Cask drinkers are more likely than anyone else to visit the pub. After all, cask conditioned ale is the one category of drink that cannot be purchased in a supermarket or corner shop. Sure, there are bottles and cans of ale, but nothing replicates the taste of ‘real’ ale – fresh, served cellar cool and drawn through a handpull.
But interestingly, cask ale drinkers bring other customers into the pub – not just for general visits, but for a wide range of occasions and events. 79% of cask drinkers have recently been for a meal or drinks with family, friends or colleagues. This compares with 57% of the general adult population. In other words, looking after your cask ale drinkers can improve your overall profitability. Here are Cask Marque’s tips to retain and recruit cask drinkers.
Food plays a key role in attracting the cask drinker. Curry nights, pie and pint deals, bundle deals; all can help encourage return visits. Keep a permanent, well-recognised ale in your range and match it with a signature dish, such as Steak and Ale pie, or beer battered fish and chips.
Activities & Events
Cask drinkers are highly motivated by organised events such as pub quizzes, live music, TV big games, beer festivals, and traditional pub games such as darts and pool matches. Pubs that don’t run events appealing to cask drinkers stand to lose their custom to other venues that do.
Keep cask drinkers involved and engaged by informing them what beers are on order and what beers are settling the cellar. Make sure staff have tasting notes on the back of pump clips so they can recommend guest ales with confidence and open up a conversation with the cask drinkers. Encourage them to offer Try Before You Buy samples for any guest ales which are unfamiliar to regular customers. Ask customers which guest ales they would like to see on the bar.
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Social and Digital Presence
Cask drinkers are also highly engaged with social media so keeping your Twitter feed, Instagram page and Facebook account updated with ‘News of the Brews’ is essential. Apps, such as Caskfinder and Untappd, can also help drive cask drinkers into your pub.
Think about the way you are presenting cask to the customer: smaller serve sizes for novice drinkers (for example 1/3 pint glasses), attractive glassware, and eye-catching merchandising will all position cask as a viable alternative to pricier ‘craft’ brands.
Cask ale drinkers are among the most discerning. Meeting their high expectations is crucial to securing and keeping their custom (35% of cask drinkers would leave the pub and go elsewhere if they were served a poor quality drink). Activities and food offers will be effective only alongside the right range of beers served in consistently great condition.
If you don’t like, or drink cask yourself, hire someone who loves cask and put them in charge of the cask offering – cellar management, staff training, range planning and customer engagement.
Awards and Accolades
Make your drinkers proud of your pub. Apply for Cask Marque accreditation, ensure your pub is on the local CAMRA ‘Pub of the Season’ shortlist, and enter local and national competitions, such as The Great British Pub Awards.
Cask ale drinkers spend an average £1,030 annually in the pub on drinks and food (30% more than the average pub-goer spend). This should be argument enough to persuade publicans to look after their cask ale drinkers.