How to Get Inflation-Conscious Consumers Back to the Bar

It turns out that the secret to convincing budget-minded consumers to belly up to the bar again might be the simple, classic, ever-popular cocktail. 

Last time we took a crack at how Americans were dealing with the high price of food, and this week we’re analyzing how to get inflation-conscious consumers back into their favorite watering holes. 

We examined Mintel’s 2022 “Foodservice Alcohol Trends” and other data sources to learn how alcohol consumers are still sipping their favorite chilled cocktails in the face of sweltering inflation. 

For bars and restaurants looking to get nervous consumers to put down the shakers and belly up to the bar, we have a few suggestions that might help. But first, why are consumers so skittish?

What’s Keeping Consumers Away from the Bar?

The short answer: inflation

The long answer: well, inflation plus recession fears, stagnant wages, health worries, and general market uncertainty. 

Likely due to these stressful factors, the desire for drinks hasn’t really lessened. According to the survey, 34% of alcohol consumers still drink “several times per week,” which was the most popular answer for alcohol consumption.

However, these concerns don’t have to be an insurmountable wall. Over half of those surveyed said that they primarily order alcohol when they go out to treat themselves. To provide a little release valve for the stressors of the day. So, while the concerns of inflation are very real and apt to tighten a consumer’s purse strings, these concerns are also just as likely to make them want to splurge a little.  

However, cost has become a concern for most drink-aficionados. The statement survey-takers agreed most strongly with was “drinking at home instead of bars is a good way to save money.” The second most agreed-upon statement, though, is a ray of light for bar and restaurant owners: “happy hours are a great way to try new drinks.” 

We’ll come back to that “new drinks” thing in a moment.

When asked when they drink alcohol away from home, 44% said “sometimes,” while only 22% said “every time.” Now, those are pretty reasonable numbers, and show that while restaurant and bar sales may have taken a small hit, the possibility of recovery should be pretty high with the right strategy. 

Unique Cocktails Can Motivate Consumers

First, the bad news: when asked what they order when they go out, 43% said that they stick to ordering their usual drink. Why is that bad news? Well, it makes it trickier to entice them in with new products or play to their sense of adventure.

Most interestingly, though, was how many consumers are showing behaviors more conducive to being enticed. 

The second and third most popular answers to “what are you looking for in a drink when you go out” were “to try something they haven’t tried before” (25%) and “to find uniquely flavored alcoholic drinks” (24%). When combined, that’s almost half of consumers looking to be wooed by a new or exciting cocktail. 

This fits with the data that shows that cocktails seem to be the primary reason people go to bars anyway. When asked what cocktails interest them, the top three answers (with overwhelming numbers) were:

  1. Uniquely flavored cocktails
  2. High-alcohol cocktails (these people mean business)
  3. Wine-based cocktails

In fact, the entire top five answers for drink interest were cocktails of some kind or another. The most popular occasion to drink a cocktail was during “a night out,” along with seltzers and spirits. 

The most popular occasion for beer was “the weekend,” and for wine it was “dinner.” Last and least surprisingly, the biggest occasion for sparkling wine or champagne was celebrating. 

When we combine all of this data, we get the following:

  • Consumers are nervous about cost
  • Consumers aren’t drinking any less
  • Consumers prefer cocktails when going out
  • Consumers are driven to order new and interesting cocktails
  • Consumers think happy hours are the best way to try new cocktails

So, what can bar owners and restaurateurs do to draw in the inflation-conscious crowd? Create and market new, unique, or signature cocktails during happy hour. 

Turn Cocktails into an In-Person Experience

Signature cocktails, when done thoughtfully, can be cheaper for both consumer and owner alike. Economies of scale make signature cocktails less expensive to make, and require less time for the bartenders to put together due to simple repetition. 

Pairing these signature cocktails with seasonal occasions like holidays, sporting events, elections, or pop culture events also helps bring in all of those consumers most interested in a unique selection. 

Inspira has a successful history of bringing together bar managers, mixologists, and former general managers together to help create new and interesting cocktails that turn a happy hour into an experience. 

Contact Inspira today to learn how we use our field teams to create the cocktails and brand experiences that bring even price-conscious consumers flocking into bars and restaurants.

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