Diageo: tap into £100m opportunity by pairing cocktails with food

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Mashru: 'We strongly believe that spirits represent a huge growth opportunity in the casual eating occasion'
Mashru: 'We strongly believe that spirits represent a huge growth opportunity in the casual eating occasion'

Related tags Gin Diageo

Food-led pubs can cash in on an untapped £100m spirits opportunity by pairing cocktails with dishes, and stand out in an increasingly competitive casual-dining space, drinks giant Diageo has suggested after new research.

Spirits are the fastest growing drinks category, with 17% year-on-year growth, according to CGA Strategy.

Cocktail sales grew by 6.5% last year, which is just 0.3 percentage points behind the growth of casual dining, Diageo insights manager Claire Moscrop said.

Roughly 10% of consumers had a cocktail as their main drink of choice while eating in a casual-dining venue, she added.

More potential for growth

Consumers in figures:

  • 48% of people have fixed working hours
  • 48% say alcohol choice is a big influence on where they eat
  • 22% of casual diners drink cocktails out of home
  • 10% of consumers had a cocktail as their main drink
  • 6.8% growth in casual dining
  • 17% growth in spirits

There was more potential for growth predicts Diageo sales director Ronak Mashru. But outlets have to be more creative in their approach.

"If you ask most people what their deferred type of drink would be in a casual-dining restaurant, it would be beer or wine," he said.

"Imagine walking in [to a venue] and having someone say 'would you like to try an Italian gin and tonic or bloody Mary?'. That sort of experience sounds different."

Diageo has increased its sales team to expand its customer reach and has spent 18 months researching and developing a range of cocktails that can be paired​ with different themes of food.

Offering customers cocktails specific to their choice of food is a positive experience and more personal than a beer or wine option, he added.

'Differentiate from the competition'

"It's difficult to differentiate yourself from the competition," Mashru said. "But if you look at the types of venues that are doing well – Dishoom, Wahaca, and Drake & Morgan – all of their dishes are clean and there's something about them. The spirits category can do what food is doing in that area."

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To do this, though, cocktails have to be more prominent and the sector should move away from listing spirits at the bottom of menus as "spirit and a mixer for, say, £3", Mashru added.

The quality of the ingredients used in cocktails has to be increased, as well as the skill of the make and the serve, he advised. "The bar staff have to be the stars of the show.

"We strongly believe that spirits represent a huge growth opportunity in the casual-eating occasion. We encourage operators to think about how they maximise this opportunity by inspiring consumers to choose spirits, educating their staff to up-sell and supporting them to achieve consistent quality through the perfect serve."

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