Future Proofing The Pub

Finest Call

Drinks Industry Experts Discuss Cocktails in the Pub


As part of the campaign to help the pub industry to embrace cocktails, Premium Cocktail Mix brand Finest Call brought together industry experts to discuss the future of the pub. The group consisted of Inapub Editor Matt Eley, Mixologist and Drinks Consultant Andy Pearson, Drinks Journalist Dave Marsland, Journalist and Gastronomist Douglas Blyde, Finest Call’s UK brand manager Peter Thornton and European brand manager Steve Dingley, Pub & Bar’s Deputy Editor Charlie Whitting and Marketing Consultant, Mark Davis. The forum discussed the trend for mocktails and pitcher serves, whilst also debating the strength of “classic” cocktails and unearthing what the barriers to entry are for publicans fearful of serving cocktails in their venue.

Where are we now?

The UK pub market has changed dramatically over the last decade. The introduction of the smoking ban, followed swiftly by the recession and rising utility costs have made it a challenging sector for publicans, leading to lots of pub closures. However, the tide seems to be changing with a recent influx of new entrepreneurs taking over pubs and doing things a little differently. Not to mention, consumers’ demands have become far more diverse, which has meant pubs have had to improve their offering.

Cocktails now make up 5% of total spirit sales and the category has grown by 10.8% in the last two years1. So could cocktails be a way of future proofing the pub?


Cocktails…easier than you think?

Finest Call’s Steve Dingley is working with other brands to help make cocktails accessible for all. “A lot of pubs can be very sceptical about asking their bartenders to shake a drink. Cellar Trends introduced the ‘Stir it and Serve it’ campaign to encapsulate the simplicity of Finest Call and the phrase can be seen on most menus as well as bartenders’ cheat sheets. There’s no mess, no fuss, just quick, quality and consistent cocktails time and time again.” The 14-strong Finest Call portfolio, which includes a range of Bar Essentials, Speciality Cocktail Mixes and Purees, removes the need for extensive training sessions and expensive ingredients, making bartenders lives easier.

To demonstrate the quick, quality and consistent message, Finest Call and Cellar Trends are currently running a Speed League competition.

Mocktails: A growing trend or a splash in the pan?

With the evolution of the cocktail sector comes the trend for mocktails. Non-alcoholic cocktails are helping to attract a new wave of customers who want a more grown-up alternative to a soft drink.  “This point of the “mocktail” really needs to be addressed. We need a term that doesn’t remind the drinker that it’s actually non-alcoholic,” explains drinks writer Douglas Blyde.

Consumers tend to make their choice at point of purchase and the default position isn’t always to go to a pub to have a cocktail, let alone a non-alcoholic cocktail. Pub & Bar’s Deputy Editor Charlie Whitting agrees: “It needs to be portrayed as a higher value soft drink, rather than a lower value cocktail.” Following 2014’s Soft Drink Report, Pub & Bar magazine talked to both operators and patrons and found out that consumers felt that operators weren’t giving enough thought to their soft drink option. Most soft drinks weren’t perceived as being value for money.

Pitchers: Just for the younger consumer?

According to the recent CGA Report, pitchers are most popular with 18 – 24 year olds, with 88% reporting that they drink them2. If you consider the motivation behind purchasing a pitcher; it’s about bonding and having that shared experience. “Creativity and imagination around sharing vessels has come on leaps and bounds”, claims Peter Thornton, Finest Call brand manager at Cellar Trends. “Sharers are something that the brand is keen to develop further.”

Sharers and pitchers are seen in places like Wetherspoons and Yates’s, and look set to grow organically this year. Dave Marsland, Founder of the website Drinks Enthusiast explains: “You need to ensure that your customers know you actually sell pitchers and non-alcoholic cocktails. Utilise those blackboards, print out some fliers and advertise in the local paper to help spread the word.”


Barriers to Entry

Consumers are looking for brands and experiences and cocktails can be at the heart of this. So what’s preventing publicans from offering them? Mixologist and Drink Consultant Andy Pearson suggests there is a real necessity to “get the business owner to understand the profitability around making simple serve cocktails”.  Publicans need to be reassured that cocktails can offer business support, highlighting the brand’s profitability and providing product training.

Marketing Consultant Mark Davis agrees: “One of the challenges is cost control and delivering a healthy margin. Getting the mix of the right ingredients, ensuring it’s cost effective for the business but also providing customers with great quality cocktails is the key to unlocking success into the mainstream.”

Putting Cocktails on the Menu

This summer Finest Call, together with their Brand Advocacy Team, is crusading for change. Armed with a menu of enticing and profitable summer cocktails, the brand is offering one-to-one consultations and training nationwide. Tweet @CellarTrends with #FCCrusaders to put your views forward to the brand.

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