According to on-trade consultant for Diageo customer collaboration, Rob Poulter, Brits in lockdown missed spending time in the on-trade and tried to emulate experiences from their favourite pubs and bars at home by broadening their drinks choices.
"Some categories such as gin continued to be popular, while others such as whisky are gradually becoming more favourable among more demographics," he tells The Morning Advertiser.
"A great example of that is serves like the whisky high ball," he continues. "Super simple to make, really accessible, and appeals to a really broad audience.
"If I was going to call out one other example, I'd probably reference rum. Rum has been growing in popularity, rum variants in cocktails have been on an upward curve for quite a while, and it's that versatility and that unique taste that I think consumers have been really interested to explore and try a wider variety of serves that perhaps they would have done pre this period."
Poulter continues that operators can learn a lot from off-trade activity over the past year when it comes to understanding current consumer preferences - from best performing spirits to which formats consumers want their drinks in.
"For example, people have wanted convenient, easy-to-access and yet high-quality drink options for some time and this has been really reflected by what we see in the off-trade. Ready to drink cocktails have performed particularly well during the lockdown period, growing slightly ahead of the current off-trade beer, wine and spirit market.
“Then also, draught cocktails are the really obvious one - the fact that you can serve a great looking, great tasting, perfect, classic cocktail in under 10 seconds means that staff can focus a little bit more on delivering fantastic customer service and making sure that their guests are at ease with the on-trade."
Poulter adds people have been really excited to come and spend time in the on-trade again and that their priorities have experienced a real step change behind closed doors.
"People will have a much greater expectation for impeccable service, they'll have higher expectations for quality of food and drink - which the on-trade will really need to take note of," he says.
"Things that people couldn't recreate at home will be the key to keeping your customers coming back."
However, Poulter stresses the importance of nailing the basics first. "If customers know you make a great tasting martini, for example, the next time they visit they'll be more willing to try something like a gingerbread martini.
"Stocking well known spirits and brands is a great way to provide customer with quality and tase reassurances which in turn will encourage them to experiment and explore new serves."
Diageo’s team of drinks experts have come together to share top tips and advice this summer in preparation of reopening and share how to maximise trading through a category worth £624m.
There are many ways to do this, from encouraging exploration to focusing on key occasions. Download the report now to find out more. CGA Mixed Drinks Q1 2020 RTDs have performed particularly well in the off-trade, growing slightly ahead of the current off-trade BWS market at 26.7% (Nielsen Scantrack 52WK 27.03.21) (CGA Mixed Drinks Report Q1 2020 – Volumetric sales data)