How should the bar industry entice customers away from the sofa?

Aug 22, 2018

Although millennials are not as interested in staying home as older people, traditional pubs and bars should be concerned. Younger consumers are drinking less alcohol and seeking out fresh and exciting experiences.

Young people drinking at home

According to a 2017 study by Eventbrite, millennials (age 21-37) are spending a lot on going out – approximately £3,750 in the last 12 months. And the survey revealed people would spend more if they had the means to do so. However the key trend appears to be that millennials are willing to dedicate more of their earnings to experiences such as food festivals, with 80% of respondents admitting they would sacrifice something in their lives to fund going to more festivals or events. This is all fantastic news for new food markets and pop-up workshops, but potentially bad news for traditional bars and pubs. The Eventbrite study also revealed that wellness and healthy living is a key trend among millennials, with 42% of millennials admitting they drink less now than they did three years ago. 58% of respondents also claim to keep up their healthy habits at festivals or events.

We should also take note of what is happening in the US, as it often doesn’t take long for trends to cross the pond. A recent survey by Mintel in the States found that 28% of ‘young millennials’ (aged 24-31 in this study) prefer drinking at home. It is also revealed that 78% of respondents had a desire to drink in a relaxing environment, rather than an enclosed, packed space, such as a bar or nightclub.

The pub and bar industry is, in many ways, having its most exciting moment for decades. With customisation and personalisation at its heart, the industry is enticing a new age of consumers seeking a unique and special experience, rather than a vodka and coke or a pint of lager. However the Mintel survey shows that 69% of millennials feel that saving money is a key reason as to why they drink at home. Another crucial statistic from the survey is that 38% of young people believe staying out of bars and clubs means it’s easier for them to control their alcohol intake. But with the rise of non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails, could this excuse soon disappear?

A change in drinking habits

Cocktails

There is a clear trend emerging in the UK with many millennials choosing to enjoy a leisurely drink or two, rather than going on a big night out. In 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed data on the drinking habits of British people, and found that young adults in the UK are more likely to be teetotal than older people. The results showed that more than a quarter of 16 to 24-year-olds do not drink. This figure has dramatically increased compared to 10 years ago, when just 19% of young adults said they did not drink alcohol.

With this rapidly growing trend, drinks businesses are wising up and launching new and exciting alcohol-free alternatives to appease young consumers. As well as a number of alcohol-free beers by breweries such as Nirvana Brewery in East London and St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk, Seedlip has created a new botanical alcohol-free spirit. Kolibri also offers a low-sugar, alcohol-free alternative, with innovative flavours including chilli and cardamom, strawberry and basil and elderflower and lime. A non-alcoholic drinks festival – Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking Festival – also took place, promising ‘everything in moderation, except flavour’.

It’s clear that the industry is responding well to the desires of today’s consumers, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. It’s not enough to simply offer healthier, non-alcoholic alternatives to drive young consumers out of their homes and into pubs and bars. There has to be something more. That’s where the entertainment-factor comes in.

Offering an experience

Recent studies have suggested that a huge part of the reason why millennials are choosing to drink at home is due to money, and the reluctance to sit in a crowded space or nightclub. So the industry needs to find new ways to entice consumers, and one of the best ways to do so is to offer an experience, something that cannot be replicated at home.

In London, many fresh cocktail bars have opened offering something a little bit different. Mr Fogg’s Residence, Tavern, Gin Parlour and House of Botanicals each offer an eccentric space in which to enjoy truly unique and creative cocktails. Beautifully presented with a hint of adventure and a dash of the unconventional, the cocktails on offer at Mr Fogg’s are nothing short of a masterpiece, and well worth leaving the house for. For non-drinking guests, Mr Fogg’s bars all offer mocktails that are equally enticing.

At WM Barker & Co, a cool basement hangout, a cocktail is never just a cocktail. It is an awe-inspiring experience, an act of magic and offers that something extra special. The bar has paired its exquisite cocktail menu with a selection of decadent cheese toasties for around £6, including vegan options. In East London, Oriole, the sister bar of Nightjar speakeasy, offers tastes from around the globe with its cocktail menu. Customers can choose to sample drinks from the Old World (Europe and Africa), New World (The Americas) and The Orient (Asia, Pacific & Sub-Continent), with the option of making the various drinks without alcohol if preferred.

I, for one, am feeling optimistic about the shift in attitudes towards alcohol. With an increasing number of exciting non-alcoholic alternatives, and the dedication of the pub and bar industry to keep young consumers engaged, I predict a positive shift getting customers back into bars and clubs as they ditch drinking at home and seek out new experiences.

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