The landscape of British pubs and beer has undoubtedly seen a dramatic change. In response to an increase in pub closures over recent years, pubs have found innovative ways to ensure the market remains current and attractive to consumers. Great pub food is just one of the ways in which pubs are appealing to customers. Offering food has become increasingly important as a driver to attract more customers, with research demonstrating that consumers are increasingly expecting a wider range of food choices. Research has demonstrated that increasingly consumers are merging social occasions, with pubs more frequently now used for both food and drink-led events. Demands for more unusual pub foods are on the rise too. Whilst traditional pub food would include light lunches or Sunday roasts, today consumers expect to see more variety of foods, with research demonstrating that an increasing number of consumers look for street food pop ups in pubs, along with a wider range of international cuisines. Pubs have also begun to invest in the coffee industry. Today, pubs throughout the UK are recognising the value of the coffee industry to drive profits even during traditionally quieter times. Many pubs have begun investing in good quality coffee to appeal to new demographics of consumers. Some pubs and breweries, such as Shepherd Neame, have invested in creating their own, unique coffee blends and companies. Other changes in consumer habits have also contributed to a change in the ways pubs operate today. Demand for a wider variety of drinks has led to pubs offering a much wider variety of beers and other drinks available. Whilst the number of pubs in the UK has decreased in recent years, the number of breweries has seen a sharp rise, in part due to the demand for a wider variety of more local beers. In 2016 alone, the number of new breweries launched in the UK amounted to more than 300. In the UK there are now over 2,250 breweries. In recent years, craft beers have become a vital part of the pub sector, with many calling recent years of the beer industry a ‘revolution’. Consumers, who are increasingly attracted to local, natural and unusual beers, searching for beers of different origins, styles, ABVs and tastes, have continued to drive up the sale of craft beers. Whilst there has been a significant rise in the number of breweries and microbreweries to cater to this craft beer trend, long-standing brewers have also begun to adjust, with many large-scale breweries undergoing rebranding to create new and unusual beers to appeal to the new market. Changes in consumer habits can also be attributed to a drive towards healthier living. Consumers often demand healthier beer options. As a result, low and non-alcoholic beers are increasingly available on the UK market, along with gluten free options. This change in consumer habit and interest in craft beer has also lead to many pubs taking up the opportunity to offer food and beer pairings. As food has become as important a part of the modern pub, many pubs have begun to acknowledge the opportunity to offer great beer alongside food. In the past, wine and food were often paired, however many establishments are acknowledging that all beer can complement foods, and offering a wide range of beers to interact with food dishes is an increasingly vital element of the pub industry. So why all this change in consumer habit? A number of different reasons attribute to the change in the beer and pub sector. Significantly there has been a shift in attitude towards alcohol consumption. In the period of 2004-2016 alone, alcohol consumption fell by 17%. These statistics undoubtedly have influenced the growing trend of low-alcoholic products. Many attribute the smoking ban to causing the biggest shift in pub culture. Not only is it argued that the ban resulted in a significant fall in the number of overall British pubs, but the ban also resulted in a shift in the type of pub customer. Today, the pub sector has shifted, with research suggesting that pubs have shifted towards more family-friendly atmospheres which appeal to families. In addition, the price of a pint in a pub is significantly higher than alcohol in supermarkets. In particular, the recession hit the pub sector disproportionately hard. As a result, pubs have had to adjust to ensure that they offer an experience which consumers could not get at home, hence the transition towards more food-led establishments, and the growing trend to create a space which is not just for drinking alcohol, but for a variety of occasions for a variety of consumers.
Games have always been an integral part of what makes a pub. They’re great fun and can form an important part of pub activity. Historically, Kings, Queens and Governments have tried to control the playing of pub games such as darts and dominoes, which was dismissed as being ‘a very childish game’. Under the reigns of Edward III and Edward VI, fines were introduced; then publicans were told they could lose their license if they allowed games to be played. Popular Games today These games are still regularly played in pubs all over the UK, some to professional levels: Backgammon (originally known as Nard and Tables) – possibly the oldest pub game, backgammon first came to England from the Middle East and became popular mainly due to the gambling aspect. Backgammon has survived laws aimed at banning it being played. Billiards – a game that became associated with riotous and disorderly behaviour and was banned from licensed premises in 1757. A cue is used to strike balls across a cloth covered table. The name billiards is also sometimes used as an umbrella term to cover similar games such as pool and snooker. Cribbage – a popular card game which is still played across the UK, despite gaining infamy when its creator Sir John Suckling made a fortune travelling all over England and cheating by playing with marked cards. Darts – the game of darts has been around for some time but took a while to develop into the sport we love today. Several hundred years ago a version of the game known as ‘Puff and Dart’ was played where the dart was blown from a tube towards the target. In 1844, a player in a London pub forgot the primary rule –‘blow, don’t suck’ and swallowed the dart and died several days later in hospital. Darts as we know it today, is extremely popular with millions playing in teams across the country and many more watching professional darts on television. Dominoes – still a very popular game played with a set of 120 pieces also known as tiles, stones, bones, doms or cards, embossed with different numbers of dots. Some suggest that the game came to England from China but there are also those who believe it originated in Italy or Spain. Dominoes came under attack for being childish and boring and also from temperance campaigners who linked pub games to alcohol consumption. Draughts – this board game also has its origins in the Middle East, and like Backgammon was probably introduced by returning Crusaders in the 11th Century. Amusement machines – the popularity of amusement machines in pubs has to some extent replaced traditional pub games, although some favourites can be played electronically. Different types of machines include fruit machines and quiz machines and they remain a popular entertainment facility in pubs. Poker – is one of the card games most widely played in pubs, either for money which is regulated by legislation, or just for fun. However, there are many other card games that are also popular - a pack of cards is something most landlords keep behind the bar. Pub Quiz – there is little evidence of the traditional quiz being played in pubs before around 1970, but since then it has grown massively in popularity, becoming one of the most played games across the country and around the world. Quiz details vary such as team size, questions, prizes and themes. Quizzes can be a very formal event or much more casual. However, they are often taken very seriously by teams, some of whom enter different quizzes in the local area or even further afield on a regular basis. Skittles – played in many forms across the country but became popular in pubs as ‘table skittles’. This version is for indoor use with nine small wooden skittles on a raised wooden base, and a ball attached to a chain which players swing to knock over the skittles. More unusual games Some of these games are either no longer played or only played in a few places around the country: Aunt Sally – a game still popular in Oxfordshire where players throw batons at a wooden skittle in the shape of a doll. Dwile Flonking – involves two teams of twelve players, each taking turns to dance around the other whilst attempting to avoid a beer-soaked dwile (cloth) thrown by the non-dancing team. Quoits – is a traditional game which involves the throwing of metal, rope or rubber rings over a set distance, usually to land over or near a spike (sometimes called a hob, mott or pin). Rhubarb Thrashing – two blindfolded contestants stand in dustbins and do battle with rhubarb. Ringing the bull – involves swinging a nose-ring, which is attached to a string, in an arc so as to hook it onto a pretend bull's nose and hook. It must stay on the hook to count as a successful throw. There is a vibrant and thriving tradition of playing this game at what is reputedly the oldest pub in England, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem in Nottingham. Shovel board/shove groat/slide thrift/push penny/ Shove Ha’penny – a game known by many names, that originated in Tudor times and was played on long narrow tables up to nine feet long. Two players or teams compete against one another using coins or discs to push up the board. The name changed over time and it eventually ended up as Shove Ha’penny.