Raise the bar with stellar drinks offer

Better drinks and experiences in venues will be crucial in 2020, say firms

More low tempo occasions in bars are expected to spur on the premium spirits segment

THE thirst for quality spirits in pubs and bars has been one of the greatest trends in the drinks industry over recent years.

However, with some degree of economic discord on the horizon as the UK heads towards the EU exit door, operators will have to work harder and smarter to grow sales and capitalise on customers’ wants, firms told SLTN.

James Bremner, on-trade channel director for Pernod Ricard UK, the firm behind Absolut and The Glenlivet, stated that with fewer people visiting the on-trade, but those who do visiting more often, “it’s more important than ever to secure repeat visits and higher spend”.

He added: “Licensees will need to maintain sales and value growth with a quality premium drinks experience that will encourage people to come back to their outlet, stay longer and spend more.”

Mark Thomson, ambassador to Scotland for William Grant & Sons-owned single malt Glenfiddich, anticipates that a trend towards more relaxed drinking moments in the on-trade will heighten the need for premium spirits over the next 12 months.

“We expect high-octane social occasions to give way to lower tempo experiences, which will really drive the shift to the premium end of the market,” he said.

“Operators should do their best to leverage this opportunity, while at the same time being hyper-critical and reflective about the value given to consumers.”

Christian Tirel, brand ambassador for WhistlePig Rye Whiskey, also expects an augmented demand for premium spirits in the on-trade in 2020.

“Consumers are starting to explore the world of premium spirits more and delve deeper into categories,” he said.

“One interpretation is that people are looking to enjoy and remember these experiences, so are willing to spend their money on fewer, better drinks and leave with a clearer head the next day!

“People don’t want to spend time and effort going to a nice restaurant or bar to then drink something that they could find anywhere else, so they trade up at the bar to find something ‘unique’ to keep the whole evening feeling special.”

Consumers are starting to explore premium spirits more and delve deeper into categories.

To make the most of the demand for experiences in pubs and bars, Thomson at Glenfiddich reckons licensees must ensure their staff can deliver aesthetically appealing serves.

He said: “The appetite for visually pleasing spirit serves is steadily growing and will continue to do so, as people increasingly share their experiences with friends and family in real time on social media.

“As a result, operators who take this into account when presenting a delicious drink will increase the likelihood of their venue being rated positively across social platforms.

“This is why the training of on-trade staff has become more critical than ever. We will see a premium placed on the best bartenders, with the top venues fighting it out for the best talent. This is something we are already seeing in the industry.”

Finally, another growing section of the premium market for operators to consider is the rising need for low-ABV serves, according to Franck Dedieu, UK brand ambassador for St–Germain.

“As more consumers opt for a more mindful approach to drinking, they are drinking less but better, becoming increasingly interested in what goes into the liquids they are consuming and how they are made,” he said.

“The rise in low-ABV within the category has also meant that consumers value the experience of a night out more than they ever have done before.”

Top shelf tips to consider

It’s vital that staff know what they are talking about, so that they can give the best possible experience to every customer. – WhistlePig Rye Whiskey.

Refresh your bar display to encourage drinkers to be adventurous when it comes to choosing their serve and offer advice and recommendations. – St-Germain.

Even simple spirit serves can be delivered in premium glassware with elegant garnishes to build excitement around them. – Pernod Ricard.

High-end consumer attention will continue to be given to more sustainable products at the luxury end of the spirits market. – William Grant & Sons.