At present, it is uncertain how the current economic slowdown will impact on the drinks trade here. Liquidations in the drinks trade reached 42 in the first half of this year, up from 22 in 2007. Surveys are already showing that people intend to eat out less in the near future and that when they want to sample an upmarket restaurant they may tend to choose lunch rather than dinner.
If that’s the case, and some recent evidence from top Dublin establishments shows that this trend may already be under way, it will have significant implications for the wine trade as people invariably drink less wine at lunch than at dinner. It could be good news for lower alcohol whites such as semillon and riesling and for reds such as those from Bordeaux. Special lunchtime wine lists, drawing attention to wines under, say, 13%, could help sales.
Despite its cost, this might also be a good time for on-trade outlets to consider selling sparkling wine by the glass, if customer volumes are sufficient to avoid waste. Rarely coming in at more than 12%, champagne, prosecco and cava all make perfect lunchtime aperitifs.
Research among off licensees in the UK indicates that wine buyers have already become more price conscious. Over 63% of British consumers now say that price is the most important factor when choosing wine; that’s up from 51% in 2007. Hopefully, the recent growth in home entertaining will counter some of this pressure.
Things may turn out to be better for pubs than has been imagined. A night at the pub is a lot cheaper than a night at a restaurant and there is some anecdotal evidence that the thirty somethings may be starting to eat in at weekends before going on to the pub. Personal impressions are dangerous but I’ve been to pubs twice recently on a Saturday night, and noticed both times that they seemed considerably busier than they’d been for a while.