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How to get your business ready for reopening

By Adam Russell, director of leisure & licensed, Britvic

- Last updated on GMT

Soft sell: Some 59% of people state that they are now making decisions with more consideration of their health which has made a considerable impact on the soft drinks category
Soft sell: Some 59% of people state that they are now making decisions with more consideration of their health which has made a considerable impact on the soft drinks category

Related tags: Soft drinks, Publican awards, Britvic, Britvic soft drinks, lockdown, Coronavirus

Britvic’s director of leisure & licensed, Adam Russell, gives his view on the impact Covid has had on the soft drinks category and how you can get ready for reopening this spring.

We are all looking forward to 12 April when the Government’s roadmap points to venues being able to reopen and serve customers outside. How can Britvic help you get ready as you open the doors once again and adapt to restrictions?

How has Covid-19 impacted the soft drinks category? 

Like many categories, soft drinks has been directly impacted by the varying degrees of lockdown over the past year. It has been great to see so many outlets diversifying into takeaway and delivery, to provide their customers with food and drink while they stay home.

At long last, the foodservice and hospitality sectors have a glimmer of hope with re-opening set for 12 April outdoors, and then onto a full reopening from 21 June, if all criteria are met. 

The pandemic has had a huge effect on how consumers view their health and lifestyle choices. Some 59% of people state they are now making decisions with more consideration of their health[1]​ which has made a considerable impact on the soft drinks category in two way – a growing demand for low/no sugar and wellness soft drinks, and an increased desire to reduce alcohol consumption.

The value of low-calorie soft drinks is up 7.7% in total soft drinks[2]​ and we don’t expect this to change as consumers head back to their favourite pub, as excited as they may be.

Do you think the pandemic will have a lasting effect on alcohol consumption?

Over the years, we have seen a growing number of people reducing their alcohol consumption, or abstaining from alcohol altogether, but the pandemic seems to have boosted this trend further.

According to research, 23% of people drank less alcohol as a direct result of lockdowns[3]​ ​and 77% of those who reduced their alcohol consumption in 2020 stated they would continue to drink less alcohol this year.

We saw this trend out of home in 2020, with one in four visits to pubs and/or bars and one in three visits to restaurants taking place without alcohol. 

With an increase in people looking for non-alcoholic drinks, 61% of consumers would like to see a better range of options on offer[4]​. There is the opportunity for outlets to extend their soft drinks range as they reopen – especially those of a premium nature – to ensure their customers have a wide variety of options when returning to outlets this spring.

What is your advice on what to stock for outlets reopening in April? 

Our research tells us half of licensees are concerned about ‘affording to restock’ on a limited budget and 40% are concerned about ‘customers not returning/changes to footfall’[5]​.

However, almost a third (59%) of consumers agree they ‘can’t wait to go out again’ to hospitality venues[6]​. There is a clear desire from the public to get back to pubs, bars and restaurants and enjoy those moments that they have missed during the pandemic, and Boris Johnson’s roadmap now provides people with an ideal plan of when they will be able to do so. 

Having the right range in place when outlets can reopen is key to appeal to those seeking that sense of normality again. Areas that outlets should focus on include:  

  • Core essentials 
  • Healthy options
  • Premium and crafted
  • Kids and teen options 
  • Spirit mixers

Find more details on these areas at Sensational Drinks​.

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Do you expect delivery and takeaway offers to stay as the hospitality industry opens up? 

We expect the delivery and takeaway sector to gain a larger share of the foodservice market in the long-term with some outlets getting so good at it they will be able to run both an eat-in and takeaway service in tandem.

This means that eating out will become even more of a special occasion for many consumers.

Offering a takeaway and delivery service has been a challenge for some, but a challenge that has brought fresh opportunities to outlets and perhaps expedited their pre-lockdown plans, with delivery the top sector in hospitality expected to see new outlets (58%) in the year ahead.

Things clearly won’t be fully back to ‘normal’ this spring, how can digital solutions help outlets with social distancing rules which will still be in place for the first few months of opening?  

Some 95% of business leaders agree that technology will be important when it comes to operating post-lockdown[7]​. 

Table service isn’t anything new, but it is now the safest and only way to be able to serve your customers in outlet, whether they are looking for a pint or out for a family meal. We expect that the Government will enforce table service in the long-term as a result of the pandemic, and the act of dining out in a pub or casual restaurant will remain more formal than it was prior to Covid-19[8]​.

While working for most outlets, it does mean that your staff are likely to be running around trying to get to all the tables multiple times as customers are not able to make the trip to the bar themselves. 

Almost half (49%) of over-65s say that Covid has made them more likely to prioritise experiences over possessions so it is hugely important to utilise digital options to ensure the experience is as enjoyable as it is safe before the vaccine is more widely rolled-out across UK adults.  

There are so many companies out there that are offering solutions to allow customers to order from you and pay directly from their phone. You can find details on some of these solutions at Sensational Drinks​. 

Do you have any further tips for outlets on getting their soft drinks offering right as they re-open? 

Deliver great tasting drinks with permissible health credentials – when dining out, many guests will treat themselves, but others still search for healthier options.

Offer great tasting, low and no-sugar alternatives to cater for these customers. Fresh Serve from The London Essence Co, a state of the art dispense system, is the perfect addition as you reopen. 

It delivers an elevated serve, with the freshest flavour and aroma, enabled through world-first, patented micro-dosing technology; ensuring you can offer a unique and differentiated guest experience that can't be replicated at home. 

Think about menu price management which will benefit all operators and open more opportunities for upselling and generating more spend per head[9]​ as people return to hospitality this spring.  

Also, link soft drinks with food – make sure categories are helping to boost each other by creating cross-category promotions or training bar staff to suggest food and drink pairings in preparation for the reopening of outlets and venues.

Britvic

[1]​ Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Research, conducted March 19–25 and April 2–6 2020

[2]​ IRI, Symbols & Independents, Value % Growth Total Soft Drinks vs YA, 52 w.e. 24.01.21

[3]​ Kam Media, Low+No 2021: The customer perspective report. January 2021

[4]​ CGA No & Low Alcohol Report: Understanding Moderation in the On-Trade. CGA Brand Track​ 2019 

[5]​ Britvic Sensational Drinks Platform – COVID customer survey – April 2020

[6]​ CGA Business Leaders Survey 2021

[7]​ CGA Business Leaders Survey 2021

[8]​ Mintel: Leisure Outlook – UK – January 2021

[9]​ Lumina Eating Out in the UK Report 2019

Related topics: Soft & Hot Drinks

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