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How AI, AR and new technologies can help keep the industry alive

Laine Pub Company has detailed how using new technology can appeal to next generations and retain the on-trade’s relevance for the future.

The 60-strong pub business was bought by US-bank Fortress Investment Group as part of its acquisition of assets from Patron Capital & May Capital back in 2021, a move that coincided with the investors picking up Punch Pubs with Laine moving beneath the same umbrella. Since its inception, the business has been known for making great strides since its beginnings in Brighton by tapping into upcoming trends.

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, Laine Pub Co founder and CEO Gavin George said: “I think that for the last 25 years we’ve been really really good at understanding the zeitgeist of Brighton and delivering pub propositions that people want to engage with. Our success and longevity is testimony to this.”

Gen Z

George explained that “with a new younger audience coming through, with Generation Z and soon Gen Alpha who are a big proportion of our audience now, they view pubs in a different way and view alcohol in a different way and they socialise differently and their morals and values are different.

“We are doing a lot of work to ensure that we are truly understanding all of their values for the future. In fact, I think it is essential, not just for Laines, but for the whole industry and that due consideration is given to that.”

Describing how new technologies can assist the sector and help it evolve, Laine outlined how now was not a time to stand still, but more a time to appeal to the people who are already in pubs – perhaps even with their families – considering if the space will be for them once they come of age.

Fit for purpose

Laine Pub Co managing director Russ Danks told db that it talks “about being fit for the next generation”.

He said: “But these generations, like Gen Alpha, are already in the pubs and so what we are doing is shifting the lens.

“This means we are looking at design, we are looking at how we train our team and also how we talk to our team and how we engage on the social channels we use. Any pubs that are still using Facebook need to think about who is using Facebook today…it’s the place you talk to your Nan, isn’t it? It’s different today, but we need to remember that every single thing that accumulates towards positioning a pub, a brand or a movement internationally and we want to be at the very front of this.”

Danks gave another example of how visual next generation consumers are and will continue to be for many of their future purchases and choice for where to spend time and money.

He revealed that at a wine tasting last week, the company had to “keep remembering to think about the label first and how things are getting seen and positioned within businesses”.

“It is really our job to understand that change and the challenges within that movement,” he added.

Changing technology

Danks explained that it was about the firm changing technology it was using, such as the The Tempest in Brighton, which has recently been through a [£350,000] remodel.

He said: “What we have done there is use lighting technology to bring a pub to life and to be a chameleon pub. In the day it can be a really great place to eat and then later with sunset crowds it feels different using light energy and then later in the evening the lighting really brings that business to life.

“The lighting was nearly a quarter of the overall spend of the pub and this kind of technology is enabling that to change.”

Danks also revealed how the business is also making changes in London and called the move “a step-change marker for the business,” which he said will begin at The Four Thieves in Clapham. He pointed out how “upstairs it has always had lots of gaming activities and racing and it is also a comedy venue downstairs and has karaoke booths. But now we are using all sorts of new kinds of technologies to bring it to life and working on the karaoke room of the future.”

According to Danks: “Karaoke rooms are great, but we can make them better” and hinted at using augmented reality and AI technology would mean “you can be performing with The Killer’s live or on stage with Taylor Swift and see the whole room come to life”.

Re-imagination

Danks described the move as “a re-imagination” and said that big changes had been possible “with LED technology and a partnership with Pixel Artwork”. He explained: “Anyone that knows The Outernet near Tottenham Court Road will know it is one of London’s largest free attractions. This is all a taster of things to come. With technology, we can change the landscape of any room in a pub from day-to-day whether it’s showing modern impressionist artworks on one night or screen gaming another”.

Taking this into account, he highlighted that “one thing we know about the next generations is that they want spaces to change. With augmented reality technology people can use their phones to interact with the room and even though this technology is still being developed, we are giving people a taste of this”.

Illustrating how much the world has changed due to its plights and challenges, George reiterated how the pub was crucial for people’s mental health and how the sector could help alleviate stresses not just now but in the years to come.

Safe space

George added that things have “slightly changed” since Covid, and with the cost of living crisis, as well as wars and populist governments it had been “quite difficult”. But the pub “remains that place that people come to to forget everything that is going on in the outside world.”

“As a species, I think that we live our lives in our heads, worrying about the future, bemoaning the past. The brilliant thing about the pub is that it is a place where you can come and live differently but in the present time.

“What we do at Laines and what we will always try to do is ignite that moment and make it as special as it can be.”

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