CGA’s OPUS 2023 reveals food-led dominance yet drink-led visitors spend more

With a growing appetite for dining experiences 37% of Irish consumers now opt for weekly food-led outings which is a 1% rise from the previous year

Casual dining restaurants and pubs with a food focus are the most popular channels visited by Ireland consumers during a three-month period (Photo by Sora Shimazaki via Pexels)

CGA by NIQ’s Ireland OPUS 2023 report reveals a higher proportion of consumers visiting pubs, bars, and restaurants for food-led occasions, but it’s drink-led visitors who visit the on trade more frequently and spend more when they’re out.

The report demonstrates how consumers have a specific focus on a food or drink-led occasion when they visit the on trade. But their focus is impacted by current market factors such as the cost-of-living crisis, increases on VAT and availability of certain produce. All these shifting aspects have an influence on not only consumers’ willingness to spend, but their overall experience when they’re out in venues.

Consequently, rising costs coupled with the lingering impacts of COVID-19 have led to a dip in frequency of drink-focused visits. While 24% of consumers go out weekly for a drink-led visit, it’s in decline by -3pp versus last year.

Food-led occasions remain the core driver to the trade, with 37% of all Ireland consumers going out weekly for food-led visits, increasing by +1pp versus last year.

As a result, casual dining restaurants and pubs with a food focus are the most popular channels visited by Ireland consumers during a three-month period, followed by drinking pubs and bars.

With food topping the table as the core driver for the average visitor, the data signposts a with food strategy as key to on trade success. However, it’s still important to also cater to drink-led visitors.

These consumers remain valuable to the trade, despite smaller numbers visiting venues solely for drinks. The report demonstrates that drink-focused channels attract a more frequent on trade visitor, with 38% of consumers who visit drinking pubs doing so weekly, versus 20% for food-led pubs. Besides visiting more frequently, they also have a higher than average spend when they’re out.

In terms of demographics, a typically younger crowd is going out weekly for drink-led occasions compared to frequent food-led visits. This is particularly the case for younger consumers living in a city or town centre (+8pp vs food-led visitors), over-indexing for young male consumers (+13pp).

Moreover, the frequent drink-led visitor also has a slightly higher average household income and spends more per month in the on trade. This consumer category in the Republic of Ireland claims to spend €211 per month on eating and drinking out, versus €189 for the frequent food-led visitor.

Sian Brennan, client director, CGA Ireland, said: “With the continuance of challenging market conditions, the OPUS report provides invaluable insights into not only the type of visits driving consumers to the trade, but also the value and difference between the two. As a result, sales teams, brand managers, on trade category teams forearmed with this analysis are empowered to strike the right balance in catering to both consumer groups, ensuring a with food and drink focused strategy are accounted for in brand plans.”

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