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Concerned about the state of the hospitality industry, many Britons are keen to support bars and pubs. And as Wetherspoons faces backlash over its response to the pandemic, the Neverspoons app is helping pub-goers make a positive impact on more local, independent businesses. We explore the insights behind this as big brand behaviour is being put under the spotlight.

At the start of the pandemic, Wetherspoons committed a series of missteps, such as refusing to pay suppliers and urging workers to avoid taking furlough. Neverspoons, made by two UK developers, is looking to challenge the franchise. The app was created to help people find alternative pubs where they can grab a drink – based on the user's location, the app directs them to independent pubs in their area. And it’s proven popular: in mid-July, Neverspoons was sitting in the top three on the Google Play free app chart, and thousands of small pubs have added their name to the service. The anti-Wetherspoons sentiment has also moved online, with #neverspoons and #boycottwetherspoons trending at various points on Twitter. 

Based on the user's location, the app directs them to independent pubs in their area
@josholalde (2020) ©
The pandemic has left both workers and consumers increasingly reliant on brands and businesses to support them, and
65% of people globally say a brand’s response to the pandemic will hugely impact their likelihood to buy its products. What’s more, 33% of consumers have convinced others to stop using a brand whose response felt inappropriate. With big names such as McDonald’s and Virgin facing public backlash for what were perceived as tone-deaf COVID-19 responses, there’s a desire for big brands to move away from self-interest and show support for small local businesses.

Wetherspoons recently slashed pint prices to a humble £1.29 and reduced the cost of meals, but the move may have been a little too late as far as consumers are concerned. By contrast, a number of industry leaders have been championing small businesses throughout lockdown - such as Budweiser and its ‘Save Pub Life’ campaign, as well as American Express’ ‘Shop Small’ activation - tapping into consumers’ desire to show solidarity with their wallets. As people pay close attention to big brands' behaviour, innovations like Neverspoons which champion the underdog could continue to grow.

Matilda Ruck is a Junior Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8. She has a degree in Politics and Philosophy as well as a foundation in psychotherapy and is passionate about exploring the interplay between creativity, psychology and culture. Outside of work, you can find her writing short stories, tending to her ginger cat Thomas O’Malley or oscillating between yoga and karaoke practice.


23 Jul 20
2 min read

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