During the course of the past month, we have been on a crusade to make January a month for experimentation in food and drink.
The initiative began in December 2014 when meeting up with Be At One. The ever-successful bar chain had a plan to launch a campaign to encourage people to try new cocktails in all of its Be At One bars.
Using a feature called ‘Be Appventurous’ on the Be At One smartphone app, visitors to the bars could try new cocktails at just £5 each on every day in the month of January in the hour after the regular happy hour. Be At One called their marketing campaign ‘Try January’. This, we thought, was a great idea and a great name too.
We posed the question to the group: “Could we make this an industry-wide campaign?” And, if we could, wouldn’t it be such a great thing to get people out visiting their locals in a bid to try new things? It could have a halo effect on the way people view the start of the year and urge them to go out and seek flavour and reclaim January instead.
Every adventure, however small, needs a starting point. The only challenge here, even for the busiest of people, was to challenge their taste buds. The UK hospitality industry could really do with an injection of positivity and verve at the start of the year. January has, historically, been a slow, dreary month for trade, but in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, couldn’t we all, collectively, turn it into a fun month? Could we get people to embrace it and, rather than fall back on their ‘usual’ order or comfort option, try a drink or a dish that might end up becoming their new favourite? Be at One was certain we could. And we agreed it was worth a try.
For the next stage of the process, launching the idea across all pubs and bars was going to be necessary, so we contacted a few multiple operators about the idea. This really started the ball rolling. We updated each of them who said they wanted to take part — independents and tied pubs with an action plan to help them drum up publicity and support. By the end of the week, most of them had embraced it.
Using the hashtag #TryJanuary, PoS began to find its way into the nation’s pubs, on to its chalkboards and within its social media. Specials were re-marked as #TryJanuary choices, people began to tweet and Instagram selections of what they had on their bars and their menus and we retweeted and ‘favourited’ pictures of suggestions from bar and kitchen staff, sent further encouraging emails of support to licensees and suggestions on other things they could do to get the most out of the campaign in their venues.
As a team, the Publican’s Morning Advertiser has also spent a healthy amount of time out in the trade getting to know people’s businesses and indulging in new food and drink suggestions during January. Admittedly, we have loved every minute of it.
Following the launch of the campaign in mid-December, Alcohol Concern issued an open letter to all pubs, stating: “We positively encourage people to go to the pub, enjoy themselves but choose non-alcoholic beverages. However, people tell us that there is not enough on offer for them.” This leads us to face the very real fact that soft drinks options need to improve to give people more variety and choice, and enable them to expand their repertoire, whether they are supporting Dry January or Try January or both.
It may not be easy, and there may be roadblocks in the way, in terms of distribution, ties and variety, but we know that if we want to suggest to the public that they should try something in a pub, we need to know we are doing everything in our power to give them a mix of great options. We have to try.
A recent report by Canadean stated that eight out of 10 consum-ers who drink alcohol out of their homes rarely or never try new alcoholic drinks. “This is concerning because substantial investment is made in developing and marketing new products. However, exciting flavours and seasonal offerings will keep the market from stagnating,” we need to remember this and consider ways whether, as a consumer, we would be impressed with the range and selection available if we were to walk into the pub tomorrow. Would it delight us?
According to Canadean, 77% of out-of-home drinkers rarely or never try new products, with 32% sticking to brands they know and trust. But, when asked why they weren’t trying out new products, 21% of consumers said that there were no new drinks on offer that they liked, while 14% were unaware of new products on the market. So it really does show that there’s work to be done in communicating in the on-trade.
The Canadean report also highlighted the importance of the role the pub trade plays for manufacturers who are launching new and exciting products. To make a product sell well, it needs to be marketed “in the right way to the right audience to encourage consumption”.
Apparently, more than half (56%) of survey respondents, who regularly or often try new alcohol drinks out of the home, experiment with new flavours, while 33% like sampling locally made products — but they need the motivation to seek them out and the reassurance that when they do, they can rely on their local to stock them.
A quarter of consumers who try new drinks regularly opt for seasonal beverages, showing that there’s a big opportunity to turn January into a month for experimentation and trial in pubs, but don’t hear it from us. Let’s hear from those who trialled #TryJanuary to find out if it’s worth getting on board with for next year.
The Laine Pub Company
It’s not just in January that we encourage people to try new things rather than sitting behind their usual pint, but it’s a great month to remind our customers of the depth of our offering and #TryJanuary was a great way of doing so.
We asked all of our sites to dig out something that could get overlooked from their pubs every day and tweet on the daily hashtag. The site managers instantly found that customers came in asking about the tweets.
We checked through the hashtag every day and retweeted the best ones — of which there were many — from our Drink In Brighton account. The campaign was a great success and we’re looking forward to next year.
