The Delta variant and the US On Premise: Ten things to know

With concern about the Delta variant of COVID-19 growing in the US, a CGA webinar revealed how, where and when it is impacting the On Premise and what operators and suppliers can do to respond. Here are ten takeaways from the webinar’s exclusive data and expert insights.

1 The majority of consumers are still visiting the On Premise

So far at least, the rise of the Delta variant isn’t hitting consumers’ enthusiasm for the On Premise. Two in three (67%) have gone out to eat in the last two weeks, while well over a third (37%) have been out for a drink. The numbers planning to do so again over the next two weeks—68% and 40% respectively—suggest there will be little change in behaviour for now.


2 Check size is stable

CGA’s BeverageTrak service, which provides an ultra-granular view of how beverages are ordered and distributed across the USA, shows that outlet sales velocities have fallen slightly. In the last week of July they dropped from just under $76,000 to around $69,000 in the last week of August. However, check size has remained relatively stable, at $45.88 and $44.50 in the July and August weeks respectively. “Traffic is slightly down… but when people do go out they’re still spending the same,” said Matthew Crompton, CGA’s client solutions director – Americas, during the webinar.


3 Some consumers are still cautious

While the majority are visiting the On Premise as or more often than they did before COVID, a notable cohort of 22% are visiting less—two thirds (67%) of them because of concerns about the Delta variant. Most of these people aren’t abandoning the On Premise—well under half (42%) intend to stop their visits completely in the next two weeks—but their fears need to be taken seriously. “It’s important to understand who these people are and why they’re visiting less,” said Patrick Bannon, CGA’s client director – Americas.


4 Older people are more anxious

Well over half (61%) of those vising the On Premise less often are aged 55+, while fewer than a fifth (16%) are under 34. CGA’s On Premise User Survey shows these older consumers over-index on visits to independent restaurants and casual dining chains, making visible safety precautions particularly important in these segments.


5 Attitudes vary from state to state

As we have seen throughout the pandemic, trading velocities and attitudes towards COVID are far from uniform across the US. In California, for example, 39% of consumers say they are staying at home because they are worried about getting ill—but the number dips to 31% in Florida. Opinions about safety measures vary too: 41% and 33% of Californians would feel more comfortable about visiting restaurants and bars if proof of vaccines and screens between tables were in place, compared to just 28% and 26% of Floridians. This highlights the need for location-based strategies that react quickly to local changes around things like mask mandates or vaccine status. “It proves that if vaccine passports are rolled out, they’ll have a bigger impact in some states than others,” said Mitch Stefani, CGA’s client solutions manager – Americas.


6 Sales are nudging towards the weekend

BeverageTrak has shown a small but important shift in sales towards weekends. Saturdays’ share of weekly beer sales has been 2% higher in 2021 than it was in 2019, while spirits and wine have grown their shares on Sundays by 2%. This has important consequences for operators and suppliers, who may need to flex how they activate brands and engage consumers. It’s being partly driven by the work-from-home culture that has reduced after-work drinking occasions, Stefani said. “Consumers who aren’t visiting outlets in the middle of the week want to go out into the On Premise at weekend and make up for some of that lost time.”


7 People are drinking out earlier

Sales have also shifted towards earlier dayparts lately. Consumers drinking out at brunch grew from 8% in spring 2019 to 12% in spring 2021, while those drinking late at night went the other way, from 15% in 2019 to 10% this year. “It makes it important to tailor your strategy throughout the entire day,” Stefani said.


8 Consumers are influenced by menus…

CGA’s new research on consumers’ Path to Purchase highlights the role of menus in influencing people’s drinks selections. Nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers say they look at a whole menu when choosing, and just 8% don’t use them at all. Use of digital menus is lower at 39%, but they are particularly influential for younger consumers—and their power will increase again if the Delta variant leads to fresh restrictions in bars and restaurants.


The Path to Purchase research, which will launch as series of reports this month, provides a detailed understanding of how consumers are influenced before a drink purchase and how suppliers can drive sales, helping clients determine where to spend to influence consumer choice in the On Premise.


9 … And by servers

Staff have a big part to play in drinks choices too. More than half (56%) of consumers agree that staff have some influence over their drinks choices, while nearly two thirds (63%) of business owners cite server recommendations as an important factor in selection. These numbers point to the need for knowledgeable and well-trained staff, and a readiness to flip strategies if service restrictions return.


10 Market insights are more crucial than ever

The On Premise has recovered well over 2021, but with the Delta variant showing that the COVID crisis isn’t over, it is crucial to understand the latest consumer sentiment and market dynamics. Suppliers can help by providing operators with valuable insights and practical support. “No-one’s got a crystal ball for what’s going to happen… it’s about being prepared for restrictions coming back and knowing the levers to pull,” said Matthew Crompton. “Understanding how to influence consumers and support operators can really help channels to thrive.”


To watch CGA’s ‘On Premise Delta Variant Impact’ webinar in full, click here or view the video below:



CGA’s US On Premise experts can help all businesses optimize sales and promotional strategies over the remainder of 2021 and beyond. To learn more about CGA’s suite of services, including sales and trend tracking, activation and location planning and tools to help assortment and pricing tactics, please contact

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