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Delivering a new approach

Published:  17 April, 2020

As lockdown happened, Lisa Riley looked at how the on-trade adapted to create opportunities in an alien situation.

With Britain in lockdown and the on-trade shut as coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to take its toll on the industry, operators have been busy looking for alternative revenue streams to stay afloat, or in some cases seeking ways simply to help their community.

A key move has been a switch by many smaller bars and restaurants to deliveries as a possible silver lining to the biblical storm clouds posing an existential threat to their businesses.

And the opportunities for smaller operators have been further expanded by major brands, such as restaurant group Azzurri – owner of key brands including Ask, Wagamama and Zizzi – having been quick to embrace the format only to abandon it just as swiftly.

The overarching reason given by the big boys as to why they have jumped ship has been to protect the health and safety of staff, as well as customers, which poses the question as to how long the model is sustainable for smaller operators. This is something the jury is still out on and only time will tell.

But however long this may be, there is positive news going forward for on-trade drinks deliveries, with the pandemic spearheading a new trend, according to CGA.

Pointing to the surge in food deliveries prior to the prime minister’s order for the public to stay at home, CGA also revealed a clear opportunity for delivered drinks in recent research, which found 32% of the public were looking to have both food and drink delivered from restaurants, bars and pubs. That number rose to 48% when looking at “those who typically drink out regularly”.


Continuing behaviour

More significantly, 72% of a 53% pool of consumers who had either upped the use of delivery or used it for the first time as a result of coronavirus, suggested they were likely to continue this behaviour, regardless of the pandemic.

“Unsurprisingly, we are seeing an uplift in the number of consumers who are using or planning to use food and drink delivery services, with one in eight either using these services for the first time or more than usual,” says Jonny Jones, director of client services at CGA.

“Importantly for on-trade operators, around three-quarters of those consumers expect to continue using delivery services after the coronavirus pandemic has ended.”

Providing a “quality experience” for them now could therefore be crucial in driving loyalty down the line, adds Jones.

“While meal delivery already forms part of many food-led operators’ and suppliers’ sales mix, the current trading climate means there is increased opportunity for drinks-led operators and drinks brands as well, providing their licence permits off-sales. A third of adult consumers find the idea of ordering drinks from pubs, bars or restaurants appealing, rising to almost half of those who were drinking out weekly before the lockdown.

“So, a strong drinks delivery offer could be a great way to maintain engagement with the on-trade’s most important consumers during this time.”

For drinks suppliers, linking their brands with great experiences is a key lever for building brand equity, but with these experiences no longer happening in Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants, this has become much more difficult.

However, says Jones, with the rise of lockdown, big nights in and traditional off-trade channels struggling to keep up with demand, delivery looks set to provide a growing opportunity to drive sales and consumer engagement.