The role of the On Premise in any city: Learnings from Rio

Samba beats, ice-cold beers and quality cocktails — lessons to learn from a joyous Brazilian On Premise, as Charlie Mitchell, CGA by NIQ’s director of research and insight explores how the sector can attract an engaged customer base in any city.
Charlie Mitchell, CGA research & insight director

Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city; a mixture of beach, mountain, jungle and favela (shanty towns). While on vacation in the Cidade Maravilhosa (marvellous city) last month, I was also struck by its thriving On Premise scene of bars, restaurants, samba joints and beach bars.


Whether I was walking down cobbled backstreets past hole-in-the-wall-style beer joints fronted by old folks settling in to a second or third well-savoured afternoon drink, or flip-flopping along Ipanema Beach, bypassing Caipirinha stands, the On Premise I discovered was as vibrant as the samba-souled city itself.


While I was in Rio for strictly nonprofessional reasons, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this was just ‘right’; the On Premise sector was vast, pervasive and varied, but also welcoming, hospitable and relaxed. The venues serving alcohol in the city didn’t necessarily all abide to a certain rule, but as a collective, they became a vital part of the fabric that gives Rio its personality.


That got me thinking about the role of the On Premise in any city. At its best, the sector should be a reflection of the city itself; a vital organ in which its personality is showcased and its history is told. Alongside the theatres, the libraries and the markets, the bars and restaurants will always tell tales of a city’s past; it is where we have socialised for generations and if there is one thing that Cariocas (those from Rio) are good at, it is socialising!


It is not solely the outgoing nature of the city’s residents and the innate desire to mingle that explains why three quarters of Cariocas visit the sector at least weekly (higher than the equivalent two out of three across Brazil). From immersing myself into life as a Rio resident (tough gig, I know), there were some clear lessons that could be learnt from how the sector attracts such an engaged consumer base.


The first resides in the offer and in the serve. Cold, cold beer is a must in a city where temperatures sizzle and our sector meets these needs perfectly. Ice-cold beer is served in near-frozen bottles and kept in containers on the table to preserve refreshment, while small glasses mean that drinks do not warm up while the important business of chatting about football results gets in the way.


This simple innovation brought an element of perfect serve and theatre of serve to beer, which could easily be replicated across much more of the globe than it currently is, especially in warmer climates. Even as an Englishman with a taste for cask ale (typically served at a temperature between 10°C–14°C), there really is nothing better than ice-cold beer, a sentiment evidently shared by Cariocas who needed no excuse to partake, be it for a work lunch meeting, or for sundowners by the beach.


The second lesson was also around the offer. Of course, no article on Brazil’s On Premise is complete without a mention of its iconic cocktail, the Caipirinha. However, what struck me was that quality was not just the preserve of the best bars in town; good Caipirinhas were as ubiquitous as the drink itself.


Perhaps a reflection of the scene in Rio, where easy socialising and plastic chairs are as much a sign of quality as a luxurious hotel bar, there was little distinction between the effort and care. taken into the making of Caipirinhas in Bar do David, an unassuming favela bar, or in Santa Teresa’s Bar Armazém São Thiago, a traditional 1920s boozer as there was in Liz Cocktail & Co in upscale Leblon. A source of pride and earmark of quality, high-class Caipirinha serves certainly kept me going back for more.


Finally, the experience-adding extras that were synonymous with bars in the city meant that there was a genuine sense of joy for those visiting, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, often released itself in an expression of dance. Samba, alongside football of course, is almost a secondary language to Cariocas and On Premise remise venues go to great effort to curate the perfect atmosphere in which this can be fluently spoken.


Wander down any Rio street on any evening and you will be sure to hear the irresistible sounds of samba floating by from a nearby bar. Step inside and observe how the venue acts as an immediate stress release as a wave of joy as great as those crashing from the Atlantic Ocean hits you and draws you in closer.


CGA by NIQ’s On Premise User Survey (OPUS) provides suppliers and operators with vital insights into many aspects of consumers’ behaviour and preferences when visiting the On Premise. To learn more, please email Charlie Mitchell at


Originally published in Global Drinks Intel Magazine

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