With 89% of Irish people going out to a restaurant for a meal and 73% of them going to the pub, a Behaviour & Attitudes’ survey into Social Eating & Drinking in Ireland last Spring found Irish consumers to be a very social grouping. Not surprisingly males outnumbered females (77% to 58%) in going out to the pub, bar or lounge for a drink where 92% of females went out for a meal to a (non fast-food) restaurant compared to just 86% of males.
Those visiting the pub figured highest in the 25-34 year-old age grouping at 80%, found B&A, while those going out for a meal to a restaurant figured most prominently in the 35-49 and 50-64 age groupings (93% in both cases).
But 63% also drank at home and 31% did so on a weekly basis which outweighs those going to the pub weekly at 23%, so more people drink at home weekly than go out for a drink.
Using information dating back to 1996, B&A found that those never going to the pub had risen from 22% in 1996 to 29% in 2016. Indeed those going to the pub only once every three to four weeks had risen from 7% to 13% while those going once or twice a week had declined from 40% in 1996 to just 22% in 2015.
According to B&A, “The decline in drinking out of home stabilised between 2006 and 2009, but has been slowly declining further since then. 890,000 of us were drinking in pubs weekly in 2011; this now stands at circa 790,000 – a loss of approximately 100,000 weekly drinkers in that time”.
Those drinking weekly in the pub accounted for 53% or 1.34 million in 1996 but this had fallen to just 32% or 1.1 million by 2006. At just 23%, the 2016 figure was 790,000.
When this was compared to home alcohol consumption B&A found those never consuming it at home dropped from 41% in 2002 to 35% in 2016. But those consuming it at home once or twice a week jumped from 21% in 2002 to 28% in 2016.
According to B&A, about 1.1 million of us drink alcohol at home on a weekly basis or 31% of participants in the survey. This was up from 2002’s figure of 695,000 (24%) but down from the 2011 figure of 1.17 million or 34%. Munster, at 31%, beat Dublin, at 27%, in terms of regions where people go to the pub on a weekly basis with Leinster scoring 26% and Connact/Ulster 16%.
B&A’s gender breakdown indicated that considerably more males (68%) than females (32%) went to the pub on a weekly basis with those in the 25-35 age grouping being the most prominent at 26%. After this it was the 50-64 age group at 23% and those under 24 at 21%.
When it came to drinking at home, the gender breakdown was straight down the middle at 50% each. Those in the 35 to 49 age group tended to do the most drinking at home at 34% followed by those in the 25-34 age group at 24%. Only 9% of those over 65 drank at home. This time Dublin was the top region for drinking at home with 31% followed by Munster on 28% and Leinster on 22%. Connacht/Ulster scored 19%.
B&A also took a look at the practice of ‘prinking’ or pre-drinking before going out for the evening to find that 71% never prinked before going out and only 5% always did so, with 13% having done so occasionally before going out.
So prinking seems to be mainly a youth activity with 45% of the 200,000 adults surveyed who prink every time they go out being under 24.
B&A calculated the average spend in the pub at €46.52 among those who go to the pub (38%) while the spend at home was €20.46 among those who drank at home (45%).
Just over one quarter of all adults drank alcohol in the on-trade on a weekly basis while 31% did so at home.
Despite the economic recovery pub usage continued to suffer. Whereas 26% of adults were going to the pub weekly five years ago, this had now fallen back to 23%. Two decades ago this figure stood at 53%.
In actual terms what this means is that compared with 20 years ago there were approximately 550,000 fewer of us going to the pub weekly – and when compared to five years ago, that figure had declined by 100,000.
For the first time alcohol consumption in the home was also showing signs of abating with a 3% decline evident since 2011. This was the first time B&A had seen a decline of any sort since it started measuring this in 2002. The net impact in actual terms was a decline of another 100,000 weekly home alcohol consumers.
At this point there are about three-quarters of a million pub-goers on a weekly basis compared with just over a million home alcohol consumers weekly but both behaviours are now on a downward trajectory.
The reality is that the image of the drinking Irish is fast becoming a myth, states B&A.
The profile of weekly pub-goers was predominantly male. In numerical terms it was weighted towards those in the 25-34 age category. They were also more working class.
The most significant decline in regular pub usage was evident in the youngest age cohort and those aged 35-50.
The profile of adults drinking alcohol at home on a weekly basis was evenly divided between men and women and between middle class and working class adults. The largest group numerically in age terms were the 35-50 year-olds.
The survey found a significant decline in weekly consumption patterns for 18-24 year-olds (weekly drop from 33% to 26% for this age group) while those over 50 were increasing their frequency (other age groups remained reasonably stable).