As Ireland slowly emerges from lockdown and the re-opening of pubs hogs the headlines, B&A examines some of the challenges and opportunities faced by key sectors in the economy in its latest Shaping Ireland’s Future report.
As pubs and restaurants open up across Ireland, we’re looking at the wider context of eating, drinking and social occasions.
We’re not in quite as much hurry as we might have thought to get back to the pub. 37% have either been back or plan to go to in the next 4 weeks. For restaurants, the figure rises to 45%. But within this rapidly changing landscape, where do the opportunities lie for restaurants, bars and food and drink brands?
Opportunity 1: Shape the shifting landscape
Lockdown and re-opening of bars and restaurants has radically shaken up our experience of socialising, eating and drinking.
The boundaries of what businesses are offering are blurring
- Bars becoming quasi restaurants.
- Restaurants becoming takeaways.
- Bars becoming off license/delivery services.
- Supermarkets offering significantly more ‘food to go’.
New occasions are emerging
- Gourmet takeaways from high end restaurants.
- Cocktail delivery/kit making in home.
- Meal kits for easy assembly dinners.
- The pub crawl.
There are significant opportunities for brands that can adapt and differentiate in this changing landscape. But what is delivered, the competitive set, the service experience may all be very different.
Opportunity 2: Win at home
Even as pubs and restaurants open back up, the in-home occasion for eating/drinking/socialising will continue to be significant.
And we’re seeing new sub-types of home occasions starting to emerge as home becomes more consequential.
- ‘Elevated’ home entertaining: with fancy value-adds you wouldn’t normally expect (professional cocktails, restaurant quality meals).
- ‘Blended’ home entertaining: before/after the pub/restaurant to lengthen the night.
- ‘Hassle-free’ home entertaining: with takeaway/meal box kits for ease.
Finding ways to deliver and engage ‘at home’ is a business opportunity for all brands.
Opportunity 3: Re-imagine the bar occasion
Those who’ve been back to the pub are struggling with the socially distanced pub occasion
- We’re unsure of how to behave, looking horizontally (at others) and vertically (at management) for guidance.
- We’re struggling to find the sweet spot between relaxed enough to have fun, but not too relaxed to socially distance.
- Many of our favourite aspects aren’t in play (the bar, the dance floor).
For the post-Covid bar experience to work it needs to be re-imagined.
Important to focus on what can be achieved safely under the current guidelines – and building a satisfying experience around that.
Opportunity 4: Master the ‘blended’ journey
In a new world of ‘time slots’ for bars and restaurants, the pre and post drinks occasions will become much more important. This is how consumers see their ‘journeys’ unfolding.
How can brands join up their offering across the various stages of the journey?
Opportunity 5: Know your target
While 30% of us are planning to visit a pub in the next 4 weeks, certain customers are more up for it than others
Desire to visit the pub skews towards bars with a core target from different demographics will have to work much harder to convince them that the bar is safe, enjoyable place to be at the moment.
Opportunities for all 5 key areas: Ways to win
- As new opportunities open up, both within premises, delivery and in store, it’s important for brands to identify what they can do well and really go for it. Feel free to tear up the rule book. The boundaries observed before Covid are all up for grabs now. For example, restaurant brands could now make their presence felt in-store in the form of meal kits in a way that wasn’t imaginable before.
- The home occasion will continue to be so important and brands used to engaging with their consumers in the bar or restaurant space need to think about how they can adapt. For drinks brands, differentiating their offering in-store and in terms of packaging and delivery is a big opportunity area. Consumers are seeking to make their home occasions more festive and fun, and drinks merchandising could help them do that as people turn their living rooms into home bars.
- As the home occasion develops and proliferates, there are opportunities for brands to ‘own’ emerging occasions or even invent their own. Elevated home entertaining is ripe for the taking for premium brands, for example.
- Bars need to distract us from the things we’re missing. With the bar area a ‘no go’, individual tables become the centre of energy, focus, fun and theatre. Working the tables need to be top of the agenda for bar staff. Getting visibility on tables should be a top ambition for drinks brands.
- As blended bar/restaurant ‘journeys’ develop, brands need to think about how they can play across the various stages. Joined up offers between off licenses (for pre-drinks) and bars? Restaurants sending customers home with house cocktails?
- Establishments can and should work together to meet the emerging journey opportunities. For example, with pub crawls returning to fashion and food a requirement, can some pubs look after savoury food and some sweet? The three-course meal pub crawl (with great dessert options) looks like an interesting development.
- It’s never been more important to understand your target, how they’re feeling and what would help them feel safe. Consumer research can really help you here – talk to the B&A team for more details. The Irish pub experience, once a universal and uniting experience, might end up becoming much more tailored to different demographic needs.