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28th March 2013

Robinsons Recruit 650 Agents… and counting

Cheshire family brewers have taken a fresh approach to addressing retail standards within their pub estate… ask the customer (and reward them for their feedback)!

Back in June 2012, Cheshire family brewers Robinsons launched a mystery customer programme aimed at improving pub retail standards using pub customers as ‘agents’.  The programme called Perfect Pubs is set to be rolled out further following a flying start.  The brewer who operate 340 pubs in the North West have adopted an innovate approach which has brought many fringe benefits.

“We looked at the market and how others do things and saw there was a way to do things differently,” explained Director of Marketing David Bremner.  “We have had an estate segmented into 7 trading types for a few years now and we wanted to make sure we were measuring the things most important to each.  So using our partner ‘bemyeyes’ we worked from a bank of 150 questions to pick the 50 most appropriate to each segment and then weighted them accordingly.  These are, in turn, split into 10 areas of the pub visit such as Roadside Appeal, Initial Impressions, Bar Service, Toilets and External Areas.”


The family brewer then decided they would use real customers to do the measuring for them.  “The take up has been fantastic.  Using POS in pubs and our web site we have quickly grown to 650 agents, each of which tells us how far they will travel, what sort of pubs they like and how often they’d like to help us out.  What we get at the end is real feedback from target customers with the website weighting the positive and negative feedback so that we can address areas of excellence or concern with our licensees.”


Their BDMs have found this almost universally popular too; giving them the tools to address things sometimes missed, in the worst cases action can be taken quickly for low scores.  The agents are allocated a mission based upon their profile and fill in the responses on-line.  “We have new customers going into our pubs from this and some who take friends and family and spend far more than the £15 the agent receives- so it has ended up being a promotion in some cases.  CAMRA members have been a great help, we have our pensioners on board and we now also have staff from the brewery going out and seeing the sharp end of our business- it’s been a great success.”


The brewery hopes to complete 3 missions per year for each pub so they can track how individual pubs compare over time and where they sit in relation to their peers within a segment.  The next phase is to provide the tools to improve things using the brewery’s new £3m training centre.


“Some licensees aren’t natural trainers,” David continued “so working with drinks suppliers is the next phase to develop short, sharp services and standards courses which can be delivered in the training centre or in the pub.  The Perfect Pubs report gives us a great agenda tailored to the pub!  Delivering great service and retail standards is essential to driving up sales and competing with the best managed, tenanted or free houses in any given area- it’s an area we all have to focus on in tough times.  But when you combine a motivated entrepreneur with great results we all see growth.”


Robinsons have used this tool to help new licensees, keep an eye on pub investments and future plans may include inclusion in awards programmes.  Over 25% of Robinsons’ pubs have scored over 90%+ which is outstanding and they have also had five scores of 100% so far – real Perfect Pubs!