Talking responsibly about drinking in the On Premise

Charlie Mitchell, CGA's Head of Insights and Consumer Research, stresses the importance of the On Premise sector adjusting to changing consumer views on alcohol. He supports encouraging responsible drinking to match the rising emphasis on mental health and the expanding "sober-curious" trend.
Charlie Mitchell, Head of Insights and Consumer Research

I am privileged to do the job that I do. On a daily basis, I figure out why, how, where and how people go out to eat and drink and, to do so, it often means going out to observe that. That means spending time in our beloved On Premise sector of bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and anywhere else that people purchase alcohol. 


What I love about this dynamic, vibrant and uniquely sociable sector is pretty much unquantifiable; the way it brings people together, the fact that it is where we go to celebrate for our best times, yet commiserate on our worst, the way in which is acts simultaneously as both as a treat and a comfort blanket. It is where stories are regaled, friendships are formed, romance is sparked and experiences live. It is inherently decadent, yet accessible enough to be the communal luxury that is prioritised ahead of all others, as has been demonstrated by the resilience shown by the sector in recent times of crisis. 


However, what is beloved about a sector which is, by nature, indulgent and is defined by alcohol purchase, isn’t necessarily the alcohol and is certainly not about indulging in alcohol to excess. 


In our latest global research, we asked consumers about what their relationship was like with various elements of the On Premise. Firstly, we asked about their relationship with going out and socialising and, secondly, with alcohol.  



At this point, I hold my hands up to admitting that this is a very blunt way of measuring the relative importance of alcohol in the On Premise. Of course, everybody tells us that they love socialising with friends and family, but not everybody tells us that they love alcohol. In fact, in many countries, there are more people who tell us that they have a “love-hate” relationship with alcohol than those who are positive towards it.   


However blunt and basic the measurement, the message is clear. The positivity towards the product does not match the positivity to the channel in which it is sold.   


Of course, the sentiment towards a perfectly poured pint, or the refreshing taste of an expertly crafted cocktail remains amorous, as does the relaxing and unwinding head space which a great alcoholic drink can provide. 

However, at a time when mental wellbeing has never been more of a priority, the adverse impacts of excess, as well as the negative perceptions and social stigma around alcohol has an equal counter-impact. 


For those who supply and sell alcoholic products, or for those whose business is reliant on those products, this should cause understandable concern. With a ‘sober-curious’ movement building in momentum and consumers seemingly turning away from alcohol, there is a significant long-term risk, especially given the growing voices from lobbyists to regulate sales and incorporate health warnings onto packaging. 


At which point, there are two differing paths. The first is to ignore or downplay the growing voices and continue to promote alcoholic products themselves, hoping that the hype around those pesky Gen Z and younger consumers falling out of love with alcohol and excess is just that; hype. 


The alternative path is to lean in and embrace the evolving needs and attitudes of consumers, to understand the reasons why they may be opting for fewer serves and to assess what the nuanced sentiment behind a ‘love-hate’ relationship with alcohol is. From this a more tailored approach can be developed; one which promotes the virtues that most resonate with the target market.  



Of course, as ever, my suggestion would be to invest in understanding our consumers and developing an approach that suitably resonates. For many, that may be uncomfortable. However, my guess is that it will be far more positive than negative experience. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the end result was enlightened brand teams, marketeers and planners alike, invigorated about the value of the channel and its ability to act as more than a sales channel and instead a facilitator of good times and great experiences. 


It is those messages that are increasingly resonating and those values that consumers are increasingly looking for in a sector in which brand values are increasingly important. Go big on the virtues of responsible drinking in a sector in which human connection in facilitated and win not only today, but tomorrow as well. 


Aside from any potential share gain, or increased brand affinity, the bigger picture is that we have a responsibility to our products, to our consumers and to the channel as a whole. The reciprocal relationship between the On Premise and the alcoholic products purchased necessitates a responsible approach. 


To learn more about CGA’s REACH survey and other sources of consumer insights for operators and suppliers, click here.  If you would like to discuss how REACH insights across global markets can support your global strategies, or to learn more about CGA by NIQ’s other sources of consumer insights, please contact Charlie Mitchell here. 


Originally published in Global Drinks Intel Magazine


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