When it comes to the latest on-premise beverage trends, everyone wants to be ahead of the curve — or, at the very least, right on track. But keeping a close eye on trends can be tricky, not to mention time consuming.
Enter Mike Ginley, partner in Westport, Conn., marketing and promotion agency Next Level Marketing, who presented exclusive research at the VIBE Conference last month. Next Level’s study involved a survey of 500 on-premise national chain consumers, all of whom ordered wine, beer or a spirit cocktail in the past 30 days.
Ginley and Next Level’s research provided interesting insights into on-premise beverage alcohol trends, including what guests are purchasing, why they select it and what to expect in the future.
Overwhelmingly, the survey’s results showed value is king. Although consumer spending is increasing, especially among younger males — 64% of all consumers are spending the same amount or more at bars and restaurants this year vs. 2011 — they’re still scouring to get the most for their money.
Happy hours play a big role, with nearly 60% of consumers surveyed saying they’ve attended a happy hour promotion in the past 90 days and a full 82% saying happy hours are at least “somewhat important” when choosing what location to visit. That opens up a big market for restaurants looking to draw a crowd for drinks — and keep them for a full-priced dinner. In fact, 62% prefer happy hours before dinner (from 4 to 7 p.m.), although late-night happy hours are making inroads with younger consumers.
It’s important to note, however, that 64% of those surveyed want happy hours with food and beverages, so offering options is crucial to experiencing happier happy hours — just be sure the discounts actually help, not hurt, your bottom line.
Happy hours aren’t the only promotions that pay off. Bars and restaurants looking to capitalize on consumer spending should offer special promotions and house specialties, Ginley says. And drink menus play a critical role in the guest’s decision-making — after all, only 17% of people decide in advance what they want to drink. This leaves plenty of opportunity for restaurants to sway consumers’ decisions to a special cocktail or higher-priced wine, by showcasing high-quality drinks on menus and other marketing materials that are easily seen by guests.
Drinks should be updated every 90 days, Ginley says, to keep the menu fresh and exciting and keep guests coming back for more.
Beyond specials, Next Level’s research gained plenty of insight into exactly what consumers are purchasing at the table or bar. Good news: More than 70% of consumers are ordering the same types and amount of beverages that they have in the past.
Approximately one-fifth of consumers are drinking fewer beverages but choosing higher quality drinks, which provides an opportunity to cash in with specialty drinks.
And when it comes to what everyone is drinking, it runs across the board: 70% order beer at a restaurant or bar at least every 90 days, while 72% and 75% have ordered cocktails or wine, respectively, in the last 90 days.
Guests prefer beers on tap vs. those in bottles, Ginely notes, and it could pay off to have specialty glassware for those draft beers: Nearly half of all consumers prefer a glass designed for a specific style of beer. Often these glasses correspond with craft and microbrews, and guests are willing to pay up for those beers: 69% order the highest quality beer available.
When it comes to cocktails, quality also is crucial, but the total value is even more key: 71% order the highest quality cocktail at the best price.
Plus, there is much room for growth on cocktail menus across the country, as 60% of those surveyed said they are either very or somewhat interested in “skinny” or low-calories cocktails — a trend that Ginley says will only increase in the future.
Wine came out on top, though, with fully three-quarters of guests saying they have ordered wine in the past three months. An opportunity for growth in this market is with education, as many guests could benefit from greater insight into what they’re imbibing, Ginley says.
Overall, the on-premise beverage alcohol scene is looking up, with a majority of guests spending the same or more than they did last year. But, as always, variety, value and, yes, deals are what will get guests in the door — and keep them coming back.