CHRISTMAS is coming and consumers are gearing up to visit the on-trade for a variety of festive celebrations – from work nights out to gatherings with family and friends.
For many operators, next month represents a major opportunity to not only boost sales but to showcase their venues and build repeat custom.
And while categories like wine and Champagne are expected to see a significant uplift in the coming weeks, licensees should not overlook the sales potential of beer.
Brewers supplying the Scottish on-trade reckon the stars could be aligned this festive season for operators looking to boost their beer sales.
Staff should try the seasonal menu with beer to help make recommendations.
“Consumers are traditionally more open-minded around Christmas, but we think that now, more than ever, any reason to spend differently or more must be backed up with a solid reason,” said Simon George, managing director of Budvar UK.
To capitalise on this opportunity George reckons staff training on all beers, not just new additions to the range, should be undertaken now before the season “gets in full swing”.
“Where relevant and possible, also make allowances within training for the staff to try the seasonal food menus with beer so they can recommend with confidence,” he added.
Claire Arnott, head of UK customer marketing at Tennent’s, agreed that Christmas creates ample opportunity to boost beer sales in the on-trade.
“With consumers in the festive spirit they are often likely to spend more money, offering licensees an opportunity to dramatically increase sales,” said Arnott.
“With office party bookings filling tables as early as mid-November, outlets have the chance to showcase their food service and menu meaning more than just revenue from the bar.”
Adding some festive beers to the range can also help drive sales, according to Jo Stewart, co-founder of Stewart Brewing, who said Christmas beers are a “must-stock for cask outlets over the festive season”.
“A great pint of Christmas brew is always a best seller amongst regulars and revellers alike,” she said.
“At Stewart we usually try to offer a Christmas brew that is a little different and stands out on the bar and from the many other themed beers on offer at this time of year.
“Good clear branding is important and, of course, a festive feel without being tacky!”
While there’s certainly a lot to keep on top of over Christmas with everything from sorting staff rotas to maintaining ample stock levels taking on an extra festive squeeze, operators shouldn’t forget to set aside some time to market their beer offer.
“It may sound obvious but publicising your festive offering is paramount to generating increased footfall,” said Andrew Turner, Heineken UK’s category and trade marketing director for the on-trade.
“Let customers know about your plans by putting up outdoor signage to increase visibility, drawing people in.
“Make it really clear both inside and outside the bar what your Christmas offers, menus and events are.
“If you’ve got a large Facebook or Twitter following, use these channels as well. Remember – social media can take a lot of time but there are a variety of tools out there now which can help you schedule content to keep your outlet on your customers’ radar, which is obviously what you need at this competitive time of year for pubs.”
Cellar management and staff knowledge are all vital to serving the perfect pint, but a quality serve alone may not be enough to send beer sales soaring this festive season.
Turner reckons operators also need to “get the ambience right”.
And since the festive period is likely to lead to many customers treating themselves and those around them, including when visiting the on-trade, Turner suggested stocking up on premium brands in particular to drive up margins over the season.
“Make sure you have enough stock for the biggest brands and encourage staff to recommend premium brands to customers who may be interested in trading up,” he added.