IT’S hard not to be envious of on-trade operators in the Mediterranean during the summer months. While many will face challenges, most will not be forced to chase footfall with the same gusto as publicans in Girvan or Inverness.
Despite lacking the firm guarantee of sunshine that would be found in Spain or Italy, Scotland’s summer still presents operators with opportunities.
Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager at Continental Wine & Food Ltd (CWF), said summer, and the likelihood of warmer weather, comes as a “breath of fresh air for pub and bar owners”, especially after the cold and wet weather of recent months.
“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 Giacobbi.
While no one really expects to see Cancún weather in Cumbernauld, Giacobbi reckons that the unpredictable nature of Scotland’s summer simply means on-trade operators must ensure they are well prepared for sudden bursts of sunshine. “With the unreliability of the British weather the key is to be prepared 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,” she said.
For those days when the weather plays the game, it’s the publicans who are prepared to push the boat out that will do best, suggested Charlie Maas of RumChata.
The global branding ambassador said that in a competitive market, “it pays to be innovative”.
“Exciting and versatile drinks allow for more creative serves,” said Maas.
“It’s definitely worthwhile having a drinks list for sunny days – the appearance of the sunshine traditionally sees beer gardens filled to capacity, and it’s not unusual that people would want a refreshing drink to match their mood.”
Ian Peart, on-trade channel director at Pernod Ricard UK, the firm behind Absolut and Havana Club, agreed.
Peart said he reckons ranging is “one of the key drivers during the summer period”, adding that this is the “most important thing for operators to get right”.
When building a range for summer, Peart suggested operators offer customers a price-tiered drinks list.
“For example, rather than offering five similar spirits at the lower end of the value spectrum, it is far more effective to offer three that offer different propositions,” said Peart.
“Providing wider choice for a consumer is essential these days, especially with a growing, younger demographic that are keen to branch out in terms of taste.”
Once this is in place, Peart reckons publicans should then have their fingers on the social media button, ready to pounce with marketing materials the moment the sun clears the clouds.
“When the weather looks set to change, why not take a quick picture of a summer cocktail you’ve prepared and share across your social platforms, inviting consumers down to enjoy a cocktail in the sun with you,” he said.
The importance of social media to summer drinks sales was also flagged by Wendy Espie, senior brand manager for Tennent Caledonian’s Belgian beer brand Heverlee, who said publicans should “maximise their social media channels” when the sun comes out.
“If you’ve got an outdoor space, post pictures of it when the sun is out to let drinkers know it’s there,” she said.
And Espie said it’s “vital” operators are prepared to meet the “constant demand” for summer favourites –including draught lager as well as products from warmer climates – by maintaining healthy stock levels of best-sellers.
“The warmer, and hopefully sunnier, weather often makes consumers think of sunnier climates and other cultures,” she said. “This provides licensees with an opportunity to maximise sales of world beers.”
Ally Gilmour of Glasgow-based Spanish and premium drinks wholesaler Triana Drinks, whose portfolio includes Spanish beer Cruzcampo, Larios gin and Licor 43 liqueur, agreed, saying it’s “extremely important for operators to stock a wide range of versatile products”.
“We can’t predict what customers are going to ask for, although there tends to be certain trends that depend on the season,” she said.
“Although in Scotland we don’t have the most reliable summers, the demand for exotic drinks that remind people of being on their holidays still appear, regardless of the weather.
“We would expect to see operators take advantage of the continued growth in the gin market by offering their customers a summer range of gin-based long drinks, like Larios Rosé served with strawberries, fresh lime and mixer.”
Guy Dodwell of Diageo agreed that it’s important operators pay close attention to the big hitters when sorting stock this summer.
He suggested publicans keep an eye on fruit ciders and craft beers, as both categories go from strength to strength in the on-trade, ensuring stock levels are high and staff are trained on any new additions to the chiller.
“As a category in growth, there are always new fruit ciders and craft beers launching throughout the year, so licensees should ensure they regularly review their range to ensure they are capitalising on these innovations,” said Dodwell.