Pubs could triple off-premise visits with delivery and takeaway post lockdown

Publicans and bar operators have an opportunity post lockdown to focus on the contribution of off-premise visits to their businesses, according to global information company The NPD Group.

In the year to March 2020, 9.9% of all British pub visits were off-premise – up from 7.6% five years earlier, with this growth driven by delivery services and takeaway coffee.

NPD said once the British foodservice industry’s lockdown ends, there is scope to expand the range of delivery and takeaway offerings “significantly” to include alcoholic and other non-alcoholic beverages along with takeaway hot and cold food.

Over the past decade, it added that digital ordering in the eating-out market has increased by 700%, rising from 95 million visits per year in YE March 2010 to 731m for YE March 2020.

But within the pub and bar sector, growth has been slower. A high-street quick-service restaurant can expect delivery to account for up to 10% of visits but delivery orders currently account for less than 2% of pub visits.

It also found that inside a pub or bar, ordering via mobile apps accounts for just 1.4% of all visits. But this too is “increasing rapidly” driven by apps that allow anyone to order food and drinks to their table.

NPD said that ordering through this way has “significant scope” for growth in pubs and can increase the safety of operations for customers and staff.

Visits through digital ordering are increasing across the wider foodservice industry – and not just among younger consumers. In the two years to March 2020, they were up 42% for 16-to-34s, 32% for the 35-to-49s, 22% for the over 50s and 18% for families.

Peter Linden, insights manger Foodservice, The NPD Group, said: “In Q1 2020, visits to British pubs declined by over 12% from Q1 2019 with this steep drop reflecting the UK government’s lockdown introduced on March 23rd. Visits to pubs essentially halted in April and there’s no reason to expect a material change for May when the figures come through.

“The pressure on business has been enormous and the impact has been devastating. When trading fully resumes, pub and bar operators will want to do everything they can to reinvigorate their offering while ensuring sales operations are as safe and socially distanced as possible.”

He added: “Doubling or tripling off-premise visits – from the current 10% to 20% or even 30% –is a viable ambition for some operators, and there’s also ample scope to grow on-premise orders via mobile apps.”

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