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Hospitality visits suffer as weekend revellers cut back

Published:  22 March, 2024

Visits to the on-trade are taking a tumble as consumers cut two nights’ worth of out of home eating and drinking down to one, new research reveals.

The findings, from the 2024 Fentimans Premium Soft Drinks and Mixers Market Report, dives into the impact of cost pressures on weekend revellers by honing in on their Friday and Saturday night eating and drinking habits.

It found that consumers are reducing visits to pub, bars and restaurants by cutting out one usual 'going out' night entirely. While consumers might have previously ventured out of home on both Friday and Saturday nights, the research found this behaviour has been altered in recent years, with 41% of consumers choosing to visit on-trade venues less frequently than usual. They are also leaning into trends which have become increasingly prevalent over the past 18 months: drinking less but better, a surge in no & low alcohol purchasing and a rise in food-led occasions.

Intriguingly, the CGA-backed report concluded that fewer on-trade visits doesn't necessarily mean consumers are spending less. Of the 41% who have cut the number of drinks they buy when they go out, only 17% have reduced the quality of those drinks as many continue to prioritise higher quality choices.

Trading up behaviour would have to be considerable, however, in order to make up for the loss of an entire evening’s worth of eating and drinking out of home.

In a wider sign of the times, JD Wetherspoon has reported that its H1 results for the current financial year saw sales rise 9.9% compared to the same period a year ago. With budgets being squeezed across the UK, sales have soared at the high street perennial, which has made pledges in recent days to keep its food and drinks costs as low as possible.

Metro recently reported that the average price of a pint of popular beer such as Corona or Carling varies at Wetherspoons across the country. Peaking in London at £7, outside the capital, prices are closer to the cheaper end of the scale, reaching £2.34 in Newcastle.

The Fentimans report, which was made in partnership with CGA by NIQ, looks at alcohol, low & no options and soft drinks.

There is optimism to be found among its pages. Just over 20% of people said they were going out more than last year, while visits to hospitality remains a top priority. A total of 43% of respondents admitted they will prioritise on-trade visits if their disposable income falls, thus putting it above other luxuries such as new clothing (34%), home improvements (32%) and travel (30%).

The desire to enjoy high quality drinking occasions outside of the home is still very much on the public agenda.

As Mark Platten, marketing manager at Fentimans, said: “Whether the choice is to venture out on a Friday or Saturday night, we know that over two thirds of Fentimans drinkers say they will be making the most of their visits in the months ahead, and prioritising quality over quantity when it comes to their beverages. This highlights the potential for venues to achieve trade-ups if the quality offering is right for customers.”