The new business team engaged with our new partners on this great initiative. The Punch design and print team produced a variety of different sized posters as well as artwork for our partners to use on their website and other forms of social media.
The new business team then discussed the success of #TryJanuary on its weekly visits to the pubs and, where appropriate, changed the offers.
In total, 45 partners signed up for #TryJanuary and it had varying levels of success, but all partners managed to get something out of the promotion.
Be At One
Product mix-wise, we have seen a 32% increase in Svenska Detox sales, we have sold more mescal in three weeks than in the whole of December, we have seen a 10% reduction in Porn Star Martini sales, but more significantly, we have sold 29% fewer Mojitos this month.
This is really indicative of the fact that people have been trying new things — seeing the popular cocktails reduce and the more unusual drinks and ingredients selling more.
Sales-wise, we’ve had a fantastic month. We’re up 10% on like-for-like sales for January and our group sales, including new openings, is 30% up on last January.
Marc Hoffman, The Stile Bridge, Tonbridge, Kent
We mainly kept the #TryJanuary marketing internal to the site — a mixture of a busy month and being short staffed. I increased my range of soft drinks to almost 30 with the Orchard Pig ‘Totally Minted’ coming out as a firm favourite. At the Stile Bridge, we also specialise in craft beers and gins, so made a big show of the offer and got people to try new styles of alcoholic drinks.
The concept of #TryJanuary is great and I am working on some ideas to make a bigger effort for next year’s event. Used properly, it is another tool to help bring people out in what can be a slow month. For next year, as well as different serves, we are also thinking of setting up some sessions to try new skills — brewing and other craft skills (sewing, etc.).
Craft Beer Co.
“It’s been a great initiative and the spirit of it has been a real shot in the arm for the trade generally, encouraging licensees not to write January off. What I’d like to see is this campaign get even more traction next year and maybe find a way of getting the message to consumers — the trade shouldn’t need telling, but it would be great if customers could take part.
Perhaps retailers can come together and look at some point of sale to promote the month next year. We’d be up for that.”
Gilly Ryan, The Griffin (part of the St Arnold Group), Halstead, Essex
As a 90% wet pub, Dry January could potentially have a bigger effect on our business than on a pub/restaurant, so we were delighted to join in with the #TryJanuary campaign. While customers’ New Year’s resolutions often include a drink-related option, but we wanted to remind them that we are a community hub, a ‘manufacturer of happiness’... and that we’re always delighted to see everyone, hear about what’s happening in their lives, share a smile and make new friends. It’s important that we do so much more than just sell alcoholic drinks. We tagged each day with #TryJanuary: Today’s Try is... and each day drew attention to something different.
We’ve promoted beers, milkshakes, pies, home-made sloe & vanilla gin and reviving pots of tea, among others. On Plough Monday, we invited a local group of Morris Men along and we had a Try at Morris dancing by floodlight and sang folk songs, which brought us many new friends. We had a lot of fun and recorded January sales that were up on last year.
We have Beer MALTS (Monthly Ale Lovers Tasting Sessions) and for the January one we invited a local brewery, Bishop Nick, to come along to the pub and present an award for The Griffin Beer Of The Year 2014. Nelion Ridley brought the whole brewery team along, including the dray, so we tried Meet The Brewer — and ask him anything you like! A really lively social evening ensued that was great for a Tuesday too!
We supported the #TryJanuary initiative through our Charles Wells social media pages because we thought it was a great way to encourage people to try new drinks, new pubs or maybe new beer and food matching pairings as an alternative to just stopping visits to the pub in January.
We’ve highlighted a few of our seasonal and less well-known beers to help spark everyone’s imagination and have had some great feedback from those who got behind the idea. Not only did they enjoy sampling some new recommendations but we also noticed some interesting conversations starting up with people sharing their discoveries and asking others for recommendations and stockists.
It’s definitely something we’ll repeat next year because it provided a really positive start to the new year.
All the MEATliquor sites pushed #TryJanuary through their social media. We linked it up with the launch of the ‘Rib Licker’, which was new at all sites. We received good feedback on Twitter from others retweeting/commenting back and we pushed it as an alternative to Dry January, should you feel indulgent, and not want to abstain. Trying decadent food is something we will back.
Also on site, our Burgerettes got involved by talking to customers about #TryJanuary and encouraging them to try something new. This year may have had a quiet start but #TryJanuary is definitely something we could see building up and growing to become bigger, more fun and adventurous and gain more response next year.
Once #TryJanuary has gained traction, customers will start to look forward to the month and, as their palates and choices grow more experimental, so too will their hunger for new flavours.
This initiative could help draw them out of their homes to experience some great food and drink. That, in itself, is a positive thing.