It’s just the time for a focus on premium

December could be the best opportunity to encourage customers to trade up

AS November draws to a close, outlets across Scotland will already be welcoming staff Christmas parties and get-togethers.

But there’s still time for a few final tweaks to drinks ranges ahead of the busiest weeks of December and, with the main onslaught just around the corner, drinks firms have encouraged licensees to give special consideration to premium wines, spirits and liqueurs.

Faith Holland, head of category development at Diageo, said licensees can make the most of the festive season by “stocking up on must-stock premium variants”.

“They should also provide a wide range of the best-selling brands and remember the importance of extending the occasion by offering customers a spirit combination that they may not expect to see,” said Holland.

This was echoed by Andrew Richardson, a director at VC2 Brands, the firm behind Boe gin and Black Wolf Brewery, who said revellers during the festive season are more likely to experiment with their drinks.

When friends and family come together to celebrate, they’re often inclined to spend more.

“Customers are increasingly willing to experiment and try new drinks and this is an opportunity to trade them up to more premium drinks,” he said.

Quality spirits and liqueurs also lend themselves well to use in seasonal serves, according to Karine Tillard, brand ambassador for Patrón tequila.

“Having versatile spirits and liqueurs on your back-bar opens up a world of possibilities,” said Tillard, adding that giving “classic, popular cocktails a festive twist is a winner”.

It’s not just as easy as stocking up on top-shelf drinks and waiting for the tills to start ringing, however.

While there is likely to be a lot of people out for a good time over the month of December, there’s also a lot of competition for their business and drinks firms said that, despite the increased footfall, it’s still vital that outlets stand out from their competitors.

“Innovation drives the spirits sector, and at Christmas in particular, customers expect to see new serves and flavours on offer,” said Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort in the UK.

However, it’s equally important that staff are able to communicate the range of serves to customers.

Bolton said: “At such a busy time, staff knowledge and engagement is essential in order to support customers to select premium cocktails and drinks that are often not their ‘usual’.

“It’s relatively simple for staff to learn a few key facts about the flavours of a seasonal drink in order to talk to customers with confidence; suppliers can offer support with training, glassware and recommended serves.”

Together with high standards of products and service, it’s also important that customers are in a position to choose and order their drinks easily.

“Make sure fizz, wines, ports and sherries are prominently placed and clearly signposted, allowing your customers to help select the drinks they want in as little time as possible,” said Dan Harwood, head of wine education at Halewood Wines & Spirits, the firm behind Whitley Neill gin and the Marques de Caceres wine range.

The back-bar can often be difficult to take in, especially during busy times.

Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager at wholesaler and distributor CWF, agreed.

She said: “The back-bar can often be daunting to customers with its plethora of bottles, which, during busy times especially, can be difficult to take in.

“Visually appealing POS materials will highlight key products within your range, helping customers to identify which [products] are available more easily.”

And after a spate of news stories earlier in the year about dirty ice in the hospitality industry, operators have been urged not to overlook the importance of clean ice as venues prepare for the festive rush.

“There are loads of online resources that can help anyone looking for guidance on cleaning ice machines,” said Simon Aspin, commercial director at equipment supplier Hubbard Systems.

“With all the information available, there’s simply no excuse for poor hygiene.”