Pubs and other on-premise venues have enjoyed an increase in Melbourne Cup bookings in comparison to last year, as both data and anecdotal evidence suggests an increase in consumers wanting making an event out of the famed annual horse race.

Data from guest experience and retention platform SevenRooms revealed a surge in reservations year-on-year for on-premise venues during the Melbourne. Surprisingly, it was within Melbourne itself which saw the biggest surge, with a 20.6 per cent increase in reservations for the Melbourne Cup this year compared to last year. Australia-wide, Melbourne Cup reservations were up by 1.35 per cent.

At Australian Venue Co, Melbourne Cup sales in Victoria were up by almost 10 per cent on last year’s event.

“We attribute this to the variety of public holiday events and packages available across the state, including brunches,” stated an AVC spokesperson.

The group’s best performing venue was Claremont Hotel in Perth, where there were three different packages available.

A package deal

Implementing a comprehensive, prepaid F&B package – as well as providing special entertainment such as DJs and giveaways – has also proved popular with punters, despite a general curtailing of spending that hospitality venues have begun to note.

“Irrespective of economic pressures, special days like the Melbourne Cup provide significant opportunities for restaurants and bars to capture revenue through special events and experiences – something Australian consumers are looking for as they become more selective about how and where they spend their dollars,” suggested Paul Hadida, general manager APAC at SevenRooms.

“The surge in YoY reservations in Melbourne, and the nationwide increase are indicative of that. We’re really seeing the importance of guest experience. As cost-of-living pressures squeeze household spending, two in three (68%) Aussies are prioritising quality rather than quantity when it comes to their visitation of restaurants, bars and cafes. To convince them to spend up, they want more than a meal, they want an experience and to be rewarded for their patronage. We’re certainly seeing venues that focus on guest experience and deepening relationships are better able to drive retention and loyalty; which enable them to generate more sales and profits.”

Earlier in the year, Australian Hotelier spoke to CLG CEO Tim Fitzgerald in the lead up to Spring Racing Carnival. The group had seen a boost in visitation in 2022 due to offering a real holistic experience during the Cup, and was looking to build on that this year.

“Last year the Spring Racing Carnival was really successful for us. I think people are looking for something different and a special experience when they come into venues for it. So we tried to do make a bit of a fuss over each of our venues with new menus, and all of the special things you do, particularly for Melbourne Cup day, around sweepstakes and fashions on the field. All of those things make for a more of a unique event,” stated Fitzgerald.

“[We want] customers to really associate our pubs with those key celebration days. And I think, particularly in the last year, offering those tailored experiences on those different days or providing different reasons for visiting the venue, has been important.”

For Kickon Group, while visitation remained steady this year, revenue did increase.

“As a group, and from a revenue perspective, it was a successful event with a groupwide increase in 6.3% revenue as compared to the event last year, with similar numbers attending from last year across the board,” stated marketing director Tom Allan.

“What we saw in our venues was that there still is very much an appetite for the Melbourne Cup, with our guests across Victoria and Brisbane getting dressed up for the occasion and stuck right into the festivities.”

For all Melbourne Cup events, Kickon Group implemented food and beverage packages.

“For all of our participating venues we implemented a food and bev package, with entertainment at all venues on the day as well. Overall these did well, however we did notice a lot more bookings coming through in the final week leading up to the Cup, as opposed to earlier sales in years past.”

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