloyds No. 1 in Hornchurch, Essex, prove the pub can be a breeding ground for romance. Zoe says: "I think pubs are a great way to meet people because the drinks are flowing and it doesn't feel "set up" like going on a formal date such as a meal.

"We met down the pub on a typical Saturday night and here we are 11 years on — marriage, mortgage, kids and pets!"

Temba and Joanne Ndlovu, another loved-up married couple who met down the pub — this time The Original Oak in Headingley, Leeds — also feel it is the ideal setting for love to blossom.

Jo said: "We met in a group and all started chatting. We later went for our first date, also in a pub, and within six weeks were living together!
"It's great because it's a chatty, relaxed environment which gives you more confidence.

"We go to all sorts of pubs on a regular basis and appreciate meal deals, drink promotions and happy hours where we can enjoy time as a couple over a bottle of wine without the kids running around. They keep us coming back."

One pub group cashing is The Slug and Lettuce, which has put on a Wine Tasting and Speed Dating night through the company You can get in touch with a company like Thirties Speed Dating for advice on doing something similar.

Or if you want to go a bit upmarket, why not host a dinner party with a difference? The Mall Tavern in London's Notting Hill hosts single diners in the kitchen, taking the pressure away from chemistry and focusing on the food.
Or you could try a variation with a cocktail lesson, beer tasting event or relaxed cookery lesson.

Or how about a comedy and quiz night for singles, or a book club where you can entice your punters to bond over shared interests?

Tom Doye, 62, met his wife Sharon at his local pub in 1972 and says pubs have always been the best way to meet people. "The great thing is that there are loads of people and you can really get to know what someone is like," he says.

"Even though that was many years ago I would still prefer it to looking at someone's face on a computer screen. What does that tell you about a person? In the pub people are being themselves."

So cash in. Who knows, next time that couple enter your pub it might be to enquire about a wedding.