The deceptive thing about change is the nearly imperceptible pace at which it happens. Such is the case with shifts in consumer preferences. At times these trends can be perceived at the street level, but more often not they’re so broad in scope that it takes an aerial view to really see what’s going on.
In an extensive on-line consumer study conducted for Cheers Magazine, Mike Ginley and Next Level Marketing of Westport, Connecticut surveyed 2,260 people who frequent casual restaurant. Out of that group, 1311 (58%) responded that they had visited a chain restaurant within the past 30 days. Of those people, 728 (56%) said that they had purchased beverage alcohol while at the restaurant and they were ones selected for the study. Four hundred and two of them were (and remain) women.
Ginley and his team uncovered a number of significant consumer trends that throw light onto the question of what people in the United States really want to drink. The largest group of consumers (22%) responded that they prefer socializing with cocktails and spirits, compared with 19% who said that they are primarily beer drinkers and 11% who drink wine.
For most of us in this business, beverage plays a huge role in profitability. Industry wide beverage sales average around 25% of revenue, while at the same time account for over 50% of average gross profits. The survey found that 60% of the respondents—more than half of which were women—told us that they “usually to always” order a beverage alcohol drink when they go out for dinner. Of interest also is how the consumers responded when asked how many drinks the order per occasion. Over 80% responded that they stop after the second drink, while 32% said that they hold after the first.
It’s particularly interesting to look at what consumers have to say about what motivates them to order a particular cocktail or drink special. According to Next Level’s on-premise research, it’s clear that if your marketing strategy doesn’t include a well-conceived drink menu, you might be spinning your wheels.
The large majority of consumers (75%) said that they take the time to read drink menus and 25% of people identified drink menus as what most influences their purchasing decisions. Over 70% of consumers said that the drink descriptions are most influential, 47% were swayed by pictures of the drinks, while 41% were influenced by drinks listing brand names. These findings suggest that bar menus are a must, and that spirit branding, colorful pictures and well-written drink descriptions positive sales drivers.
In addition, the survey revealed that consumers are influenced by special price promotions. Twenty percent of the respondents stated that they were favorably predisposed to ordering drinks that were discounted in price. Incidentally, the fifth (12%) and sixth (12%) most significant influencers are drink special boards and table tents.
According to the survey, another significant order influencer is promoting drinks within the restaurant’s food menu. Seventeen percent of consumers reported that they were swayed to purchase a specialty drink while pursuing the food menu. This dovetails perfectly with the growing trend of pairing food items on the menu with cocktails, wines and beer.
Ginley also discovered that the best way of motivating guests to order new drinks is by offering them small samples of the concoctions. Over half of the respondents said that sampling the drink beforehand prompted their decision to purchase.
One last interesting glimpse into the collective minds of your guests. When not socializing with beverage alcohol, 42% of the respondents said that they would be interested in ordering alcohol-free beverages priced up to $4.00. There has been a steady increase in the acceptance of beverages prepared without alcohol.