MAINTAINING O’HAGAN’S IRISH PUB AND GRILL AUTHENTICITY
Generating and maintaining authenticity is so much more than simply building or renovating a beautiful pub, though of course that is a very important part of the consumer experience.
Remembering the Critical Success Factors, maintaining authenticity is about frequently re-examining what you’re doing to ensure that it complies with the original reason you opened the pub. It’s also about maintaining a clear identity among your competitors and providing a compelling reason for consumers to choose you as their venue for entertainment. So, it’s always good to reflect on the touch points that set your O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill apart, and confirm you as authentic in the consumer’s mind.
A mental checklist for maintaining authenticity might look like the following:
Is the music being played Irish-style, and 80’s onwards, or have we allowed it to drift to play any kind of music?
Do I regularly coach my employees on why we’re an O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill and how to deliver Irish-style warmth and hospitality or do I just leave it up to them?
Do I promote my premium Irish beers or do I advertise specials on local beers?
Do I try to create linkages to Ireland through my promotions or do I just keep it local?
Do I try to engage with local Irish-related societies and communities or do I ignore them?
Is my only Irish-focused celebration during the year St. Patrick’s Day or do I create other Irish-related celebrations at other times?
Do I allow my marketing and promotional material to reflect the premium offering that I make to my consumers or is that material predominantly green and filled with references to leprechauns and shamrocks?
The ethos of O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill is to become a distinct but integral part of the community, something that consumers adopt early and adore forever.
ELEMENTS OF AUTHENTICITY
The following are the elements of authenticity that you need to stick with and consistently revert to for reassurance:
Décor refers to the interior and exterior appearance of your O’Hagan’s Pub. You will have opened a great looking pub and now all you have to do is maintain it and add to its charm and character as time goes by. A great Irish Pub is created as a timeless piece of design and it generally looks better with age. What can spoil the effect sometimes is the addition of pieces that jar with the overall look and feel. For instance, every drinks company will have some branding material that they want hung on your wall and that’s a problem. You don't want your O'Hagan's to look like a cheap pub where suppliers just dump their promotional material.
Adding pieces that are of real interest over time really helps. Framed pictures with a local or Irish theme, artifacts such as old bottles or brewing-related tools, old advertising posters, pennants from local sports teams, currency from guests’ home countries, photo galleries of sports events or teams sponsored by your pub etc. are all part of the character-building and local community-focused memorabilia that will enhance your authenticity.
Our menu will contain 35 to 40 items, most good Irish Pubs will try to carry a core of starters, traditional Irish dishes including pies and stews, a blend of South African and Irish-style appetizers, a blend of Irish-style sandwiches and wraps, some Irish-style salads and a more sophisticated section where they can experiment with great Irish-style dishes like rack of lamb, corned beef, lamb shank and sauced steaks. This mix of menu items works very well. Franchisees will have input on our menu, which will change every 6 months.
Our offering to consumers is a premium offering. Our business model is built around providing a premium environment so that we can persuade consumers to trade up (and therefore spend more) across the products you offer. We want the domestic beer drinker to naturally upgrade to a premium import, our rye drinker to naturally upgrade to a single malt scotch.
We will be tempted to boost revenues at certain times of the day and week by discounting our offering, for instance happy hours with heavily discounted beers and liquor. We do not advocate running "Happy Hour" promotions as consumers who avail of these offerings are not our consumers, they are people who take advantage of our offer while it’s available, don’t visit us at any other time and disappear when our competitor offers a better deal. Keep the word premium in your head as you develop revenue-building programs. Don’t talk with your management team about discounting, talk about added value and try to keep it aimed at encouraging sharing and social interaction.
Try to structure any offer around both beverage and food. Not only does this promote responsible drinking, it exposes your bar guests to our menu and encourages them to think about using O’Hagan’s for dining occasions as well as drinking occasions.
Finally, we’re not just saying this because of who we are, but if perfectly-poured, creamy Guinness® is not the No.1 selling drink at O’Hagan’s, there’s potentially an issue with the consumer’s perception of your authenticity, and where beverages in an Irish Pub are concerned, you’re never going to more associated with any drink than you are with Guinness®. Above all, keep pouring perfectly-crafted pints.
Management & Ownership
Keeping our O’Hagan’s menu authentic and interesting is not difficult; it just requires re-focus every time we update it.
Keeping the menu as you originally envisioned and enhancing that vision with subsequent changes is incredibly important and critical to your ongoing success.
Most pubs in South Africa have a food to beverage ratio of 30% to 70%. In Irish Pubs the ratio is usually closer to 50%/50%, making them significantly more profitable, as revenues are much higher.
Many managers suffer from a syndrome called ‘Restaurant blindness’. It’s a result of walking in every day to the same space and not noticing environmental factors that will immediately and negatively affect your guest. These factors can include temperature, lighting, cleanliness, odours amongst many others. However, music is one that can be neglected in an Irish pub if not carefully managed every day.
The consumer’s expectation when they walk into your pub is to have the music, temperature, odour and lighting match not only what they saw from the outside, but also match their expectations. For instance, employees who are running around working hard may find it’s more comfortable to have the air-conditioning fully cranked. But this can be very uncomfortable and jarring for the guest sitting still at a table. Similarly, the human nose adapts to odours very quickly, so that unpleasant smell you thought you got when you came in but thought had gone is now very off-putting for your guest at lunchtime.
Music functions in the same way. Let’s exaggerate…if the guest walks in and you have Led Zeppelin playing at a high volume, that’s a problem and they may even walk out. If the guest walks in and Beyoncé is belting out Single Ladies even at a fairly low level, there’s still an immediate disconnect in the Irish Pub experience that you are trying to deliver. So whatever you do with regard to music, make sure it is appropriate, both in style and volume, for the time of day, type of guest and style of occasion.
Live music is too intrusive and a barrier to conversation. Basil O’Hagan says “I have seen more restaurants and pubs close because of live music, than any other reason.”
No doubt you will employ cheerful, pleasant and energetic employees who will do a great job in taking care of your guests. So, how do you add a level of complexity that we call ‘Irishness’ to the mix and how does it enhance the authenticity of your pub?
If you have no Irish employees, there are other ways for you to help your South African employees identify themselves with Ireland and therefore your O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill. There are resources available such as video and informative presentations that will help you induct your employees into the culture of O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill. The induction and training of new employees, to teach them about the history of the pub, the history of Guinness®, the history of Irish immigration etc. will certainly make them more confident in delivering the experience that you have envisioned.
MANAGEMENT & OWNERSHIP
Having management and ownership engage personally with guests is of paramount importance in reinforcing your authenticity. Not just touching tables with a perfunctory enquiry as to their satisfaction with the food, but actually engaging guests in conversation, getting to know them better and forming a personal connection between them and your pub. Remember, you are building your O’Hagan’s one customer at a time and every time you form that personal connection, it’s likely that you will have that customer forever.