How pubs can look after designated drivers over Christmas

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cheers: Make sure you look after the designated drivers this Christmas as well! (Image: ImageegamIstock/thinkstock.co.uk)
Cheers: Make sure you look after the designated drivers this Christmas as well! (Image: ImageegamIstock/thinkstock.co.uk)
The number of drink-driving casualties is on the decline, and the amount of soft-drink options are on the up. This combination provides opportunities for pubs and means the heroes of Christmas – the designated drivers – can be looked after during the festive season.

The good news is that in the past 50 years road casualties caused by drink-driving have fallen dramatically. But, in 2015 there were still 200 deaths due to drink-driving – accounting for 14% of all road fatalities. Industry insiders say the role pubs play in keeping these figures down, and continuing to get them even lower, is as important as ever.

Pubs can do this by giving those carrying the car keys a range of entertainment, food, soft drinks and mocktails. Also, advice from the British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds, is to simply make designated drivers “feel welcome”.

“During the festive season, it is really important for pubs to show that designated drivers can still enjoy a brilliant night out,” she says.

“It needn’t dampen the Christmas spirit, and it means that everyone can have a safe journey home.

“Having a good range of soft drinks is key. This should, of course, include zero-alcohol beers but ‘mocktails’ are another increasingly popular part of the mix. Club Soda is a relatively new campaign, designed to promote ‘mindful drinking’, while fully backing the pub, and there is some great information on its website. Promotions too are well worth pursuing for designated drivers, to make them feel welcome.”

Drinkaware director of business development and partnerships Rommel Moseley agrees and highlights the importance of having a great range of soft drinks, non-alcoholic beers and wines.

“Serving great food, putting on entertainment and creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere also go a long way towards creating an environment that allows people to share a night out with friends or family without having to drink alcohol,” he adds.

Campaigns and promotions

Campaigns, such as Coca-Cola European Partners’ (CCEP) Designated Driver, which is run in conjunction with the Department for Transport’s THINK! drink-driving initiative, is a great example of what can be done to include non-drinkers on a night out at the pub.

“Often, if the needs of a designated driver are ignored it can mean an early night for the rest of the party, and less money in the till for the licensee".

- Paul Grace, CCEP director of field sales

The campaign offers buy-one-get-one-free on brands such as Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Schweppes Sparkling Juice Drinks and Appletiser to thank people behind the wheel for ‘Being a Hero’ in December.

It supports the licensed trade during the busy Christmas period, and is designed to boost licensees’ overall sales by rewarding the designated driver in a group and helping to increase dwell time for the whole party, while promoting responsible messages around drinking and driving.

Paul Grace, director of field sales at CCEP, says: “Often, if the needs of a designated driver are ignored it can mean an early night for the rest of the party, and less money in the till for the licensee.

“The Coca-Cola Designated Driver programme actively helps the trade increase the dwell time of a whole group while promoting responsible messages around drinking and driving, and this is why it has reached its milestone 10-year anniversary.

“I would urge any licensees interested in the scheme to get in contact with us via their local CCEP rep or our customer hub.”

Greene King is once again supporting the campaign by offering the promotion in pub brands Hungry Horse, Flaming Grill, participating Greene King Local pubs, Fayre & Square and Belhaven.

“We’re proud to support the Designated Driver campaign again this year by offering buy-one-get-one-free on all Coca-Cola bottled soft drinks in more than 1,200 of our pubs,” says a spokesman for the pubco.

“It’s extremely important that we en-courage responsible drink-drive behaviour over the festive period and offer incentives for those who have taken the decision to be the designated driver.”

Wintry mocktails

And, while having a range of soft drinks is a start, it is also worth trying to play around with them to create some wintry mocktails.

“The festive period is all about celebrations, whether you’re drinking alcohol or not so, with that in mind, when we created our new winter drinks list we wanted to make sure that our non-drinking, designated drivers didn’t miss out.”

- General manager, Worplesdon Place Hotel

A Redcomb Pubs site, Worplesdon Place Hotel, based in one of Surrey’s beautiful villages near Guildford, has very few options in terms of public transport. This means its customers are pretty reliant on getting to and from the pub under their own steam.

