Is a Self Service Pub Soulless?

Person Pulling a Pint at a Self Service iPub

I have experienced 2 types of pub in my life; the cosy local and the ‘out out’ pub, i.e. the one in the centre of town where your feet stick to the floor and you have to fight your way to the bar through throngs of other slightly tipsy patrons. I’ll admit that I have found myself buying 2 drinks as opposed to 1 more than once in such circumstances to avoid the return trip. And I’ll also admit that I don’t go ‘out out’ as much at the ripe old 35 years of age in order to avoid this... pass me the pipe and slippers!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out, I just hate the bit where I have to leave friends mid conversation to go to the bar and 30 minutes later I have missed the update on Billy Bob Joe’s latest love interest. So when I saw The One Show feature on The Westbourne in Swansea, Britain's first self service iPub I was curious. Could this be the answer to free flowing conversation... and wine in the 'out out' pub? And would it work in the local pub?

The Product Lab Research Panel on: The Self Service iPub

Umm, perhaps not... With a whopping 62% of our Lab Panel of the opinion that a self service iPub would lack the all important social atmosphere of a traditional English pub. ‘Part of the attraction is interaction with the bar staff, a chat with the Landlord about what’s going on in the pub and the local area.’ I can certainly see this. In my little local pub I like that the bar staff know me; that we can have a chat and would hate to see this ruined by technology but in a busy city pub/bar where no one knows anyone from Adam anyway? Isn’t that a different kettle of fish, or beer as the case may be?

In a win for the iPub, the Lab Panel agree that it is, ‘a good concept for town centre pubs where the clientele just want to sit at a table in their group and have a few drinks.’ And, ‘I can see this being popular in city centre pubs attracting younger age group'. Yes, I had a feeling it might be a well received by the tech loving youth too, at least initially and with 21% of the 34 and under's saying they would drink more at an iPub compared to only 9% of the 35 and overs I think it's safe to say they are more ameanable to the idea.

However, the great British bar staff are still an essential component to the both the local and city centre pub experience for majority of Product Lab consumers. Most are quite happy to order drinks and food via an iPad but still want them to be served by a walking talking human. Interestingly, when I delved a bit deeper into the iPub I found that you are still served by a member of staff more often than not as only lager is available at the self-service taps. So does this put the atmoshere issue to rest?

Possibly not if potential customers aren't aware of it but I for one am willing to get down with the kids and give it a whirl. A member of our research panel summed it up perfectly for me, ‘I am sure that these pubs would bring in a lot of custom as they are a novelty. People will always want the traditional pubs too but we now see these closing down quicker than you can drink a pint of beer. So if this is a way of keeping a social drinking place open why not?’ Why not indeed. Pint anyone?

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1 comment

  • Amanda Bateman

    13 February 2015, 9.14am

    I can certainly see the benefits of not having to queue for long periods, however, is this not encouraging people to drink more. The wait at the bar actually slows down our drinking and I can imagine that if your drinks are on tap at your table and you're enjoying the company of friends, that you would be inclined to drink far more quickly, creating a new issue with far too many drunk and potentially disorderly customers. Also, I know that town centre pubs don't necessarily have the same atmosphere as local pubs but the queue at the bar forces us into situations where we may chat to and possibly become friendly with people we wouldn't normally speak to. Already, people walking down the street with their heads down playing with their phones is a common occurrence. People constantly have earphones in and are oblivious to everyone around them and families sit in front of the tv whilst using tablets, laptops and phones. Technology is in danger of turning us into a generation of socially inept individuals who cannot cope outside of our immediate friendship groups or comfort zones.

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About the Author

  • Stephanie Kent

    Stephanie Kent - Lab Reporter

    Our dedicated Lab Panel blogger, Steph is the voice of the consumer. From mortgages to special fried rice, if you want to know what the UK thinks, she's your girl. With a formidable background in both business and retail journalism Steph invites the Lab Panel to speak out about the latest consumer trends to hit the headlines. She reports the facts back to you, bringing the panellists to life with her own unique, quirky tone. We can't wait to read her blogs… and we know how they end.


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