Drinks planning: flavours of the months

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Planning ahead: operators need to differentiate their offer
Planning ahead: operators need to differentiate their offer

Related tags St patrick Beer

January is traditionally not the easiest month in which to attract punters to the pub, but licensees should view it as an opportunity by finding the right drinks to sell – and the same goes for many other events throughout the upcoming 12 months.

It is that time of year again when all your customers have been drinking mineral water, eating salad and spending as little as possible.

Let’s face it, January has never been the busiest for the pub trade, as people frantically wait for payday and deal with the guilt of over-excess. While it is a great time for licensees to head off to those villas in Spain, it should also be a time to plan for the year ahead.

It is best to start the year as you mean to go on because even those health-conscious January customers can be encouraged to come out if you provide them with the right drinks offer.

While a standard drinks list should have a good range of beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks, offering something special for key trading periods and special events throughout the year is crucial.

For example, Mothership Group-owned site the Book Club in east London’s Shoreditch launched its Zero-Proof cocktail menu for January. It includes items such as Turmeric Spritz and Beetroot Espresso Martini – both priced at £6 each – designed to offer some serious “good stuff”.

Mocktails are clearly an option that licensees need to get creative with during the month as well as offering a wide range of low-calorie and low-sugar drink options.

“Events such as Dry January are more popular than ever, with nearly half of adults saying they’ve taken part in it in the past,” says Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners.

“Because almost a third of people say they’d consider ordering a mocktail if offered, this is a great opportunity for licensees to maximise sales.”

Low- and no-alcohol beers


extra pints of draught stout were consumed on average in pubs and bars on St Patrick’s Day last year



was the uplift in alcoholic drink sales on St Patrick’s day


was the amount by which sales of Prosecco rose year on year over the christmas period 

And lovers of beer don’t need to miss out either. Rob Fink, founder of Big Drop Brewing Co, advises licensees to consider stocking a low- or no-alcohol beer to cater for this trend.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel, but play to the strength of your outlet. If your regulars like darker beers, stock a lower-alcohol stout, but if they prefer lighter beers, go for a pale ale,” he says.

It won’t take long for consumers to get bored with the healthy living and the gym sessions will soon start to become less frequent. Burns’ Night on Thursday 25 January, provides a great opportunity to get consumers back out to the pub with a range of whiskies and whisky cocktails.

February marks the start of the sporting calendar with the kick-off of the rugby union Six Nations followed by a summer of the FIFA football World Cup.

According to CGA Brandtrack (July 2017), 22% of people visit the on-trade to watch live sports. Lager is the favourite drink of those watching live sport at 44%, with cider drunk by 21% and ale consumed by 19%. Average spend per head hits £16.75.

Clive Chesser, managing director at Greene King Brewing & Brands says that offering limited-edition beers can be a big draw during the tournament.

“The Six Nations is one of the biggest trading periods for pubs in the calendar year and session beers with an association to sport are always a popular choice,” says Chesser.

“Name-associated beers such as Greene King’s Scrum Down at 4.1% ABV and Belhaven’s Grand Slam at 4% ABV are eye-catching on the bar.”

Diageo, owner of Guinness, agrees and is supporting this year’s rugby event with visibility kits available across 6,000 rugby outlets nationwide.

“Guinness drinkers visit the pub more frequently than other beer drinkers and spend more on food and drink per occasion than the average beer drinker,” says Katerina Podtserkovskaya, head of activation on-trade, Diageo GB. “This creates a huge opportunity to use Guinness and the Six Nations series to encourage consumers to watch the matches in your outlet, driving rate of sale and pints in hand.”

It would be simply rude not to consider having a pint of the black stuff available on the bar during another big trading event that hits on 18 March 2018 – St Patrick’s Day.

According to CGA Trading Index 2017, average sales of draught beer at pubs, restaurants and bars increased by 86 pints on St Patrick’s Day last year, while sales of draught stout rose by 56 pints – providing two thirds of the total 38.8% uplift in alcoholic drink sales on Ireland’s national day.

