The project was broken down into four distinct areas of research: desk research; mystery shopping; surveys, interviews and co-design workshops; and field experiments. We describe the research topics and methodologies used briefly below. Further details on both the methodology and our findings can be found in a separate document. 

Desk Research

We explored market trends, and the many pressures and influences on licensed venues, including:

  • Customer trends
  • Pub and bar industry insights
  • The soft drinks industry
  • The role of pub companies and wholesale ties
  • Staff and training
  • The role of public health and voluntary organisations
  • The role of licensing

Mystery shopping

In our mystery shopping exercise, a Club Soda researcher walked into a bar and asked: “What non-alcoholic drinks do you have?”

The bar tender’s response was recorded, with all the different drinks offered. In addition, how non-alcoholic drinks were displayed and whether any visible promotion was noted.

co-design workshopSurveys, interviews, and co-design workshops

We undertook online surveys and interviews with venues, customers, soft drinks producers, and licensing and public health professionals. We ran two co-design workshops, one with venues and one with customers, to find out where in the customer journey there might be opportunities for change. Both groups developed several ideas, some of which we explored further in the field experiments.

Field experiments

We took three ideas from the co-design workshops for further development and testing. All three experiments are at this stage pilot feasibility studies, rather than full-blown trials which would not have been possible with the resources available for this project. Based on the findings from these experiments, we hope to develop the most promising ideas further.

A feasibility study to test venue managers’ appetite to self-assess how well they are promoting sensible drinking. This would take the form of a self-assessment tool they could use, and also an online customer rating system and a local award scheme. If the venues were made more aware of their customers’ demands, and the practical steps they can take to meet their needs, would this change their perceptions and practices?

RebootMy.Life website – To help us understand whether venues would be willing to provide information about alcohol support services in their venues. For this feasibility study we designed stickers to be put up in toilet mirrors, and created a very simple support signposting website.

Stocking alternative drinks – To test venues’ appetite for selling and promoting non-alcoholic beer and new, locally produced soft drinks, we ran an experiment with these drinks.

Beer tastings

Club Soda organises occasional low and no-alcohol beer tasting events. They accidentally became a part of this project, as we held one in Dalston and invited some of the venues we had worked with to come along. This then led to further collaboration.

Intensive interaction with one venue

We found a volunteer licensee at our beer tasting event, and their venue became the main focus of the experiments (especially the alternative drinks one). We have chronicled this relationship and the outcomes in more detail, as they show how a shift in behaviour can be achieved. We also interviewed a number of other managers for the first two experiments.