The following are the elements of authenticity that you need to stick with and consistently revert to for reassurance:
  1. Décor
  2. Food Menu(s)
  3. Beverage Menu(s)
  4. Music
  5. Employees
  6. Management & Ownership

 

Décor

Décor refers to the interior and exterior appearance of your pub. If you engage one of the design/build firms who have built or renovated dozens of pubs, there’s a very good chance you’ll have opened a great looking pub. 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 not a problem as long as it looks like it was designed exactly for your pub. If it’s cheap looking or garish or neon, it’s going to look awful and your guests will notice immediately.

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.

Food Menu

If you haven’t started developing your pub yet, it’s a great time to get the menu right with a good blend of authentic Irish recipes and local or regional dishes. If you have been operating for a while, it’s sometimes easy to stray from your original food concept. This can happen through changes of management, changes of chef or kitchen management or through simple oversight because you’re doing so well. However, straying too far from your original concept can also change the consumer’s perception of your authenticity and this can be dangerous to your long-term success.

In a menu containing 30-35 items, most good Irish Pubs will try to carry a core of traditional Irish dishes including pies and stews, a blend of North American 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.

What doesn’t work so well is when the menu is effectively a collection of North American dishes with trying-to-be-cute Irish names. Among the questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Do my guests think that my Irish Nachos are really Ireland-inspired?
  • Do my guests really think that my Ballybunion Chicken Wings were inspired by an Irish recipe?
  • How do Pot o’ Gold Fried Mozzarella sticks add to my authenticity?

 

Keeping your menu authentic and interesting is not difficult; it just requires re-focus every time you change it. Because your authentic menu can be diluted by ‘creeping incrementalism’, the gradual reduction of the number of Irish dishes as you or your management team try to manage cost, address kitchen production issues or simply just overlook.

Keeping the menu as you originally envisioned and enhancing that vision with subsequent changes is incredibly important and critical to you ongoing success.

Beverage Menu

Your offering to consumers is a premium offering. Your business model is built around providing a premium environment so that you can persuade consumers to trade up (and therefore spend more) across the products you offer. You want the domestic beer drinker to naturally upgrade to a premium import, your rye drinker to naturally upgrade to a single malt scotch.

You will be tempted to boost revenues at certain times of the day and week by discounting your offering, for instance happy hours with heavily discounted beers and liquor. Be careful is what we say, consumers who avail of these offerings are not your consumers, they are people who take advantage of your offer while it’s available, don’t visit you at any other time and disappear when your 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. Here are some examples of what we’re talking about:

DISCOUNTING ADDED VALUE
1/2 Price domestic beers and well liquor Buy two premium imports, get a free appetizer
Ladies drink FREE Buy two regular-price martinis, get a free app
1/2 price appetizers Buy a full-price drink, get any app for $1

 

Try to structure any offer around both beverage and food. Not only does this promote responsible drinking, it exposes your bar guests to your menu and encourages them to think about using you 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 in your Irish Pub, 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, our advice is to keep pouring perfectly-crafted pints.

Irish Music

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 an 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 can be a big part of your authenticity. Many consumers will expect you to have live music available, sometimes late night at weekends, sometimes by way of weekly jam or open mike sessions. However, tread carefully when it comes to live music, as the many people who love it will be matched by the number of people who find it intrusive and a barrier to conversation.

Whatever you do, make it fairly mainstream. A competition to find the best local rap artist may not be the direction for you, but a competition to find a good acoustic vocalist might work well.

Employees

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?

Having a number of Irish employees in key positions helps to create an atmosphere that is different. Accents help to reinforce the authenticity as can conversations with guests, who will almost always want to know what more about that person. Irish employees can help interpret certain ways of doing things….for instance, the importance of perfectly-poured Guinness® or what the Shepherd’s Pie should really taste like.

But if you have no Irish employees or can’t get them, there are other ways for you to help your North American employees identify themselves with Ireland and therefore your Irish Pub. If you are opening a new pub, there are resources available such as video and informative presentations that will help you induct your employees into the culture of the Irish Pub. Induction and training of new employees, teaching 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

Many Irish Pubs proudly carry the name of their owner over the front door, the reason being that they were generally there in person to welcome and take care of guests. It’s up to you how you decide to run your pub, but 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 business one customer at a time and every time you form that personal connection, it’s likely that you will have that customer forever.

Owner Insights
….in this economy, we can afford to go easy on our meal prices because they are partially subsidized by high beverage volume and low beverage cost.
Irish Pub Operator | TEXASView Owner Insights
Fun Facts

Most restaurant businesses have a food to beverage ratio of 75% to 25%. In Irish Pubs the ratio is usually closer to 50%/50%, making them significantly more profitable as a result of lower labor and product costs.

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