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Will pubs and women get their happy ever after?

The  ever-increasing  closure of Britain’s pubs has been hard to miss over the  last few years.  Lockdowns coupled with  soaring energy bills and interest rates has seen a rapid decline, with more than 500 pubs shutting their doors in 2023 alone  according to figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). 



 The  impact of pub closures on local communities  is also well documented but the spotlight tends to be on men. However,  our latest white paper, Women at 30, revealed that  a third of 30-year-old women find meeting new people a challenge and 28% are impacted by loneliness. A problem that looks only to grow  for Gen Z, more of whom are affected  by both issues (34% of 25-year-olds find meeting new people a challenge and 39% are impacted by loneliness.) 

 

With pubs and clubs playing the role of the modern day watering hole,  the shape of local communities  -where they meet, how they date and interact – will be increasingly changed by so many disappearing venues. 


And with this cohort still seeking real interaction and more fun in their lives:


"I feel like modern life leaves little time for enjoyment." - Women at 30 interview


How can pubs appeal to modern women? 

 

 Consider the aesthetic 

Thanks to social media, socialising has become more of a visual feast; an aesthetically pleasing experience to be recorded or captured. It’s  somewhat performative, yes, but these interactions have also taken on more meaning and consideration.   

 

The good part of the pandemic was being more appreciative of little things. Now go out for walks and bike rides, talk to my parents, my family, my friends; check up on everybody and reach out to them. I've become more conscious of that phrase: count your blessings.”  - Woman at 30 interview

 

Post-covid, this generation of women are looking to capture more of the little moments and British pubs  could be the perfect place to do that, if the backdrop allows them to do it.   Just look at The Devonshire in London's Soho, women are snapping up 5pm dinner reservations (if they can get them) just to share a picture of the menu or a perfect pint of Guinness.


It’s  not about alcohol 

2 for 1 cocktails  won’t  have the appeal  of yesteryear. Drinking is no longer the badge of honour and rite of passage that it used to be, with 41% of women drinking  less than they used to and almost a quarter not drinking  at all.  Being out of control or having a hangover are both deeply unappealing to much of this demographic. They don’t  want their weekends written off; they have enriching experiences to organise. 

 

“A night in the pub is a very rare occasion for me! I very rarely drink due to choice as I hate hangovers and they are not very kind to me!” – Women at 30 interview 

 

According to Nielsen data, low and no alcohol drink consumption in the UK was just 1% in 2023 – but could that simply be down to lack of choice?  Pubs need to offer women interesting and varied non-alcoholic options so that their evening feels more experiential. For those that do drink, it’s an increasingly more measured activity. The cocktail of the moment captured on an  iphone or a glass of really good  organic wine. These are curated, conscious drinking experiences – not out of control round-buying. 

 

“We usually go out to eat and then if anyone wants to stay for drinks after, they do. I tend to leave after a couple of soft drinks. We’d  pick a restaurant we haven’t  been to before, order a bunch of stuff for us to share and just catch up.” – Women at 30 interview 

 

Solo experiences 

Facilitating connection will remain paramount as the Gen Z loneliness epidemic grows, but companies  also need to keep people company in new ways, helping them in the pursuit of all things solo. There’s  been a recent boom in solo travel but what about solo pub visits?  

 

“I have an active social life and like to have plans every evening. So dinner, theatre, gym. I feel like that's how I feel fulfilled to just make sure that I make the most of life and make the most of the fact that I don't have any additional  responsibilities.” – Women at 30 interview 

 

Considering it wasn’ t a legal right for women to sit and be served at a pub bar until 1982  and brands such as Heineken and Budweiser still launching campaigns to advocate  for women’s safety, this may be the biggest hurdle to make pubs into a truly inclusive space.  But if pubs can curate and promote spaces for women to come and have a solo drink on a Sunday afternoon without judgement or harassment,  they could become one of the greatest relationships of her life. 

 

If you’d  like to know more about how to engage Gen Z and millennial women  please get in touch . And to get our latest insights direct to your inbox sign up to our monthly newsletter . 




 

 

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