Raising the bar

On-trade group drinking
How to tempt wine drinkers in the UK back into the on trade
Judging on the evidence of the recent research compiled for the new Wine Intelligence On Trade Report 2013, those hoping to catch the benefits of a recovering economy to tempt drinkers back into pubs and restaurants, need to recognise some realities about today’s consumers.
In common with previous years, parts of our On Trade Report don’t make for pleasant reading. Pubs are still struggling to get the wine offer right, and far too often consumers find they’re sold overpriced, poor quality products, often served at the wrong temperature, by staff who obviously lack proper training. It’s little wonder that consumers have voted with their feet and have chosen to spend increasing share of their booze budget in supermarkets and wine shops for better quality wines they can enjoy at home, for a fraction of the price.
The on-trade’s wine problems have not been restricted to pubs. Restaurants too have underperformed, often by making their lists difficult to understand and navigate, and creating an intimidating environment in which even regular wine drinkers can be made to feel nervous and ignorant. By-the-glass sales and staff recommendations could have made a difference, but are often conspicuous by their absence.
The latest data shows that on-trade spending is continuing its long-run decline, and consumers are drinking less, but spend on a bottle of wine when they do decide to go out has remained stable despite the tougher economic climate.
There is some encouraging news on wine service in on-trade too. The proportion of people who are unhappy with the range of wines in on-trade establishments has fallen between 2010 and 2013. Fewer people say the wines are too expensive. Quality doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue as it used to be. More venues are seen to have a focus on wine. Even in formal restaurants, consumers are finding lists less complex than was the case three years ago, and the staff less intimidating.
The improvements are being seen across the board, and critics will say not before time. It’s undoubtedly true that the on-trade has further to go in order to catch up with the general expectations of regular wine drinkers, but there is also a sense that it could aim even higher. Instead of merely satisfying the existing requirements of their clientele, the best bars and restaurants could go much further: what better time to raise the bar (excuse the pun) when there might finally be a bit more money burning holes in your customers’ pockets?
Author: Ali Darke
E-mail: ali@wineintelligence.com

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