marketing pubs

Pubco sets up pretend freehouses

UK pub company Mitchells and Butlers are apparently planning to open a series of unique “concept bars”. They’ll be part of a chain but designed to look like they’re independent.

The UK pub chain company owns, among others, O’Neill’s, Scream Pubs and All Bar One, but has clearly recognised (as we’ve pointed out before) that big companies and boringly ubiquitous brands are going out of fashion. They’re not going away, though — just into hiding.

Interesting to see how this business model works out. Our bet is that one of the bars will do better than the others and then turn into a chain…

Via Marketing magazine/Brand Republic.

11 replies on “Pubco sets up pretend freehouses”

Very interesting, especially as Mitchell’s have recently acquired the York Brewery as well. Maybe they’re planning on selling their new York ales through these ‘freehouses’ of theirs. Could be a whole lot worse.

M&B have operated lots of pubs like this for years now. They call them the “Castle estate”. I think most are in London, with a few elsewhere. Essentially they are as you describe – unbranded, yet part of a chain behind the scenes. Some of them are very good. Here’s some examples: The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green, the Island Queen in Islington, The Crown and Sceptre in Fitzrovia, The Eagle on City Road

Always a strange approach when companies are afraid of promoting their ‘open’ brands. I would have thought that putting the emphasis in improving and promoting what they have would be a better business approach.

Paul, not really, as most of us don’t like crassly branded premises. Allowing individual pubs some leeway even within a managed estate is surely preferable.

re: M&B – are they the same ‘mitchells’ who have bought York? I thought they were diferent companies. I certainly hope so. One of my haunts here in Leeds is a York pub and I really hope they don’t screw around with it too much.

They already did this in Oxford about 3 years ago.

Both horrid Scream pubs were converted into independent-looking trendy pubs with an expensive and extensive range of beers (Fransiskaner, Budvar Dark, Frueli, etc.)

To be honest, I quite liked these rejuvinated pubs, and it did seem that the local management had a lot of freedom in sorting out the food, live music etc.

I can think of a number of dingy Scream oubs in prime central london sites which could benefit from this treatment…

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