Contributed by Aimee Emerson of London-based & SMITH.
Another day, another pub opens selling craft beer to hipsters. Meanwhile, high street pubs — especially those outside London — haven’t moved on in years. Chains like All Bar One, Pitcher & Piano and Slug & Lettuce have struggled to reinvent their formula of candles on bare-wood tables and pub fare. And JD Wetherspoon still dominates thanks to its size, its you-know-what-you’re-going-to-get familiarity and low prices.
Enter Wild Lime Bar & Kitchen, owned by The Bramwell Pub Company. Bramwell, who own 150-plus high street pubs across the UK, have picked out three pilot pubs with potential. The first Wild Lime Bar & Kitchen opened in Southampton in July, and two more followed in Banbury and Reading in August.
Bramwell’s brief was to create a female-friendly bar and to attract customers across the week, as high street restaurants do, rather than just on Friday and Saturday nights. So say goodbye to fruit machines and big screen sports, and hello to a bar serving good, fresh food (a rarity on the high street, especially in a bar or pub) and dishes under 500 calories.
Bramwell have invested around £300,000 on the pilots. If Wild Lime Bar & Kitchen is a success, Bramwell have earmarked up to 100 more of their bars for the new brand.
Highlights of the Wild Lime brand
The brand is inspired by the attitude of New World places like California, Cape Town and Sydney. The idea was to bring a little of the coffee and brunch culture that’s come to London from places like Auckland and Melbourne to the high street and the rest of Britain.
Everything took off from there.
- We All Need Words created all the names. The brand itself is named after an Australian fruit.
- & SMITH created Wild Lime’s relaxed visual identity: the logo, a handwritten typeface for headlines, a sun-kissed colour palette of oranges and blues and a library of carefree photos that are easy to mix and match in different ways.
- Martin Poole took the photographs of the food, art directed by & SMITH.
- We All Need Words created an easygoing ‘whatever, whenever’ and ‘why not?’ tone, used everywhere from the words in the windows, on the walls and in the menus. The tone especially helps to take the salesy-ness off deals or offers. So an A-board for happy hour at 5pm leads with the headline ‘That email can wait’, and a Friday night offer says ‘3,840 minutes till Monday. Start the clock’.
Wild Lime’s brand became the starting point for everything else too: the interiors — designed by Fusion DNA — feature bleached wood and bright sunny colours. You’ll find a menu of all-day brunches, sandwiches and burgers (stacked high), stonebaked pizza and proper milkshakes. It also has a completely New World wine list and a special list of beers from the USA. And, yes, you can still get a good old-fashioned pint, too.
“We debated a lot about how much to ‘brand’ Wild Lime. But all the research said people are crying out for a good bar on the high street. Finding somewhere good is such a lottery. Things like a name, good design and a clear brand really matter to people – they want to know they can trust a place not to have big screen sports, rubbish loos, and microwaved food.”
— DAN BERNSTEIN, & SMITH
“It’s much harder to do a high street bar well than, say, a gastropub in Shoreditch. It’s so tempting to think that mainstream needs to mean safe or being like everyone else. And it’s even easier to fall into that trap if you’re a big pub operator. But to Bramwell’s credit, they’ve been really up for throwing out the same-old pub rules to try something new.”
— ROB MITCHELL, WE ALL NEED WORDS