Canada’s On Premise and the Delta variant: Seven things to know

A recent CGA webinar highlighted the significant impacts of the Delta variant on consumers’ attitudes and behaviour in Canada’s restaurants and bars. Here are seven key takeaways—plus pointers for how On Premise suppliers and operators can respond.

1 Demand is still strong

Despite the spread of the Delta variant, there is still a healthy appetite for Canada’s On Premise. CGA’s latest research indicates that nearly three quarters (73%) of consumers have gone out to eat in the last two weeks, and nearly a third (30%) have been out for a drink—though there is a slight drop-off in numbers planning to do so over the next two weeks. CGA’s BeverageTrak meanwhile shows that although sales velocity has dropped slightly in recent weeks, check size remains stable. “You’re getting less people going out, but those who are going out are spending more or the same,” said Matthew Crompton, CGA’s client solutions director, Americas.

 

2 Some consumers are staying away

While three quarters (75%) of consumers are visiting the On Premise as frequently or more often than they did before COVID-19, one in four (25%) is visiting less. Among this cautious cohort, nearly two thirds (62%) are staying away because of concerns around the Delta variant— but as Provinces adopt vaccine passport systems and other safety precautions, this could be a key factor in persuading them to return to the On Premise.

 

3 Older people remain hesitant

Efforts to bring people back to the On Premise need to focus on those aged 55 and above, who make up nearly two thirds (64%) of the group visiting less because of COVID-19. CGA’s On Premise User Survey shows that older people tend to drink out less frequently than younger adults, and instead visit restaurants and bars for occasional treats and celebrations. “Over-55s are typically less valuable to the On Premise—so if there was any group that weren’t going out as much, you would prefer it to be this one,” said Amy Warren, CGA’s director of client services, Americas.

 

4 Trends vary from province to province

On Premise strategies need to take regional differences into account. For example, 43% of people in Alberta who aren’t yet going out say they are avoiding busy areas—more than twice the proportion (19%) in Quebec. BeverageTrak shows that sales velocities can fluctuate significantly too, with Ontario reporting the lowest sales velocity of all key provinces in June yet two weeks later seeing an 85% increase. “Regionality is really important when you’re targeting consumers and putting strategies together,” said Mitch Stefani, CGA’s client solutions manager, Americas.

 

5 Sales have shifted towards the weekend

As they have in other territories including the US, some On Premise visits have shifted from midweek to weekends. BeverageTrak shows that Saturday and Sunday’s share of total sales have both increased by 0.9% from 2019, but dropped by 1.0% on Thursday. This partly reflects the increase in people working from home and moving or skipping midweek celebrations and after-work drinks.

 

6 Menus and staff can engage drinkers

In a changing market, how can drinks brands and operators best engage consumers? CGA’s research points to the importance of menus, with two thirds (65%) looking at whole physical menus before choosing their drinks—a notably higher figure than among those who use digital menus (42%). Two in five (42%) consumers meanwhile agree that staff can influence their selections. “The path to purchase has changed significantly during COVID-19… it’s essential to understand how the different elements of that path influence your consumers,” said Amy Warren.

 

7 Market knowledge is crucial

As COVID-19-related restrictions continue to come and go, it is more important than ever to understand how market dynamics and consumer sentiment are changing. Businesses that anticipate what people want next will have a crucial head start in the Canadian On Premise’s recovery phase. “COVID-19 is still a concern, but we’re in a considerably better place than we were a year ago… if we can lean in to the challenges and stay flexible, then the channel can thrive and hopefully 2022 will be the best year yet,” said Matthew Crompton.

 

To watch a full replay of the CGA’s Canada On Premise Delta Variant Impact webinar, watch the video below or click here

 

As the channel continues to recover, operators are expecting more data-driven On Premise insights from suppliers. This is reflected across other global On Premise markets, where a fresh approach to customer and channel planning has driven better performance and strengthened customer relationships. CGA’s data and analysis can help suppliers provide compelling sales stories, plan and measure the impact of brand activations, localize strategies and much more. To learn more about CGA’s On Premise solutions in Canada and the Americas, please email matthew.crompton@cgastrategy.com

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