However these ‘food occasions’ need to be supported with the right alcohol options, according to Cian O’Mahony, Diageo Ireland’s On-trade Category Development Manager, one of the panellists who shared some trade insights at ‘Reset & Recover’, the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s recent Hospitality & Tourism Expo virtual trade show.
As part of the afternoon session ‘Exploring the Irish Mixology & On-trade Offering Amidst a Pandemic’, Cian pointed out that pre-Covid, consumers were eating out at least once a week. Diageo’s research shows that having a meal out with friends and family is the Number One item that people are looking forward to when Lockdown is over.
Food a key motivator for going out
One of the key insights learned about consumers in 2020 was that although going out for a lot more meals was a more popular option, the key motivator behind these occasions wasn’t food itself. The number one reason consumers said they were visiting the on-trade last year was as to catch up with friends and the meal out was the vehicle which enabled them to do so.
This highlights an opportunity for incremental spend by including alcohol in these food and socialisation occasions, said Cian, adding, “As these occasions are changing in this new world, we have to adapt quickly to help realise those opportunities”.
Diageo has found that whether an occasion is spontaneous or more planned, over eight in 10 people chose to add a drink to their meal.
Online searches for beer & food had increased exponentially, with 40% of 25-35 year-olds going out for a bite to eat every week.
RoI data from market researchers CGA for 2020 showed that restaurants performed better for alcohol sales than the rest of the on-trade sectors such as pubs, hotels and bars.
“Long Alcohol Drinks and spirits obviously declined a lot in 2020” Cian later told Drinks Industry Ireland, “but restaurants declined -60.3% in value vs -60.5% for hotels, -68.6% for pubs, and -69.2% for bars; which means restaurants grew share.”
This was mainly driven by LADs, with Guinness the top LAD brand in restaurants.
In the case of spirits, consumers were choosing old favourites like Smirnoff vodka and trendy growing brands like Tanqueray gin, which grew share.
“Based on the what we’ve seen in the market and the insights we have around consumers, we strongly believe that now is the perfect opportunity to put alcohol at the very heart of your food offering,” he told those attending on Zoom.
It’s up to the restaurant to see that premium adult drinks can be chosen for every food occasion such as pre-, during- and post-meal as an increment to the customer’s usual choice.
Having the right drink pairing for the right type of occasion can enhance your customer experience and drive sales, he stated.
Drink-pairing suggestions should be included on all food occasion menus and “indulgence” post-meal options should also be supplied.