Marketing On-trade

Restaurants’ wresting alcohol spend away from pubs

By clever marketing, restaurants are now wresting the alcohol spend away from pubs, believes food writer John McKenna.

“The busiest guys in some restaurants are not the chefs but the mixologists” he told those attending the Annual Licensed Vintners Association Luncheon in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin’s Ballsbridge yesterday, “and the question now being asked is not so much ‘Who’s the chef?’ but ‘Who’s the mixologist?’”.

The food scene was changing rapidly, he stated, likening this change to Moore’s Law in relation to the speed of changing technology.

This was equally true of food, he said.

The gourmet crown, held so haughtily for so long by French food, has been overtaken by the cuisines now being produced by many other countries around the world.

The standard of food in Ireland, however, continues to rise and it’s the same for the standard of pub food here.

But pubs have been shifted away from the centre of culture in Ireland and restaurants are marketing their alcohol offerings to the detriment of the pub.

In order to counter this drift, he offered publicans a number of steps that might be taken.

“Make more cocktails and put the theatre into this for your customers. It’s the biggest driver in a restaurant and it must become the biggest driver in pubs,” he told the Association members and guests at the luncheon.

“Secondly, make more use of craft beers, the shops are full of them for a reason. Craft brewers want to make local special beers and would be happy to collaborate with publicans to make a house craft beer. In 2013 there were some 20 craft breweries here in development. These are mostly now up-and-running,” he said.

“Thirdly, even if a pub doesn’t normally do food, it can make food for an ‘occasion’ by doing special food around different occasions and the pub doesn’t even have to prepare and cook the food itself.”

He explained that ‘food carts’, producing good food from quality mobile kitchens, are now working with some outlets as are  companies that specialise in doing barbecues in pubs.

Finally, he pointed out that the pub should be the centre of culture, offering as it does a ‘welcome’ and the opportunity to chat over a drink and otherwise socialise.

“People cannot do this in restaurants,” he concluded.

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