text.skipToContent text.skipToNavigation
  1. Home
  2. Lockhart Catering Blog
  3. Lager or Latte? The Rise of the Café Pub and Lounge
lager or latte feature
It only takes a fleeting glance at any main high street to know that coffee shops are steaming ahead of the food and drinks crowd, with big-name coffee chains falling over themselves to dominate the caffeinated market, and the independents and locals keenly snapping at their heels. The unprecedented explosion of coffee shops means that this sector is outperforming almost all areas of the food service market, with an impressive 6% growth between 2011 and 2014 according to M&C Allegra Foodservice, providers of market insight for the UK eating and drinking out market.

However, the upsurge in coffee shops of all kinds has been bad news for establishments that serve the stronger stuff. M&C Allegra’s 2015 report on The UK Pub Market tells a sad tale for once-beloved barrooms, as since 2007 they have struggled to maintain their position as the ‘third space’ for UK consumers, losing out to coffee houses which offer a similarly relaxed environment in which to socialise - but without the need to take a taxi home afterwards.


And it’s not just coffee shops that have contributed to UK pubs ‘losing their mojo’. M&C Allegra’s report explains that the smoking ban, the ready availability of low-priced supermarket alcohol, and also far higher quality in-home entertainment such as sports channels have all been factors in pubs becoming emptier and emptier. But with a true glass-half-full sense of optimism, pubs are finding a way to reclaim their third space – by transforming into café-pubs, or lounges, to become more than just ‘the boozer’.  

Coffee, cakes and free Wi-Fi, oh my!

Those of a certain age may fondly remember the Scream pubs, distinguishable by their garish yellow and black branding and aptitude for attracting penny-pinching students with their cut-price alcohol and ‘Pound a Pint’ nights. As successful as they may have been on the discounted nights, they failed to draw the same crowds to drink at the full price, and so the Scream brand has now evolved into Stonegate Pubs’ ‘Common Room’ concept – a more refined pub chain brand, with a mission to make the establishments appealing to students around-the-clock and always offer good value, as well as priceless extras.


A photo posted by The Ark (@glasgowstheark) on

Among the hallmarks of Stonegate’s Common Room concept pubs are fresh, contemporary and comfortable decors; super-fast, free Wi-Fi; printing facilities; charging stations; a broad and appealing food menu including breakfast and brunch offerings; televised sports; a wide selection of craft beer; dedicated games areas; and a choice of quality coffee, plus coffee shop-style ‘grab and go’ counters with takeaway drinks and snacks. The aim is to create a ‘home from home’, café-cum-pub environment for students where they can come and enjoy a hot drink and snack during the day while they work (or simply lounge), but also come back at night to drink and socialise with friends.


Best of all, it’s worked. At The Southfield in Middlesbrough, the first former Scream pub to undergo the Common Room transformation, sales rocketed by 60% post-conversion.

Lapping up the lounges

While some pubs are transforming into lounges to capture the interests of a more demanding market, many new establishments are opening up that bridge the gap between café and pub, and even events space, from the offset.


These hybridised venues include The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen in Leeds, which offers a wide selection of craft alcohols and soft drinks alongside stand-alone pizza and burger kitchens, and holds regular events, live music and even yoga classes; The Old Shoreditch Station in London, hailed as a ‘café bar and exhibition venue’ with an achingly cool interior and clientele (read: hipsters) to match; and The Canteen in Bristol, where their locally sourced, sustainable ‘Slow Food’ has a starring role alongside alcoholic offerings, and there’s live music, cinema screenings, or even DJ workshops every day or evening of the week.


The broad appeal of these venues is drawing a broad spectrum of customer through the door, as there’s just as much reason for a teetotal foodie to visit as a craft beer and live music fanatic – albeit the times of their visits may be wildly different. If their runaway success is to be counted upon, we should expect to see more and more café-pub hybrids popping up, or for our old favourite boozers to undergo rather dramatic makeovers.

Have you noticed more pubs broadening their offerings, or do you have a hybrid café-pub near you that you love to visit? We’d love to hear your thoughts so leave us a comment below.


Lockhart Catering on 6 November 2015 1:15 AM

Latest Blogs

preview image
8 May 2024
preview image
25 April 2024
preview image
24 April 2024
preview image
4 April 2024


Buyer's Guides
Buying Guides
Continental Chef Supplies
Guest Articles
Hints & Tips
Industry News
London Innovation Centre
National Chef Of The Year
New Products