It is that time of the year again where a new batch of students descend on the nation's university towns and cities. The first few weeks should be all about getting settled in to study and comfortable in a new town, but it’s no secret that many students use it as an excuse to enjoy the local On-Trade. It’s an important date on the calendar for bars and clubs and an exciting time for fresh-faced undergraduates.
Freshers’ week presents local bars and pubs a significant opportunity to kick-start the vital September-December sales period. Capturing the trade of the latest batch of students in the first few weeks can lead to return visits throughout the academic year. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at some the ways that your venue can become the go-to place for students.
With so many younger consumers using social media to share their On-Trade experiences, and discover new places to visit, the future needs to be 'instagrammable'. Think about dishes and drinks which are 'shareable' and not in the old-fashioned sense. If you haven’t already, make sure you have a Facebook for business account and take advantage of its easy advertising tools. For example, you can easily target based on age and location to find your target audience.
Some studies have shown that as many of 85% of Millennials search for somewhere to go while on the move. Make sure you have a mobile optimised, SEO enriched website and that your business has been added to the Google My Business listings and Google Maps. Find out more about our web solutions here.
Stock some low/no options
Make sure you have options to suit all needs, it’s been quite widely reported that the current generation of younger consumers is drinking less. 40% of UK consumers now make a conscious effort to go without alcohol for long periods of time. Perhaps, as a result, more and more high-quality products are entering the adult soft drinks and low/no alcohol arenas. With interest in world and craft beers highest amongst younger consumers, look at adding a craft low/no beer, such as Brewdog Nanny State, to your range. Take a look inside our latest Premium Soft Drinks brochure for all the insight and products you need to fine-tune your soft drinks range.
Introduce a loyalty scheme
You could put together a discount card scheme to keep students coming back. Students love a discount, that isn’t news! These can either be items bought by guests to unlock benefits or given out for free, perhaps at the Fresher’s Fair? You can collect information in return for the discount if you desire, maybe to populate your email marketing list or creating a social media advertising targeting group. It's worth bearing in mind the effect a discount card has on your margins, make sure you’ve balanced the benefit of the return visits against the lost revenue.
As we explored in The Festival Opportunity ebook, millennials are spending £3,750 a year on going-out, with much of it being spent on what has been dubbed, the experience economy. For these consumers, variety is indeed the spice of life – with regular nights in the local being swapped for live music, sporting events, exhibitions, escape rooms, crazy golf, and cultural experiences.
Live music is particularly appealing to a younger crowd with DJs and ‘open-mic’ nights particular favourites. Whatever events you throw, the aim should be to secure your place as a regular favourite with your new guests. Events help the trade tap into the desires of consumers to try something new while keeping the experience of the On-Trade fresh and relevant.
Great promotions are an effective way of driving footfall into your venue. These do not need to be on drinks, you should avoid the promotion of irresponsible drinking and avoid becoming known as a discount student place; these tags can turn away other trade. Instead, you can look at developing food and drink packaged promotions, such as a ‘beer and burger’ for a set price. Or better yet, with groups spending more per head than is typical, create deals that are suitable for groups of friends and university societies, maybe ‘pizzas and pitchers’?
Be a space for study
If you’re located close to a University or the local student residential areas, how about attracting the studious crowd. Instead of students heading to the library or a coffee shop to get some work done, open your doors! To promote to this crowd, focus on free WiFi, a good cup of coffee and some lunchtime meal deals. It’s a good idea to create a quiet zone if you’re able. Use interior and exterior, chalkboards and posters to display your offer to passing students.
Students are crazy for a freebie, so much so that it doesn’t really matter what it is! You could go big and offer a free drink to new students, or simply have hats, keychains, or even sharpers and pencils to give away. There are a wealth of companies offering to put your logo on something and doing so can make sense. Giving away some branded freebies means that your logo, and the thought of a crisp pint, will be laying around dorm rooms all academic year.
Fun and games
Add to your offer by providing some games and attractions. It’s all about providing a range of reasons for students to stop by. Think about pool or darts nights and leagues, a ping-pong table and quiz nights, all of these can add a regular occasion to the week of a group of students. If you can't quite do any of these, you could look at picking up a range of board games to have available or run board game evenings – these too provide an excuse for students to visit the local.
Students in a new town can be wary about exploring too much too soon, preferring to stick to venues known to be student-centric. Consider making a little bit of a fuss about welcoming new students to the town. This can easily be achieved with a-board outside saying "hello freshers” and promoting any of your deals, events or loyalty schemes, but there is plenty more that can be done. For example, you could host an event during fresher’s week or sponsor a society. Consider getting some good POS to show your outlet is ready to welcome the new cohort, our Design Studio can help.
It’s important to remember that most freshers will be relatively new to the trade and drinking in general. There is a tendency for new students to go a little bit wild with all their newfound freedom during their first few weeks of attending university! The pitfalls of encouraging excessive drinking should be avoided. Avoid overdoing the drinks discounts, set up a water station for people to get a glass at their leisure, and make sure all staff know where people can get licensed taxis or have the number to a local service on hand.