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How to launch a 'drinks to go' offer

By Alice Leader contact

- Last updated on GMT

Opportunity knocks: take advantage of a 'drinks to go' offer
Opportunity knocks: take advantage of a 'drinks to go' offer

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With Britain in lockdown, delivery services have become a survival kit for pubs during the coronavirus storm. But while it’s one element to focus on food, how can operators ensure the best ‘drinks to go’ offer for their loyal customers?

The public’s appetite for delivery services is vital, it offers an important role for operators to keep the nation fed, but research shows a growing appeal for drink deliveries too.

In the week prior to Prime Minister’s order for the public to stay at home, research from CGA showed that 53% of the public are either currently using, or planning to use, delivery as an alternative during the crisis.

The survey showed a clear opportunity for drink deliveries, with 32% saying drinks offered from pubs, bars and restaurants for delivery was appealing.

CGA director of client services Jonny Jones said: “For many food-led operators and suppliers, meal delivery is already part of their sales mix.

“However, the current trading climate means that there is increased opportunity for drinks-led operators and drinks brands as well, providing their licence permits off sales.

“A third of adult consumers find the idea of ordering drinks from pubs, bars or restaurants appealing, rising to almost half of those who were drinking out weekly before the lockdown.

“So, a strong drinks delivery offer could be a great way to maintain engagement with the on-trade’s most important consumers during this time.”

Regulatory forbearance

So what advice is out there to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the growing appeal, while maximising a quality experience, and ensuring all safety aspects?

Well, before we delve in, pubs need to ensure they have a current licence that certifies off-sales of alcohol in the first place.

Despite the Government granting planning permission for pubs to operate as takeaway and delivery services, this doesn’t necessarily mean pubs will be able to deliver alcohol.

Andy Grimsey, partner at licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen, said: “While the Government’s decision to relax planning laws to allow pubs and bars to act as takeaways is welcome, it doesn’t help those who want to deliver or allow takeaway alcohol who don’t have off-sales already authorised on their premises licence.”

Therefore, Poppleston Allen has confirmed that pubs will need to have a licence that permits off-sales of alcohol in place in order to take advantage of the offer.

Grimsey continued: “Urgent changes to the Licensing Act are required, or to use the Chancellor’s words on Tuesday 17 March, a degree of ‘regulatory forbearance’ on the part of the enforcing authorities, which can only be authorised by Government.”

Pub in a box

But, with this service potentially available for many operators, this is giving them the opportunity to embrace bringing the social essence of pub’s to customers’ homes.

Being an entirely new system for many publicans, however, they may be keen to know what drinks are available for takeout and how to carry them.

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) chief executive Tom Stainer said: “As well as bottled or canned beers, pubs can consider offering “Pub in a Box” kits, for those who are missing their local.

“These could include a selection of beers, beer mats, bar snacks, a version of a pub quiz, or whatever it is their business does best.

“Offering a package of meals and drinks as a weekly subscription service will give pubs a steadier and more predictable source of income that
single deliveries.”

So with bottled and canned beers being an easy option for takeout, what issues might operators face with kegged liquids? 

A clear leader

Signature Brands brands manager Nic Ponticakis said: “In the current environment of closed pubs, we do not recommend cask being used at home, unless the person using it has a full draught dispense system and are educated in how to handle and move cask properly.

“We would recommend that anyone looking to enjoy cask ale at home – that doesn’t have strong cask dispense experience – opts to purchase and consume cask in a bottled format.”

So apart from Britain’s classic pub tipple, what other drinks can you offer on your takeout/delivery menu to inspire customers and help them recreate quality drinks and pub experiences at home?

Diageo head of customer category for the on-trade Sarah McCarthy said: “In recent years, the pre-mixed category has emerged as a clear leader within the ‘ready to drink’ market, inspired by the growth of cocktails and mixed drinks in the on trade.”

Data from Nielsen shows there could be opportunity for operators to focus on ready-to-drink (RTD) sales through these services for consumers to enjoy at home, with premix and cocktails driving its performance.

According to research by Nielsen Scantrack, premix and cocktails added more than £50m retail sales value to the off-trade RTD category in 2019.

McCarthy also goes on to add how publicans can go about showing off their new menu and drawing in their customers. She said: “When thinking about how to reach customers – think mobile first; set up shoppable social media posts with photographs, cross merchandise and ensure your site is easy to navigate.”

Drinking responsibly

So while we know how to target the consumer, and what products they’ll be keen to enjoy in their new ‘stay at home’ environment, there is one vital element that publicans must take on board.

With publicans now dealing with an off-trade function, they won’t have the same freedom to monitor responsible drinking with a takeout service, which could be needed more than ever in today’s current climate.

So what can be done about this?

McCarthy continued: “It is vitally important to maintain the high levels of responsible drinking guidelines, exactly as it would be done if customers were coming into a venue – for example, don’t offer takeaway incentives which encourage customers to drink irresponsibly, and instruct delivery drivers to operate a Challenge 25 policy.”

Stainer from CAMRA also added: “Usual licensing rules will still apply, so delivery staff will need to ensure that the person receiving the delivery is over 18. Pubs should also bear in mind their duty to ensure responsible drinking and exercise their judgment just as they would if they were open.”

Consumer confidence

Consumer confidence is key during these uncertain, trying times. And, while operators must continue to look out for the mental health of their customers, their staff and themselves to boost that assurance, showing commitment to exemplary hygiene principles is vital for their physical health too.

CPL Learning chief operating officer Jamie Campbell said: “For many operators takeaway and delivery services will be entirely new to them.

“They are having to quickly adapt their operations to meet this demand, so considerations and processes need to be put in place that they don’t risk damaging their business reputation or more importantly, people’s health.”

During this crisis, it is more essential than ever to reassure your customers the extra measures you are taking to avoid the transmission of Covid-19.

Not only will this comfort your customers but will also enhance a positive customer experience and, therefore, help you maximise your profitability too.

With social distancing and self-isolating customers missing the pub atmosphere, there is plenty of room for you to capture additional revenue with a ‘to go’ drinks menu – bringing the bar to the home sofa.

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