While it is true that many pubs and taverns around the country are independently owned, the drinking and dining market is far too lucrative to be ignored by the big players. New Zealand’s two largest breweries, Lion and DB, have been making big moves into the pub dining sector.

Lion has a specific strategy for its ‘Spiritual Homes’ (Lion-owned hospitality experiences), which links back to specific brand values. Lion owns five such venues in New Zealand, which are primarily manufacturing businesses that have a hospitality component as part of their offering such as Emerson’s Tap Room, and Little Creatures. It also has the Speights Ale House and Macs Brew Bar chains.

“Each of our hospitality brands and branded concepts have a unique food and menu offering,” Lion director of hospitality Mat Tolhurst explained. “The menus we build for each venue will be unique to the location and owners who are operating the sites. Lion now employs an executive chef who works with the head chefs at each venue to develop the specific principles of the menu at each venue.”

Lion uses values associated with the specific brand to inform the design and experience.

“A great example of this is the Emerson’s tap room in Dunedin,” Tolhurst said. “Emerson’s is a boutique, traditional craft beer brand which is reflected in the design and materials used in the structure and finishes in the venue. Compare this with our Mac’s Brewbars which are more eclectic, quirky and contemporary design-driven fitouts.”

Lion has an extensive product portfolio in New Zealand, which means that drink options are never short. “The on-premise channel and venues within the channel are a shop front for our products,” Tolhurst said. “What we find is that strong brands tend to feature in most venues as consumers are looking for a consistent experience when consuming a product. An example of this is Steinlager, Corona or the Ned Pinot Gris – these products will be ranged in 80 percent of the on-premise accounts contracted to Lion for the simple reason that the venue owner wants to offer a product that they know will sell.”

DB Breweries also has a share in the market, through Joylab (previously Barworks Hospitality Group). DB came together with JAG Hospitality Ltd in 2008, offering guidance and commercial support, and now Joylab has 21 hospitality venues around Auckland, including pubs The Zookeeper’s Son, The Postman’s Leg and The Elephant Wrestler. DB also has a stake in the Classic Pub Network, which includes seven historic pubs from around the country.