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After reading about James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog, investing £5m in three companies through his own Dragon's Den-style investment competition, I started thinking about how other pub and bar brands can support their customers who have innovative ideas and help them turn them into reality. 

As consumers, we often notice areas where a brand falls short, or we have a negative brand experience. But what about those customers who have an entrepreneurial mindset and see those moments as opportunities to create something new? How can F&B brands support them?

Entrepreneurship has become a popular and rewarding path for many people. However, starting a business is not easy, and entrepreneurs often need support to help them succeed. This blog explores five ways pubs can support their customers’ entrepreneurial spirit.

1. Environments to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking

Pub brands can provide spaces to encourage visionary thinking and allow customers to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset while in their establishments. This can be as simple as offering bookable spaces with tailor-made packages – providing guests with a suitable workspace, along with perks like unlimited Wi-Fi, free hot drinks, and bespoke food packages – something many pubs already do to great effect. 

But it doesn’t simply have to be about being open to people working from your pub, as there is an opportunity to create spaces specifically with them in mind – making F&B spaces a direct competitor for co-working spaces who provide spaces to work, collaborate and eat. This provides a great opportunity to not only upsell F&B and increase guest dwell time, but also provide the perfect environment to stimulate creative thinking. 

2. Hosted events & networking

Pubs are the heart of a community, known for offering guests great food, experiences, and environments. However, why not take it a step further and provide engaging events to support entrepreneurial ventures? By hosting networking seminars and pop-up events, pub brands can create opportunities for customers to showcase their own products or services alongside the brand's offerings. 

Pub and bar brands could consider organised events such as ‘pitch and pint,’ business-focused pub quizzes, or even ‘meet the entrepreneur’ gatherings. These types of events create a supportive setting for innovation and demonstrate the brand's commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship among its customers.

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3. The ultimate marketplace

The idea of transforming F&B brands into marketplaces has the potential to revolutionise the industry. It's worth considering how pubs can leverage their position in the market to help kickstart and inspire innovative thinkers to create new products. By setting up a nationwide competition and inviting expert panels to evaluate and judge new product ideas, pubs and bar brands can inspire independent thinkers to bring their products to market. 

This could represent a shift in the product ranges being stocked, with industries supporting independent ideas and moving away from national/global brands. Imagine walking into your local and seeing independent brands featuring on the menu instead of the usual big names. This shift would send a message about the brand's commitment to innovation and support for local start-ups – a great PR story in itself. 

Referring back to the original source of inspiration: BrewDog's concept of a Dragons Den-style competition, there's no reason why the notion of a marketplace for other pub brands couldn't be turned into a TV show – the quest for the next big F&B entrepreneur. Industry leading and recognisable brands could provide access to facilities, equipment, funding, and resources to innovative individuals who wouldn't normally have these opportunities.

4. Celebrate the community

We’re all too familiar with the concept of community information noticeboards, usually displaying a missing cat poster or information about the local scouts group. Instead of physical noticeboards, the use digital networks can help to connect today’s modern customers. 

Thinking about pubs in particular, they’re already a great place to network, socialise, chat and exchange knowledge, or even become the source for a business recommendation or trade/service. This in-person or online platform would allow entrepreneurs to connect with each other, share ideas, best practices, and support each other on their business journeys.

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5. A platform for collaboration

Don’t just sell the product you’re renowned for. Engage with your community of enthusiasts and followers by offering, valuable knowledge and the possibility to collaborate. Larger pub groups have access to a network of brands and suppliers – this could be an introduction or even brand mashups. 

We’re all familiar with the unusual partnership between Absolute Vodka and Heinz recently – what’s the pub equivalent? Through brand mashups, entrepreneurs can tap into the brand recognition and consumer trust of established large pub and bar brands, thereby unlocking new possibilities for innovation and growth.

6. A shared bricks and mortar space 

Collaboration doesn’t have to be product-based but also shared use of space. Providing the opportunities for start-ups to test and learn in a pub or bar environment before setting up on their own. 

This thinking was evidenced by Swingers’ crazy golf concept when it first launched in London, opting to bring in 3-4 fledgling street food brands rather than developing their own food offer. They knew it would be more appealing and also save them time, energy and investment by letting emerging brands develop and deliver the food. Similarly, Hockley Social Club in Birmingham provide space for 5 independent businesses to operate from its venue. Recently seeing one of their original F&B brands leave after a year’s residency to set up on their own. 

In conclusion, pubs and bars have a unique opportunity to support entrepreneurs. By engaging with customers, providing resources, partnering with other businesses and creating opportunities for exposure, pubs can create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. With these strategies, brands can help their customers achieve their goals and contribute to the growth of the industry.

Have you come across other ways in which F&B brands have supported entrepreneurship? Or perhaps one of the ideas above has sparked a thought you’d like us to explore further with you? If so, please get in touch with us to continue this conversation.

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