General manager Graham Rolland tells The Morning Advertiser​: “We cover a large catchment area and have long been known as a great ‘drive-to’ food and drink destination, hence the big car park.”

“The festive period is all about celebrations, whether you’re drinking alcohol or not so, with that in mind, when we created our new winter drinks list we wanted to make sure that our non-drinking, designated drivers didn’t miss out.”

The company has included a couple of very celebratory festive mocktails on its winter cocktail list – including a vanilla-infused Clementine Fizz and a zingy Cranberry Mojito with a “real ginger and mint hit”.

“We wanted to offer our designated drivers something a little different from their everyday drinks and they’ve been really well received so far,” continues Rolland.

“The winter drinks list, with the inclusion of the winter mocktails, is displayed on all the tables throughout the venue for customers looking for inspiration, plus we’ve ensured that our soft drinks have as much front-facing fridge and bar display space as their alcoholic counterparts.

“With so many of the UK population now choosing to go alcohol-free when visiting a pub and restaurant, we feel it’s really important to understand and cater for this increasing customer base, especially over Christmas.”

He adds: “Our job is to make sure drinkers and diners have the best time possible when they visit us – whether that be the service that they receive, the meal that they order or the drinks that we serve, alcoholic or not.”

CCEP also has some great mocktail recipes, including a Blood Orange St Clements, which includes blood orange juice, lemon and elderflower Schweppes sparkling juice drink, and crushed ice, and a Passionfruit Cooler, including mango juice, vanilla syrup, Schweppes soda water and mint.

Going premium

And, it’s not just the designated drivers who will be shunning the sherry.

Research from Britvic reveals that almost half of consumers (45%) are set to buy more soft drinks at Christmas, as figures show that more than a fifth plan to drink less alcohol. 

Britvic also says almost a quarter (21%) of consumers don’t think there are enough premium soft drinks to choose from. This increases to 27% among those aged 25 to 34 and high-lights a “major gap” in the market that operators can fill by stocking premium ranges to make their sales sparkle over the festive period. 

“The range of soft drinks and mocktails on offer is pretty diverse and there is no reason consumers cannot enjoy themselves in a pub without drinking alcohol – and certainly no reason why pubs should not be actively courting these customers.”

- Kate Nicholls, chief executive ALMR

With 37% of pub customers also planning to spend more on soft drinks at Christmas than previous years – a figure that rises to 56% for the 16 to 24 age group – the suggestion is that seasonal soft drinks sales are set to soar this Christmas and Britvic is advising leisure operators to be prepared.

Britvic commercial director for licensed and foodservice Russell Goldman says: “It’s clear from our research that there’s going to be a real shift towards moderate drinking this Christmas and, as a result, there is likely to be a high demand for soft drinks throughout the season.

“Offering a range of inspiring serves and using products like Teisseire to create sensational experiences for customers, both with and without alcohol, will enable leisure operators to cater for this peak in demand over the festive period.”

Festive entertainment

From Christmassy quizzes to karaoke, pubs can also put on a range of entertainment to match their ever-growing soft-drinks list.

For example, Fuller’s, following on from the success of its summer performance of Shakespeare in the Garden, will have its Open Bar team re-enact the festive favourite A Christmas Carol.

The pubco will be putting on 14 performances across 10 different Fuller’s pubs throughout December, along with delicious, fresh, festive food available to purchase at each pub, from gourmet bar snacks and bespoke Christmas pre-performance pub menus.

Fuller’s Inns managing director Jonathon Swaine says: “After enjoying so many fantastic performances of Shakespeare in the Garden over the past five summers, we are so excited to have Open Bar back to help us celebrate the festive season.”

Diverse options

As the research suggests, people are being much more sensible when it comes to drinking and driving.

With more health-conscious drinkers than ever before looking for premium soft drinks and mocktails, pubs can really benefit from looking after them this Christmas.

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls says: “The good news for both customers and venues is that there is a greater choice than ever for those who do not wish to drink alcohol.

“The range of soft drinks and mocktails on offer is pretty diverse and there is no reason consumers cannot enjoy themselves in a pub without drinking alcohol – and certainly no reason why pubs should not be actively courting these customers.”

“It is important that designated drivers are given an opportunity to enjoy themselves and initiatives should be embraced by the sector.”

Related topics: Health & safety

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