Pubs have been in decline for the last 10 years, with approximately 700 shutting down each year in the UK alone. March 2019 saw the end of this decline, showing a slight increase in the number of pubs compared to March 2018. This rise is driven by pubs offering better food menus, providing accommodation, and hosting weekday events.
So what are the types of events you can host at your pub to keep customers coming back and attract new ones? We explore 10 pub event ideas to give you a bit of inspiration. Some are tried-and-tested classics, and a couple are a little out of the box. All should deliver an experience your customers won’t be able to get elsewhere.
1. Quiz nights
The quiz night is a classic, and for good reason. It is easy to set up and cheap to run. As long as you have a good quiz master and great questions, it can be a lot of fun. Quizzes bring out our competitive spirit. Whether you use teams or individuals, you can easily create an amazing atmosphere that will keep punters coming back for more.
Tip: Here are some in-depth ideas for running a pub quiz.
2. Special occasions
Having a pub event for special occasions and holidays is another way to attract customers. Come up with pub event ideas for occasions like:
- Valentine’s Day
- Mother’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Easter Sunday
- Christmas Day
- …and so on.
Be imaginative with your offering and create a specific drink or food menu in advance. Allow customers to pre-book dinner reservations 1–2 months ahead (or 3 months for Christmas).
Tip: Have a look at how pubs can make the most of Mother’s Day.
3. Open mic nights
Open mic nights are an American import, but one of the better ones. It’s another pub event that can be cheap and easy to set up, as long as you have a stage area and a PA system. If you’re in a city or large town, open mic nights can attract a very diverse crowd and widen the appeal of your pub.
Tip: Here’s how to create a successful comedy night.
4. Live music
Consider a local battle of the bands competition, genre nights (such as jazz or heavy metal), and guest singers to differentiate your pub from the competition. You will likely not need a license, as long as the music stops before 11PM. If you’re in the UK and want to know whether you need a license, have a look here.
You will need enough space for a stage area. Sound equipment can be hired whilst you are testing this idea out. The company you hire from should also be able to advise you on the equipment you need.
Tip: Learn more about hosting a live music night.
5. Poker or casino nights
Poker or casino nights can be excellent in a pub. If there can be no real gambling, using an event setup with fake money works just as well. Arrange a night of pretend gambling and encourage everyone to dress up. You can rent the necessary equipment. If you have the staff for waited service, all the better!
Tip: Find out more about the legal side of pub poker events.
6. Guest barman or barmaid
Swapping out your usual staff with a local celebrity or famous figure is something a little different. Make the night about charity or another good cause, and many local celebrities might be willing to try tending bar for a night. Let local newspapers know what is happening. You could generate a lot of positive press as well as funds for charity.
Tip: Find out more with this in-depth guide.
7. Dating nights
Offer a credible alternative to dating apps with a single’s night or speed dating night. You should see the place fill up. Make it fun. Make it easy for people to mingle. Have a couple of staff around to help encourage attendees to chat and mix.
Tip: Check out this guide on how to host a speed dating night.
8. Games night
Having a regular games night is a way to make mid-week evenings stand out. This is true whether it’s board games, party games, table tennis, or something else. Tune it to your local demographic and ask them for ideas they would enjoy. It’s cheap to set up, easy to manage, and is another way to attract a more diverse customer base.
Tip: Here are 50 bar game ideas to get you started.
9. Pub takeovers
Work with a local business who can “take over” your premises to promote their own produce. For example, work with a local vineyard and let them set up in your pub for a wine tasting. Work with a local restaurant to offer a pub menu at the weekend or artisan producers to run a mini food market in an area of your bar.
Tip: Have a look at how brewery “tap takovers” work.
10. Family-friendly events
How about including the entire family in an event? Here are just a few pub event ideas of the family-friendly variety:
- Birthday parties
- Post-prom evenings
- Parent and baby mornings
- Parental classes
- Cartoon afternoons with popcorn and snacks
- Frozen-themed evenings
- Pizza-making classes
- Cupcake masterclasses
- …and anything else that can include all family members.
Treat the kids right to earn loyalty from the parents.
Tip: Have a look at some more ideas for hosting family-friendly pub events.
Turn your pub into a social hub
There is huge scope for pubs and bars to attract and retain a wider, more diverse customer base with well-chosen events. This list of pub event ideas should give you a solid start. Tune the type of event to the character of your premises, your local market, and their likes and dislikes. You’ll soon start seeing more people through the door.
Author: Lorne Armstrong is the Commercial Director at Event Academy, an event management course provider based in Islington, London. He is an experienced facilitator of groups from 3 to 3,000 and has hosted and MC’d at countless events and conferences over the past 20 years.