Trade can make the most of the Scottish summer whatever the weather
While there’s no guarantee of sunshine this summer, licensees can’t afford to be lackadaisical in their preparation for the season.
Drinks firms are gearing up for summer and they’ve been encouraging operators to do the same in order to keep tills ringing, whatever the weather.
Amy Ledger, marketing manager at Continental Wine & Food (CWF), said that summer, and the prospect of warmer weather, comes as a “breath of fresh air for pub and bar owners”.
“With many calendar events such as the May bank holidays not to mention numerous sporting events it is a real opportunity for family celebrations and get-togethers and therefore a great opportunity to generate incremental revenue,” said Ledger.
While summer weather in Scotland is notoriously unreliable, Ledger said it is key for publicans to prepare in advance, “so that if there is a spell of warm weather pub and bar owners are not caught on the hop, so to speak”.
Alan Hay of soft drinks firm AG Barr said that when the warm weather does hit, publicans should remember the role of thirst in keeping customers satisfied.
“Above all else, people visiting licensed premises when it’s hot are looking for thirst-quenching, refreshing drinks,” said Hay.
Although warm weather is a bonus, it isn’t essential for good summer trade if the offer is right, said Hay.
“Even when the weather isn’t at its best in the summer, people will still visit pubs and clubs and the key is for operators to have a good choice of soft drinks on sale,” he said.
A good choice may be key, but it’s no good if customers don’t know it’s there.
For strong sales, Hay suggested strong visibility for summer drinks, although that shouldn’t necessarily mean a ‘summer drinks’ menu.
“We don’t recommend dedicated sunny days drinks lists, but we advise operators to display their soft drinks prominently to let their customers see the full range they stock and always include soft drinks on any menus,” said Hay.
“Make use of POS from suppliers as it is proven to have a significant impact on sales.
“People buy with their eyes so if a drink looks good, they will be tempted to buy. The style can be adapted to portray long summer drinks during a heat wave.”
Steering clear of a dedicated summer drinks menu was also suggested by Peter Thornton, brand manager at Cellar Trends for cocktail mix brand Finest Call.
Thornton said he did not think that branding serves as summer drinks was important.
“I do, however, think that having a revamped summer menu is essential – menus should change with the seasons, but this is more down to ingredients than serves,” said Thornton.
Part of that revamped menu should at least include some variations on gin and rum cocktails, Thornton suggested, as these spirits continue to prove popular in the on-trade.
He said: “For spirits, the continued momentum of gins and rums should give some interesting cocktails and long drinks to choose from.
“There are some very creative producers out there all trying to outdo each other, which is making for great flavour combinations.
“We have also witnessed interesting creations with soft drink producers too; the likes of tonics and even ginger beer for example are being taken way more seriously than ever before. The mixer is now becoming as important, and as premium, as the spirit.”
In addition to some summer twists on the cocktail menu, publicans would do well to ensure the fridge is still packed with stalwart top sellers, according to Jodie Alliss, brand manager at Kopparberg.
Alliss said that although cider is becoming “ever more a year-round drink” the summer still presents an opportunity.
“It’s important for operators to focus on the proven winners for the summer season,” she said.
“Variation is healthy, but by picking proven winners like Kopparberg Mixed Fruit and Kopparberg Strawberry & Lime you give consumers the brands they expect to see behind the bar.”
Fruit won’t be the only flavour of the summer, according to Alliss, who highlighted Elderflower as a drinks trend to look out for this season.
“Elderflower is a big consumer trend right now and perfect for the summer season,” she said.
“Kopparberg are well placed to engage that trend with our Elderflower & Lime variant, which (for some added theatre) tastes delicious with a slice of cucumber, or alternatively a strawberry, to create the perfect summer serve.”
Packaged cider isn’t the only category which could see different flavours proving popular over the summer.
Ledger at CWF said wine will also be affected.
“We anticipate key trends for this summer will include unusual blends and upmarket Proseccos with sparkling wines as a category continuing to grow at a remarkable pace,” said Ledger.
“European wines will continue to grow market share as Australia and California struggle.
“Closer to home with regard to Italian wines, there will be a continued slow decline in Pinot Grigio sales being replaced by Prosecco and by other fresh white wines such as Soave, Lugana, Fiano, Gavi and Grillo.
“We believe that Italian wine prices will remain relatively stable as the strength of the pound counteracts any small increases in wine pricing.”