Wine is struggling for attention in a UK restaurant sector experiencing a “perfect storm” of adverse trading conditions, according to a new UK On-trade Trends report by Wine Intelligence
According to the report, UK restaurants are having to reassess their business model due to poor commercial conditions, partly driven by increased tax burdens and wage legislation. In addition, the uncertainty of Brexit makes planning difficult, and many restaurants are reporting difficulties in recruiting staff, according to interviews conducted for the report.
At the same time, competition is growing from food-only ‘kitchen + delivery’ services that are drawing investment capital away from more conventional restaurant concepts. Meal-at-home kits also offer another alternative to eating out that is often a cheaper, more convenient way for consumers to expand their eating repertoire with the added satisfaction of having made it themselves.
Some restaurateurs also report that wine is receiving less attention as gin, cocktails and craft beer are attracting more consumers. Although wine remains the backbone of the alcohol on offer in most food-led outlets, these other drinks are more talked about and have grown in repertoire over the past year while wine perception has remained the same.
There is, however, a growing interest in alternative wines (from a low base) as organic and vegan products are increasing their exposure. This exposure could be due not only from increased trade awareness of natural wines, with several UK events now devoted to them, but also from restauranteurs responding to the mainstreaming of veganism with vegan offers (including vegan wine), meaning alternative wines are more easily available.
Richard Halstead, COO of Wine Intelligence, said: “It’s hard to find a good news story in the UK on-trade at the moment, and wine is not immune from the cold winds sweeping through the sector. The message from this report seems to be that lazy or outdated wine offers are going to be punished, and rewards will accrue to those who are using the wine list as an opportunity to bring new knowledge and understanding to consumers.”
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