The casual dining crunch has hit restaurants hard this year. A recent report from market insights company MCA shows growth in eating out is at its lowest level in five years.
This is causing some restaurant chains to either restructure to stay afloat or call in the administrators.
In contrast, bars are doing much better. Large operators like Mitchells & Butlers, owner of All Bar One, is expanding and investing in its estate. Elsewhere, Punch has returned to the acquisition trail for the first time in 11 years as it grows its community pubs and sports bar formats.
Part of the reason eating out isn’t following the fortunes of drinking out is because of the changing customer experience in bars.
Bar owners are innovating more when it comes to how drinks are served and mixed. Consumers visit bars to try new and different flavour combinations – in successfully capitalising on this trend, bar owners need to find a balance when it comes to offering choice.
Coping with choice
One of the most popular ways to meet growing customer demand for more choice of flavours is through stocking more spirits.
For example, it’s now not unusual to walk into a bar offering hundreds of different premium gins, vodkas and whiskies. Bars are keen to offer different tastes that customers can’t get everywhere.
However, expanding ranges and filling the back bar with hundreds of different bottles of spirits can prove challenging.
Too much choice can prove overwhelming and confusing for customers, while it can be expensive for bars. There’re also the practical aspects of stocking such large numbers of different drinks.
Another innovative way
Rather than simply stocking more and more different spirits, bars can tap into the demand for more choice of flavours by adding variety and premiumisation to their tonics, soft drinks and mixers offering.
Pairing premium spirits with different flavoured tonics, soft drinks and mixers is an important part of the customer experience. Consumers enjoy discovering and experimenting with new flavours.
Adding variety and premium quality to tonics and mixers mean bars can stock fewer spirits, while still meeting customer demands for new and different serves and tastes.
This was one of the key reasons that we’ve continued to innovate within the Franklin & Sons range. Since we launched it a few years ago, the range has always been defined by 100% natural ingredients to give consumers an authentic taste and unique flavours.
Thinking very much of the consumer demands placed on bars for more exciting and exotic flavours, last month we developed four new dual-flavoured tonic waters. The new flavours such as Pink Grapefruit with Bergamot, and Elderflower with Cucumber have been created to work in harmony with not just gin, but also a much wider range of spirits.
This means that bars are not only unlocking the value of curiosity in both their bartenders and consumers across many different spirits, but they’re also able to capitalise on key consumer trends towards lower ABV and spritz serves. For example, the new Rosemary with Black Olive tonic pairs perfectly with a sweet vermouth.
Focusing on flavour
It’s likely to become more tempting for bar owners to keep filling their shelves with more and more different spirits. There’s lots of innovation in premium spirits such as ‘pink’, ‘violet’ and ‘colour changing’ gins.
For bars, the most important innovation to remember is ‘flavour’. Consumers discovering and experimenting with new tastes is one of the fundamental reasons that premium spirits are booming in the on-trade.
By adding variety and quality to their tonics and mixers offering, bars can create a whole new range of serves with huge consumer appeal, without adding more to an already crowded back bar.
By Jen Draper, head of marketing at independent drinks company, Global Brands