Laura Willoughby: Moderation has gone mainstream

Laura Willoughby exclusive article for Low & No Project

Related tags low2no Low to no LowNoProject The Low & No Project

Many people in the UK are drinking less alcohol than they used to. However, only a small number of these have become complete abstainers.

The decline in alcohol consumption is therefore mainly accounted for by people who have decided to cut back, rather than give up alcohol altogether. This is also a cross-demographic shift – you may have noticed younger people drinking fewer drinks in an evening, or that older regular who has stopped drinking because of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

What does this mean for pubs?

The research over the past few years paints a picture of UK drinking habits shifting. In short :

  • People are making weekdays alcohol-free
  • Drinking less when they are out
  • Those who are not drinking in a group choosing the venue to go to
  • Non-drinkers wanting to feel fully included and having an equality of experience.

Getting the drinks mix right in your venue can be hard, especially if you don’t know much about low and no alcohol drinks. This article for The Low & No Project​ #LowNoProject will help you consider why you might want to review your range and how to do that.

Why low and alcohol-free helps your bottom line

While booze will still be the biggest earner in the pub, alcohol-free has an important place. There is still no profit in tap water, so giving your customers different options is the best way to make them happy and bring in revenue from non-drinkers. Imagine what a difference it will make to someone trying to cut down to have the option of choosing between their favourite zero alcohol beer, cocktail or spirit? This is why it’s important to put real thought into your alcohol-free range.

A good alcohol-free offering helps attract new guests and maximises the spending of existing customers. Consider the upsell of a bottle of alcohol-free beer or an alcohol-free gin and tonic instead of a soft drink. Customers might spend more but they will be happy to do so.

Laura Willoughby

Venues report an increase in group bookings when they add more alcohol-free drinks to their menu, as people check websites in advance to ensure a venue suits everyone in the party.

Equality of experience is key. When people go out, they want something they can’t get at home, served properly by an expert. Venues with a good alcohol-free range see increased profits, good reviews and improved customer loyalty.

How to create a great low and alcohol-free offer

Customers have come to expect choice, and low and no alcohol drinks are no different. If a group is planning a night out, and some of them are not drinking, having an interesting low and no offering could be a deal-breaker.

A survey showed that nearly half (42%) of customers look at a venue’s menu in advance to decide whether to visit or not (source: KAM Low & No Report 2023​).

If you have a range of alcoholic drinks that suit all occasions, it should be the same for your alcohol-free range too.

Reviewing your alcohol-free range:

  • Match the quality of your alcoholic drinks with a well-thought-out range of alcohol-free drinks and cocktails
  • Check what your wholesaler or pub co has on offer, and if you need something else, let them know. Or work directly with an alcohol-free brand to test what works
  • Pick a range of beers, not just one; customers have different preferences regarding beer styles. Can you accommodate an alcohol-free beer on draught?
  • Stock a high-quality lower-sugar craft soft drink in your fridge as well. Not everyone wants an alcohol-free version of an alcoholic drink, but they still care about quality and sugar content.

Stocking up for summer

For summer, you can really up your game; people are more wary of daytime drinking in the sun.

  • With a big summer of sport ahead, make sure you have an alcohol-free beer on draught; you could get through lots of Lucky Saint, Heineken and Big Drop as people aim to pace themselves throughout the day
  • You can make a great summer cup cocktail​ using an alcohol-free beer like Big Drop’s Pine Trail Pale Ale and your local craft soda
  • Lean into the summer appetite for Aperol and pink gin spritzes by getting in an aperitif from a brand like Everleaf. They can also support your venue with special menu inserts and social media assets
  • Don’t forget cider, a great refreshing summer choice. Look at Old Mout alcohol-free, or Maiden Mill for a more traditional cider brand.

Free training for your team and support for you

Developed in partnership with Drinkaware, Club Soda has produced a series of training videos​ that takes you through the basics of ‘How To Sell Low & Alcohol-Free Drinks’.

Filmed at venues nationwide, we encourage you to join the Hide, the Lucky Saint, the Venture Inn, the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel and the Chemic Tavern as they share their top tips.

The Club Soda Tasting Room & Bar in Covent Garden is a space for the trade to taste low and no alcohol drinks and get advice from our team on what works for your venue. We can also connect you with brands who can support an activation in your venue.

  • We have an ongoing survey​​ that is gauging opinions and finding out what’s going on at pubs and bars when it comes to the low & no drinks market so have your say now​.

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