THERE’S a reason pubs’ outdoor areas are commonly known as beer gardens, and it goes well beyond the coining of the term, which is thought to date back to 19th century Germany.
And while beer is generally expected to again prove popular in the al fresco areas of Scotland’s pubs and bars this summer, it seems consumers are also likely to have a thirst for brands from other parts of the world.
That was the view of Alan Hay, sales director at Tennent’s, whose portfolio includes Belgium-brewed Heverlee, Italian beer Menabrea, and American beers Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and Schlitz.
He said that when it comes to beer, “the warmer, and hopefully sunnier, weather often makes consumers think of sunnier climates and other cultures”.
And it’s these thoughts that present an opportunity for the on-trade, according to Hay, who said consumers are “demanding high quality imported world beers”.
Operators would also do well to offer a selection of seasonal beers this summer, according to Jo Stewart, co-founder of Midlothian-based Stewart Brewing, who said seasonal brews have become more popular due to the ever-growing craft sector.
“This has definitely heightened with the explosion and popularity of craft, with bars now proactively seeking out different styles and tastes,” she said.
“As brewers grow in numbers, the choice of beer is vast; keeping your beer offering diverse and interesting is vital to attract beer drinkers to your bar.”
Another way of piquing customers’ interest is to offer beer in a range of formats, according to Hay of Tennent’s.
He reckons that the Scottish on-trade is “seeing significant growth in packaged ale”, which he believes feeds into the wider consumer demand for packaged and premium craft beers in the on-trade.
“Over the last six years, demand for premium bottled ales has increased by 92%, with the category expected to be worth £1 million by 2020, creating a real opportunity for operators to drive sales and revenue in bar,” said Hay.
But it’s not just bottled beers that operators should look to, according to Andy Wingate of Heineken. He said that a decent canned range “can be useful”, as it “is a fast growing (if small) segment”.
Beyond considering the format and brands, operators should also consider which beer styles to stock this summer.
James Warren, head of insights for AB InBev UK & Ireland, commented that “for the on-trade in particular, it’s important to know how the mercury’s movements impact punters’ habits, purchases and tastes”.
“During the summer months, research shows there is a noticeable shift towards beer and cider beverages, often in smaller quantities, as consumers opt for more ‘refreshing’ drinks,” he said, adding that light-tasting lagers are amongst the drinks that “benefit from this season”.
Echoing this view was Hay of Tennent’s, who said that lager “performs well [all] year round but especially during the summer months as drinkers look for something cold and refreshing”.
And operators mustn’t forget about their outdoor areas, according to Warren of AB InBev UK & Ireland, who said that summer days in beer gardens “will always be a key trading time for the on-trade”.
However, he added that, for operators that do not have an al fresco area, there is still scope to capitalise on the season.
“Even if you don’t have the benefit of outdoor space, making small changes to your venue, drinks list and food menu to suit the changing weather and consumer needs, you can maximise both crowds and spend,” he said.