New data shows Aussies are among the most engaged on-premise customers in the world, with more than four in five (82%) typically visiting it, and around half (51%) doing so at least weekly.
These frequent visitors tend to be younger than average, more likely to live in city centres and more affluent, with a 25% higher monthly spend on eating and drinking out than the average.
The insights come from CGA’s OPUS survey, which revealed crucial insights into consumers’ behaviours and journeys as Australia’s on-premise continues its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
CGA’s managing director, EMEA and APAC, Graeme Loudon gives nine key insights from consumer research recently conducted in Australia — and what they mean for drinks suppliers and operators.
1. People like to trial & trade up
Australia’s consumers estimate that they drink a third (34%) of their alcohol in the on-premise—and it is where they go to find new products. More than two in five (44%) say they like to experiment with new drinks brands here, and a similar number (43%) think their experiences have prompted them to buy drinks in the off-premise too.
“The on-premise is a heartland for trial – it’s a great place for launching new products into the market, as we have a consumer who is actively seeking the new,” said Loudon.
With half (50%) of patrons willing to pay more for a better quality drink, it is also a place to trade up.
“It’s where we can stretch our brand credentials and offer consumers the opportunity for a more premium experience and a more premium price,” he noted.
2. The right range is crucial in the on-premise
Consumers who drink out in the on-premise often are focused on quality and value, but they also over-index on the importance of drinks range.
“If we want to get the most valuable consumers into our venues and drinking, we need to get the drinks range and quality right—and that’s where drinks suppliers can come in to help,” said Loudon.
3. Drinks choices are shifting
Beer remains the top drinks category in the on-premise: it’s drunk by more than a third (35%) of visitors, putting it ahead of wine (29%), spirits (19%), cocktails (16%) and cider (14%).
However, the frequency of domestic beer consumption is declining, with a quarter (24%) drinking it less often than a year ago—twice the number (11%) who are drinking it more. Imported beer and wine categories are also in decline, but frequency of consumption is rising in many spirit types and cocktails.
4. Hard seltzers are rising fast
One of the fastest growing categories of all in the on-premise is hard seltzers. Well over a third (37%) of patrons are drinking these more frequently than they did a year ago—nearly triple the number who are drinking them less (13%). Their popularity has partly been driven by consumers’ interest in healthier drinks choices, which has also contributed to growth in no and low alcohol brands.
The rise of hard seltzer in pubs & bars
5. Choice varies widely
CGA’s OPUS data shows the complex variables behind people’s drinks choices in the on-premise. They fluctuate substantially by both day part and venue type: still wine, hot drinks and sparkling wine are the three most popular categories in restaurants, for example, but none of them feature in bars’ list of top choices, which are led by vodka, domestic beer and cocktails. Suppliers can help operators to adapt to these differences, Loudon said.
“Understanding the drinks mix allows you to lead with the right brand, position yourself correctly and give the right cues to consumers,” he noted.
6. COVID has changed the path to purchase
Concerns about crowded venues and the need for table service have led two in five (43%) consumers to plan their on-premise visits in more detail than they did before COVID. Half (51%) and a third (32%) are now more likely to book tables for food and drink respectively, and this new stage on the path to purchase presents drinks brands and venues with a great opportunity to pre-sell things like rounds of beers or cocktails. Taking payment in advance can reduce the risk of no-shows as well.
7. Drinks choices are up for grabs
With nearly half (47%) of Australia’s on-premise patrons only deciding what to drink when they arrive at a venue, there are many more opportunities to influence choices.
“This is where great in-outlet activations come in—ensuring that the venue is decked out and signposted to your brands can pay off handsomely… because drinkers are there to be influenced,” said Loudon.
8. Digital menus have a place, but people want human contact
Hygiene protocols triggered a wave of interest in digital-based menu browsing and ordering, and a third (34%) of consumers say they now prefer to book, order and pay using tech—but two thirds (66%) say they still prefer to interact with staff.
“There is an over-arching demand for that personal touch that hospitality is so good at offering,” Loudon said. Finding the right blend of digital and in-person service is a key operational priority at the moment, and something that suppliers can support.
9. Local brands can be powerful
Nearly a third (31%) of on-premise patrons are buying more local produce than a year ago, while nearly a fifth (18%) are investing more in their local communities. Lockdowns have led to a reappraisal of where people shop and the products they buy, which puts locally focused drinks brands—especially beer ones—at an advantage. It makes it vital to understand the wide regional variations in consumers’ habits, and the different profiles of different domestic brands from state to state.
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