It is genuinely going to be an exciting time for tenanted pubs during the next two years.
Probably more than ever before as far as gaming in pubs is concerned.
For far too long tenanted pubs have been the poor cousin of their co-habiting, managed, big brother on the high street and in the community. The agendas and the strategy of managed pub chains has had a deleterious and effect on the pub sector overall as budget demands and lack of concrete decision making has slowed down the inexorable drive to a comprehensive digital solution.
In the last 12 months, the penny has dropped and there’s been a flurry of activity to increase digital density. Surprise, surprise!
I am typing this looking at my bookshelf and reminiscing on a project we put together at what is now EI Group some 10 years ago. It set out the digital world and the relationship with tenants and the like-minded partners who wanted to change the gaming offer in the humble pub. With hindsight, it was probably too early and too costly as it did not have the benefit of cheap and reliable comms and back office systems that we can access now. What it attempted to do was to unify the gaming platform and make digital accessible to all.
The first building block for digital growth is a simple, secure, accessible and cost effective network. A common platform which operators, manufacturers and retailers can rely on. Unaffected by the vagaries of contracts and personal agendas with the tenant at the heart of the gaming offer for a change. Why? Because if the tenant wins; the pubco wins; if the pubco wins, the operator has the commercial stability to deliver and develop the digital offer. It’s got to be Win:Win:Win, and if you add the customer to the equation you can deliver a retail gaming offer that not only works in tenanted pubs, but forges a new relationship between the tenant and the pubco but also and their own relationship with their customers.
My concern is that industry players will want to have their own solution. How many times have we seen great ideas bludgeoned to death in their infancy by the need for them to be seen to be unique, or not required at that time in separate businesses; or the “nice to have” ideas overtake the basic fundamantals so that reliability and capability are never fully achieved. The entrepreneurs try to keep all interested parties interested and in so doing don’t say “No” and the fledgling never flies.
There’s a lot of tenanted pubs out there; there’s a lot of fantastic tenants who need support; there’s great digital innovation and delivery coming from operators and manufacturers who have realised that analogue has been given the last rites and they have invested at their own expense and must be applauded for their commitment and vision.
The stars are aligned for a tremendous growth in the digital offer in tenanted pubs over the next 2-3 years. Putting a non-competitive network in place for all the players in the market will retain operator and retailer individuality and their USPs and give them time to deliver great products, content and a fantastic customer experience.
The time has come for unity and simplicity.