AFTER another tough year for the trade, licensees will be looking to make the most of the upcoming festive season.
And drinks companies say the growing popularity of cocktails could represent the best opportunity for maximising sales this Christmas.
Jim Grierson, sales director, on-trade, at Maxxium UK, said the cocktail trend “clearly represents a big opportunity this Christmas”, and claimed that the category is easier to break into than some publicans might think.
“Cocktails can be as complicated or simple as you care to make them,” he said. “If it’s an area you have never dabbled in before, then creating a simple menu with easily made contemporary cocktails is an easier thing to do than you might imagine.”
In fact, sometimes the simplest lists are the best, argued Roy Summers, head of category management at First Drinks, who said menus “don’t have to be long and complicated”.
“Some of the most effective cocktail menus are concise, contain well-known brands and reflect either the style of the bar, or for food-led establishments, are matched with the cuisine.”
Pre-made cocktail mixers, such as those produced by Funkin and Finest Call, are another option for outlets that don’t usually offer cocktails.
Peter Thornton, brand manager at First Call, described cocktails as “a great sales opportunity” over the festive season.
“However, many do not have staff with the right expertise, or are unwilling to invest in perishable fruit and juices,” he said.
Sharing pitchers are also expected to be popular this Christmas, as customers look to socialise with friends while cutting costs.
Funkin CEO Andrew King said sharing serves are likely to be “a big hit” this festive season, and advised publicans to consider adding an extra garnish to cocktails and mixed drinks to make them more attractive.
“The mixers provide a very simple way to make great-tasting cocktails with minimal training required; they just require the addition of ice and a spirit and take approximately ten seconds to serve.”
As well as offering an easy to make, affordable drink for consumers, cocktail sharing pitchers can help publicans promote moderate drinking, according to Ian McLaren, head of product training and mixology at Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands.
McLaren advised licensees to serve cocktails that have a “sensible” ABV, but which do not compromise on flavour.
“We all know that the festive season can sometimes get a bit too merry and this is a great way to encourage responsible drinking without being a party pooper,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the on-trade can offer throughout the festive season is its ability to provide customers something they can’t get at home. That’s why Andrew Leat, senior category development manager, on-trade, at Diageo, said it’s essential outlets offer their festive customers the perfect serve, every time.
“Providing customers with the perfect serve of their chosen spirit will help an on-trade outlet to distinguish itself from an at-home experience,” said Leat.
Staff education is another key consideration for operators, said Leat, as customers tend to trust more knowledgeable bartenders, which can generate more opportunity for up-selling.
Whatever the Christmas strategy this year, the most important thing is that plans are put in place well in advance of the festive rush, according to Debs Carter, marketing director for ready to drink WKD at Beverage Brands.
“Bar managers can’t control the weather or other factors, but they can ensure that they are stocking the key brands, dedicate prominent fridge positioning to the top-sellers, have plenty of chilled product and ice available, have made festive opening hours well known in advance, and have sufficient staff to ensure customers aren’t kept waiting,” she said.
Image – Cocktails represent a key sales opportunity this Christmas, according to brand owners.