Summer calls for lighter, cooler drinks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drinks, Beer

Demands change as the weather gets warmer - and licensees need to ensure they are stocking the cooler, lighter drinks that customers will be...

Demands change as the weather gets warmer - and licensees need to ensure they are stocking the cooler, lighter drinks that customers will be thirsting for.

Rumour has it that we may be in for a decent summer this year, although after the disappointment of the past few years most publicans will be taking the cautious approach.

Few can afford to go as far as wine bar operator Corney and Barrow, which last year took out an expensive insurance policy which paid out if there were less than a certain number of sunny days over the summer.

However, as Corney and Barrow knows only too well, good weather attracts more customers, who stay longer and spend more. With a bit of forward planning, it is possible to be ready for the rush without having to gamble too much on the vagaries of the British climate.

Lager

There is a general consumer trend, not just in the UK but across most of the world, towards preferring cooler, lighter drinks. In the summertime in particular, it makes sense to ensure that your drinks range reflects this. Lager, in both draught and bottled form, is likely to be in the front line of your summer campaign.

This is a market which is now dominated by international brewers such as Interbrew, Heineken and Carlsberg, and whoever your supplier is, your draught range is almost certain to include lager brands owned by one or more of these companies.

Consumers are showing a preference to trade up to premium lager brands, and research for Interbrew suggests that consumers can be quite strongly influenced by merchandising and point-of-sale material, so make sure you are highlighting the lager brands which will generate the most profit.

Ale

There is also no need to neglect your ale drinkers during the summer months any more. Traditionally, cask ale had a tendency to misbehave in hot weather. One technical reason for this is that yeast, which forms a crucial part of the fermentation process, can multiply too rapidly in warm conditions, sending the beer "off".

Today, most regional brewers have responded with a range of lighter, summer-themed cask ales which are easier to keep and offer a more seasonal alternative to darker cask ales. The new breed of "cool serve" ales such as Theakston Cool Cask, Young's Triple A and the newly-launched Ruddles Wheat Beer also help to meet this demand. Even Guinness got into the act last year with its Extra Cold font.

FABs

Don't forget that the flavoured alcoholic beverage (FAB) category, also known as premium packaged spirits or PPS, really comes into its own during warm weather.

Despite the success of FAB/PPS brands over the past decade, some publicans still underestimate the category. According to Karen Salter, marketing manager for Beverage Brands: "PPS currently have 27 per cent of fridge space by volume, compared to 65 per cent for premium-packaged lagers. Sales of PPS brands have made it the only fridge category showing growth.

"Publicans should allocate space according to sector and rate of sale. PPS hold a growing share of the premium bottled drinks market and I think the chiller should reflect this. It may prove more profitable to remove a slow selling premium packaged lager and add another PPS brand to your stock."

Soft drinks

One more weapon in your summer drinks armoury needs to be a strong soft drinks range. Although the underlying trend is towards rising sales of soft drinks, this category is still more affected by the weather than most. On-trade sales dipped in 2000, according to Britvic's recently published Soft Drinks Category Report, largely due to the poor summer. Britvic's advice is to plan your soft drink range carefully, stocking a range of brands which take into account the needs of different customers and occasions.

Water​ Water is currently one of the fastest growing drinks categories. One person in three in the UK now drinks bottled waters, and during the summer in particular you should consider offering at least a basic range. This might include still and sparkling waters, as well as naturally flavoured water, which is seeing particularly strong growth in sales at the moment.

Many customers, particularly when eating a meal, may simply ask for a glass of tap water. It is usually good practice to provide this for nothing and, simply because it is a complementary drink, you should not compromise serving standards. A customer offered ice, and even a slice of lemon, with a glass of tap water will appreciate the standards of customer service on offer.

Ice

In summer, ice should always be offered with appropriate drinks, including FABs, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks - even if they are already chilled. Ice buckets on the bar for customers to serve themselves are no longer considered good hygiene practice - tongs and fingers both carry their fair share of bugs.

Whether you use bagged ice or a commercial ice machine, the safest course is to use ice that is as fresh as possible, and ensure that barstaff understand ice handling hygiene.

Food

As well as your drinks range, it's worth considering revising your food menu for the summer. Hot weather increases people's tendency to "graze", so snacks are likely to be bigger sellers than hearty meals. You should also think about the hours your kitchen is open.

Some pubs on the South Coast and in the West Country, for example, extend their evening serving hours in the summer, simply because visitors stay on the beach or out in the open until later on warm, light evenings. Barbecues are, of course, a popular addition to the food offer in hot weather.

Cocktails

Summer is the time that long cocktails really come into their own. Either as single serve long drinks or sold in pitchers, freshly made cocktails can be a popular and profitable addition to your drinks menu during the summer months.

Take a look at Summer cocktail recipes for more information.

Related topics: Soft & Hot Drinks

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