10 November 2022

Ramblers and Walkers Need Pubs as Google Searches Boom! Are You Attracting Thirsty New Customers Looking to Rest Tired Feet?

Venues in picturesque locations, historic cities, and towns with high footfall can benefit from passing trade.

But if your venue is tucked away, you need to work harder to get people through the door.

One way of increasing footfall and attracting new customer groups is through walking.

But we’re not suggesting you round up punters and march them to the pub! We’re talking about making smart use of the popularity of getting outdoors and walking as a way of promoting your venue.

According to The Department of Transport, £13 is returned to the economy for every £1 invested in walking and cycling projects, and in 2015, Sport England revealed that climbing, mountaineering, and walking were worth £3.2 billion to the economy.


Interest in walking is booming

Walking for recreation in Britain became popular in the 19th century, offering some relief from the stresses of daily life.

The events of the last few years have created more than a few new walkers (and dog owners) with Google searches in the UK for the phrase ‘walks near me’ peaking in the last few years.


Graph showing Google search trend for the search term 'walks near me'

What’s more, related search terms have experienced big spikes in interest over the last 12 months at the time of writing.


walks near me +250%

dog walks with pubs near me +200%

interesting walks near me +170%

walks with pubs near me +150%


So, how can pubs make use of the popularity of walking to attract new customers?

Here are 5 things to think about…


1. Get in touch with local walkers and groups

An internet search for local walking groups or local walks is the place to start. Once you find a group, get in touch and invite them to your pub.

Ask where they usually walk and how they choose where to go. Aim to get your pub included on organised walks or featured on self-guided walking routes.

If there’s no group in your area, find the nearest and pick their brains about why there is no local group and how to get the locals walking through your door.

Remember that walking isn’t always about hikers with walking poles and day packs.

Many casual walkers walk shorter distances as a social activity and for their health, so look for groups around these themes as well as those focused on walking as a dedicated pastime.


2. Research existing local walking routes

Your local library can be a great source of information. Pay a visit and see what walking books or leaflets they have.

Even if the books are quite old, the routes they feature are likely to be timeless, even if the hospitality stops mentioned are not.

Are you on any of the routes?

If not, why not and how could you change this, or consider adapting existing routes to include your venue?

AllTrails.com lists and reviews pub walks across the UK. As an example, you can explore the Best Pub Trails in North Yorkshire.

You don’t have to be part of a big chain or estate to create a walking route that takes in your pub – but you can make use of their ideas.

Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, has a pub estate of more than 300 sites. The business worked with a local walking expert to create a series of walks that all start and finish at one of their pubs.

Time is likely to be your biggest investment in such a project. For example, launching five printed Shepherd Neame walking guides took about six months from the initial idea to the launch.

You might decide to print the guides isn’t worth the cost but thought needs to go into how people will find and use an online-only route.

We have six walking leaflets available with local trails that all start and end at the pub. They also pass two other pubs in the area, so we keep the cash spent locally. We also run a walking group on the last Thursday of each month. One of the villagers takes people out on the trails for a few hours then back here for lunch and refreshment (James Dixon, The Packhorse Community Pub)

3. Theme your walk to offer a unique experience that brings customers to your door and creates a buzz

History, architecture, culture, trees – any of these could provide a theme for a walk that encourages people to come to your pub. If you’ve lived locally for years, dredge up your nearby knowledge.

If you’re new to the area, it’s an excuse to explore and research. Are there plaques on nearby buildings celebrating notable people?

Do you have a historic post box or unusual street furniture (think Victorian stink pipes!) close by? Or maybe the area’s oldest tree is half a mile from your front door?

Whatever it is, if there’s something to see or mark the spot there’s a chance to make it part of a walking route that brings punters to your door.

If you’re lucky enough, you might have someone like Vic Norman of Dragon & Flagon London Pub Tours on your doorstep.

Getting your pub included in an established walking tour of pubs could be hugely beneficial.


4. Promote your walk to attract punters


Once you’ve contacted local groups and identified an opportunity to promote your venue as part of a walking route, it’s time to do some promotion.

Social media is a great way to tell friends and followers about the walk and get the word out.

Are there local Facebook groups about walks and walking that will allow you to post about your route and venue?

Or run a competition to help you find a theme for your walk? Shepherd Neame held a launch event for their walking guides and 150 people turned up – and that was in the winter!


5. Consider dog walkers too

Pet ownership in the UK peaked in 2021/22 [statista.com] and it’s no surprise that dogs are still the nation’s most popular pet.

If you’re already a dog-friendly venue, think about reviewing your profile to ensure new customers know you welcome dogs – as well as making it clear on site.

A few ‘Dogs Welcome’ signs can go a long way.

To give them a welcome when they visit, invest in some water bowls, and be prepared to fill them on request. Four-legged customers can be as thirsty as the humans they bring with them.

Treats, in the shape of good quality dog biscuits, can be a huge help if dogs are peckish after a long walk. But do check in with the humans before offering a treat.


🍺 Pub Chat

Malcolm Wills is co-chair of East Kent Walking Group, which does a 6 – 12 mile walk every Sunday and is part of the Ramblers. We recently caught up with Malcolm to talk about the relationship between walkers and pubs.

What makes a good pub for walkers?

One that doesn’t have carpets! Ramblers are by and large a conscientious bunch and would feel awful about muddying up a pub carpet. I went into a pub once that had the luxury of two bars. The larger one was carpeted and nice, the smaller had a stone floor and was quite a bit more rustic in feel.

There was a sign outside saying, ‘Walkers Welcome’, pointing you toward the rustic bar. It felt like a nice touch, saying we were welcome and guiding us the right way, rather than a negative sign on the nice bar saying, ‘No muddy boots’.

During the winter, an open fire is a real treat after a long walk. Even if you can’t get close to it, just seeing one psychologically helps to take the chill out of the bones.

Conversely, in the summer, somewhere to sit outside. Even after a few hours of being out and about in the sunshine, it can feel a bit restricting to sit in a pub when it’s a beautiful day outside. Sipping a hard-earned beer with the sun on your back is one of life’s simple pleasures.

What makes you choose one pub over another?

It’s almost exclusively practical reasons that determine which pub. You need to have enough parking near the start/finish of your walk for 10+ cars. Being as most pubs don’t have that kind of free space, we end up parking on adjacent streets. So, we are limited to pubs which are not in a tiny village. The walk always takes precedence over the pub.

What do you think pubs can do to attract walkers?

I suppose it’s just the same thing as would attract anyone to a pub. Friendly, engaged staff, a good menu selection. Ramblers seem to shy away from popular lagers and are more likely to have a craft beer or an IPA.

As a walker, is there anything that puts you off a pub or that you wish pubs wouldn’t do?

The reverse of what I said above really. There have been occasions where the staff were quite passive-aggressive. On one occasion a member of staff made a point of sweeping the floor once we’d sat down! We didn’t feel welcome, and I certainly wouldn’t take a group there again and I wouldn’t go there outside of walking either.

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