The pub is the cornerstone of Irish culture. It is a welcoming place for people to meet for small gatherings, social occasions, weddings, wakes and everything in-between. The pub culture in Ireland is based on a deep sense of community and camaraderie. When pubs and bars agreed to close on the 15th March 2020, the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact it was about to have on our lives truly started to sink in.
One of the sectors most severely affected by the lockdown is the hospitality sector, worth €7bn and employing over 180,000 people. After remaining closed for 3 months, the gradual re-opening of pubs and bars has been slow and staggered. On the 29th June some pubs were allowed to open on the provision that they serve meals that cost at least €9 and that customers limit their visits to 105 minutes. Unfortunately, as the lock down eased, the number of COVID numbers started to increase, and the government has now twice made the decision to further extend the re-opening for pubs that do not serve food, giving the 31st of August as the next potential opportunity to reopen. Decisions like these are highly contentious as the government battles to strike the balance between public safety and viable commercial activity during this tough and challenging time. For pubs this is another body blow that compounds an already uncertain future.
As many publicans try to prepare themselves and their businesses for this new uncertain normal, HEINEKEN has been swift to support publicans by launching an online platform, PubHub. The platform has a library of videos, sharing tips, insights, and advice, for publicans. The video presentations started shortly after lockdown, advising publicans on how to keep their staff engaged, providing tips on how to leverage social media, and providing information on how to prepare for reopening after lockdown.
One of the biggest tasks for the HEINEKEN Ireland team during lockdown was to collect and decant some 100,000 kegs of beer in a way that supports the circular economy. HEINEKEN’s sustainability strategy is driven by the tagline ‘brewing a better world’. To execute this sentiment, the collected beer, was used across the agricultural sector as fertiliser and animal feed, and in energy production as biogas, which was used to supply 28,000 houses with electricity for a day.
The tight restrictions and health and safety requirements necessitated by Covid 19 have ushered in a new era for the pub culture in Ireland. The importance for publicans to manage the situation strictly and correctly cannot be over-emphasised, and it is vital that they do so for all hospitality businesses to be allowed to continue to trade. Consequently, publicans are under a great deal of pressure to comply with the regulations. Everyone is all too aware that the cost of getting it wrong is too high. To assist in this matter, PubHub also shares video testimonials of the lessons learnt from fellow publicans about their experiences of reopening their businesses; what worked, what didn’t, what measures they put in place, how customers responded, and what they learnt from the process.
Quality is at the heart of what HEINEKEN Ireland does, and their nationwide team have been visiting their 7,000 customers around Ireland to help them to prepare for the reopening. In addition to supplying beer and cider kegs for the pubs, HEINEKEN Ireland has an in house technical and line- cleaning service team that is supported by FMI. The HEINEKEN line-cleaning service is recognised as a key contributor to the Irish pubs’ unique reputation for having the best quality draught beer. When the pubs were closed, the HEINEKEN draught services team were deployed to ensure that all pubs’ draught- dispensing equipment was cleaned, so that it would be in optimum condition for when the pubs re-open. To facilitate this service, the team scheduled appointments with pub owners and were fully briefed to adhere to safety regulations, including personal hygiene and physical distancing, before commencing operations.
HEINEKEN Ireland has managed to use the knowledge and expertise of their teams so as to best support publicans; they did this during the lockdown and are fully engaged again now as pubs reopen. The PubHub platform, as well as the teams on the ground, have both served to create a sense of community between the publicans and HEINEKEN; thus tapping into their communal goal to adapt, reinvent, and persevere, so that the pub culture in Ireland can not only survive, but thrive in this new normal.