Is the On Premise still the land of indulgence?

Charlie Mitchell, CGA's Head of Insights and Consumer Research, explores whether the On Premise is still the land of indulgence. Traditionally known for extravagance, new global research reveals a shift as consumers increasingly prioritize low-sugar, low-fat, and low-calorie options. This trend indicates a growing preference for moderation even in settings once dominated by indulgence.
Charlie Mitchell, Head of Insights and Consumer Research

The big blow-out, the all-you-can-eat buffet, the champagne magnum with sparklers, the banana split with extra cream; the On Premise has always been the place in which the rules of watching what you eat, watching what you drink and watching what you spend do not apply.  


For many, a visit to a club, bar or restaurant at the end of a week was a reward for the toil of ‘being good’ from Monday to Friday, whether that meant keeping a check on spend, calories or units of alcohol. It was where abstinence went out of the window and where extravagance reigned. 


But that is changing. Consumers continue to prioritise health in their agendas in both in-home and, crucially, On Premise environments. In our latest global research of over 30,000 On Premise visitors, we asked what dietary requirements they expect to see reflected in on premise menus. As would be expected, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free all ranked highly, but the first, second and third options; low-sugar, low-fat and low-calorie. 


When asked specifically about drinks menus, one in seven say that they would like to see nutritional information about the drinks available on menus, with the same proportion also wanting calorie information included before they make a choice. To contextualise, these are figures higher than those corresponding for listed glassware (11%) and seasonal drinks or monthly special drinks (14%). 


It is perhaps why, over the Australian summer, one of the big hits of the warmer months in the On Premise has been lower calorie beers. Similarly, in the US, the hard seltzer craze was born from campaigns developed around healthier drinking, with fewer calories and which has extended to a burgeoning RTD category, much of it with lower-calorie options at its core. 


Indeed, in our same global research, when questioned as to the attributes in drinks that are increasingly important in On Premise choices, ‘healthy’ ranked fourth of twenty four elements (as it did last year), behind only ‘good value’, ‘high quality’ and ‘trustworthy’. 


So does this mean that we should all look at how to reduce the calorie content of our products and market them for an On Premise market in which restraint, rather than excess is the driving factor? Maybe.  


However, my personal view, and call me old school here, is that the core role of the On Premise always was and always will be predominantly that of the little luxury. Nobody forces the restaurant visitor out of his or her home to, in all likelihood, pay more for a less healthy than they could make with the ingredients in the fridge at home, because that just isn’t the point. We visit the sector because we want something out of the ordinary and a break from the mundane. If that means a few extra calories, then so be it. 


That is why some of the quickest growing, and most successful operators across the globe at the moment remain focussed on indulgence. Be it the myriad of dessert chains increasingly catering to the ‘mini-luxury’ occasion, through calorie-loaded milkshakes and waffles or the increasingly popular Brazilian style Rodizo buffets of as much luxury meat as you can handle. Drinks operators too bejewel their stellar menus with hints of indulgence, be that a fat-washed old fashioned or a brandy milk-punch made with lashings of delectable Madagascan vanilla cream. Faced with these options, I know that my calorie counting would be thrown aside in an instant. 


Of course there is a time and a place for moderation and abstinence – and with occasions shifting across the globe to lower tempo and earlier day parts, this will continue to influence the On Premise. providing opportunities for brands who are able to play into the associated consumer needs. Heck, even I, a lover of great food and lots of it, alongside gluttonous high abv drinks, am partial to a good non-alcoholic beer, and to tell the truth, I have far more healthy meals than ‘unhealthy’ ones when out.  


However, for when I am choosing to treat myself and for when a pub, bar or restaurant acts a well-deserved reward to myself, there is only one option, and it ain’t a low-calorie, weak, poor-tasting option in the name of health. No thanks – I’ll have a sticky toffee pudding please, oh and how about an irish coffee with extra cream too, I am in the On Premise after all. 


To learn more about CGA’s REACH survey and other sources of consumer insights for suppliers and operators across global markets to support your global strategies, click here  or contact Charlie Mitchell here. 


Originally published in Global Drinks Intel Magazine


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