Stay, play and pay more:

5 Entertainment Trends to keep people in your venue

Lots of venues offer playgrounds for kids and trivia nights for adults, but what else is out there to attract more punters, more often?

Emma Castle explores the latest trends in venue entertainment.

On the outskirts of Tamworth there’s a little country village called Dungowan that’s home to an old pub. The pub is just over 10 miles out of town, meaning that under the old liquor licensing laws, people were able to drink there on Sundays if they ‘travelled’ out from Tamworth.

The pub had a monkey in a cage – not an especially cruelty-free set-up – but while the fathers drank Tooths Ale, and the mothers sipped lemonade, the kids were enthralled by the monkey. This turned out to be a winning concept for Sunday trade.

While we’re not suggesting you invest in a monkey, there is merit in creating crowd-pleasing novelty. This is something that the owners of the Sydney-based Grounds of Alexandria restaurant complex have covered. Beyond their Insta-famous pig, ‘Kevin Bacon’, one thing The Grounds does really well is seasonal styling. For example, during March-April 2021, they have transformed their venue into a Moroccan bazaar with a theme called ‘Welcome to Marrakech’.

And while The Grounds isn’t a pub, there’s a lot that can be learnt from their creative approach.

So what can smart publicans do to lure patrons out of their post-COVID cocoons? Here are five ideas to keep ‘em coming back for more.

1. Free games

From darts competitions to chess (including giant outdoor chess boards), Scrabble, boules on the lawn (also known as pétanque) and croquet, why not expand your reach beyond poker nights and pool tables?

If you have outdoor space, consider installing a mini-golf course like they did at Holy Moley, a mini-maze, a digital driving range or a ping pong table.

Giant Jenga is great for kids, as is complementary Play Dough (easy and cheap for the kitchen crew to whip up) and chalk board walls or footpaths where little artists can get creative while their parents relax within supervising distance.


2. Poetry slams and author nights

If the thought of live poetry reading makes you shudder, it might be time to take another look. Slam poetry is more like rapping. Many bookshops and writers groups run slam poetry workshops so why not invite them into your venue for a competition?

Alternatively, bush poetry nights could be a better fit for your pub. Why not combine it with an Instagram competition to find the best bushranger beard in return for a dining or drinks voucher?

If poetry is not your thing, you can attract literature lovers by inviting local authors and their fans into your pub for a reading and book signing. Regular author talks are a great way to build a connection with the local community and a good excuse to use event spaces on quieter weeknights.

3. Instagram-friendly theming

While this is nothing new, it’s definitely worth mentioning if you want to attract seasonal crowds and encourage them to promote your venue for free.

Why not create an Easter set, complete with bunny ears, for the Easter long weekend? Or style your venue for an apres ski vibe when the weather cools down. Throw a boozy hot chocolate on the drinks list or play around with fondue and you’ve created a little bit of alpine novelty over winter (hint: this also works for Christmas in July).

Tie it all up with an Instagram competition and some special menu items and you will be surprised how powerful some strategically placed decorations can be.

4. Mullet competition

Mullets are back in fashion – and not in an ironic way. While there is an official Mulletfest, held annually at The Chelmsford Hotel, Kurri Kurri, you can certainly run your own heats.

The official categories for Mulletfest are Junior, Ranga, Vintage, Grubby, Extreme, International and Everyday, but you could introduce your own local categories depending on where you’re located.

5. No Lights, No Lycra

Have you got an APRA licence, an empty event space and a slow weeknight that you don’t know what to do with? Why not set up your own ‘No Lights, No Lycra’?

These one-hour dance events are designed to encourage people to dance in a non-club environment purely for fun. While the actual event is alcohol-free, many participants meet for dinner and drinks after their weekly dance session. More info here: www.nolightsnolycra.com