Look to provide cocktails

Other events that take place during the early months of the year include Valentine’s Day on 14 February, Mothering Sunday on 11 March and Easter, which falls on 1 April. These are occasions to look at other areas of your drinks offer, such as cocktails.

“Cocktails are in strong growth in the on-trade, up 8.1% year-on-year in value terms to £506m in the third quarter of 2017, according to CGA, and for occasions such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Easter, a dedicated cocktail list delivers something more than consumers would have at home,” explains Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits.

“Gin continues to be a key driver of cocktail sales. Customers expect a choice of gins, and pubs can increase interest in them by creating a point of difference across the range.”

As the sun begins to shine, consumers flock to beer gardens across the country to enjoy the warmer weather. This is time for licensees to capitalise on the trend for outside drinking and increased demand for products such as cider and beer.

The CGA Alcohol Sales Tracker (July 2017) revealed that cider was in above-average sales value growth of 2% last year, partly driven by warm spring and early summer weather, powerful brand marketing and the rising popularity of artisan producers.

After summer, it is not long before the nights start to draw in and that means time to re-evaluate the drinks menu again.

Wychwood dark beer Hobgoblin, is celebrating its 13th year as the unofficial beer of Halloween, which takes place on 31 October.

Brand manager Alex Harrison advises licensees to try to extend the trading period for such beers from September into November.

“You have Halloween but you also have Bonfire Night, the Day of the Dead and all these ‘scare’ events that kick off at the beginning of September,” he says.

He advises licensees to put spooky drinks on the menu – such as quirky cocktails – as well as seasonal beers that will make the event more of an adult occasion.

Turn to spirits and wine

Then it is the build up to the festive season, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where licensees need to look at their spirits and wine offerings.

According to the CGA Christmas Report 2016, spirits had an 18.9% share of total service, up 3.8pp (percentage points) versus an average four-week period. Vodka and dark rum saw the biggest uplift in sales, up 2.5pp and 2.3pp respectively but, despite this, gin and golden rum were the nation’s favourite Christmas spirits.

Matthew Clark, the on-trade national drinks wholesaler, advises operators to consider increasing their range of premium products, not just with spirits but also craft beers, wines and Champagne.

“A period of celebration, teamed with strong promotional offerings from suppliers sees 28% of the annual Champagne volume consumed throughout the festive period, making it a key product to stock during this time,” says Mat Bird, marketing direc-tor at Matthew Clark.

“Christmas is a key trading period for sparkling white wine. The category has seen strong volume growth (up 20% year on year) due to the growing popularity of both Prosecco (up 25% year on year) and English sparkling wines (up 45% year on year). The volumes across the festive period account for 23% of the annual volume for the products.”

Planning early for the big events is something that licensees should embrace. Offering the popular tipples at the right trading periods means driving more business and meeting consumer demands even if that means mineral water for the health conscious consumer in January.   

Put it in your diary

Here’s a rundown of which drinks you need to stock throughout the next 12 months to give you the best chance of making extra cash at the bar.

January:​ Mocktails, low-calorie drinks, low-alcohol beer

26 January:​ Burns’ Night – whisky, cocktails and dark beers

3 February:​ Start of the Six Nations rugby – beer

14 February:​ Valentine’s Day – cocktails

11 March:​ Mothering Sunday – cocktails

18 March:​ St Patrick’s Day – Irish stout

1 April:​ Easter – cocktails

23 April:​ St George’s Day – cask beer

19 May:​ Royal wedding – British beer and sparkling wine

14 June:​ Start of the 2018 FIFA football World Cup – lager

4 July:​ US Independence Day – US craft beers

Summer:​ fruit ciders, lagers and Aperol Spritz

31 October:​ Halloween – spooky cocktails and seasonal beers

31 October to 2 November:​ Halloween and Day of the Dead – spooky cocktails and seasonal beers

5 November:​ Bonfire Night – seasonal beers

Christmas:​ craft beers, spirits, sparkling wines and Champagne

New Year’s Eve:​ Champagne and sparkling wine       

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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