Tuesday 20 March 2018

Publican raises the bar in battle for survival

Edel O'Connell and Fiona Ellis

A BANKER who exchanged bear markets for beer mats is using his financial skills to avoid the fate of thousands of bar workers who lost their jobs last year.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) yesterday claimed 7,000 jobs were lost in the struggling pub sector in 2010, with the Vintners Federation saying an average of a pub a day is closing down at present.

There was an overall 13pc decline in the pub trade last year -- and a further 7pc decline since January -- as household incomes continue to plummet.

In this environment, publicans have to dig deep to survive.

Emmet Lynch spent the first half of his career on the trading floors of Wall Street and London. But he is now using all of this knowledge to keep his family pub -- Hugh Lynch's -- alive since he returned home to Tullamore, Co Offaly, in 2004.

In order to keep customers coming back, he revamped the pub and came up with some unique ideas.

He abandoned the former off-licence and created four separate bars and a function room.

"I know from my own background that if you look at a business like an off-licence, you are talking about paying staff to be there for anything up to 60 hours a week, and having fridges and lights switched on permanently at a time when people are opting to buy cheap alcohol in supermarkets anyway," Mr Lynch told the Irish Independent.

"So instead I decided to transform the space into a function room which would only open for about eight or nine hours a week but would always be busy."

The former banker also drew on his experience of live video conferencing between bankers in London and New York's stock exchange for 'Bar wars' -- a night which involves a live video link-up with pubs in neighbouring counties so punters can engage in some novelty games.

"When my parents ran this bar all they had to do was open the doors and the customers would come in," he said.

"Now you have to be innovative and keep the customer curious as to what you are going to do next.

"You have to offer value for money and give them a reason to come in to your establishment. I truly believe there is a future for the licence trade in this country, if people are willing to be innovative and keep things fresh."

Irish Independent

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