With the FIFA Men’s World Cup being played this November instead of its customary slot in the British summer, many hospitality operators are juggling schedules to accommodate football screenings alongside Christmas promotions.

Both are crucial trading periods and likely to attract a more diverse customer base than usual, so Adam Jones, business development and partnership director of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, offers his advice on operating profitably and safely.

“For venues in which sport is a central element of their trading style, things don’t get much bigger than the men’s football World Cup and many outlets will be targeting football fans so that they can end a challenging year with a flourish. Cheering on a team together, or renewing old sporting rivalries, is an important form of socialising in the UK and valued by many . Creating a space where people can enjoy themselves safely, and in an inclusive way, is an important role that hospitality has always played in the beautiful game’s greatest showpiece.

“As hospitality operators, you can help set the tone for how celebrations are enjoyed, and how disappointments are handled. The highs and lows of sport can provide some challenges, so early planning is essential for the World Cup and regular promotions such as booking ‘the best seat in the house’, football quizzes, and family shoot-out competitions will all play their part in building up the atmosphere and expectation.

“With the number of people who choose not to drink alcohol continuing to increase, venue owners can maximise their World Cup trading potential by catering to all potential customers. Drinkaware research has shown the importance of stocking a good range of alcohol-free drinks to encourage those who aren’t drinking into venue, with frequent drinkers saying that they choose alcohol-free or low alcohol drinks in situations where they would usually drink alcohol. This is because it looks, tastes, and feels like alcohol. This often seems more sociable to them than having a soft drink, and they think other people are less likely to notice or question why they are not drinking.

“Our research also suggests that a good range of alcohol-free drinks can make people feel more comfortable., part of the occasion and even be an influence on their choice of venue.

“Other hints and tips to consider in your World Cup planning to help customers moderate their drinking include:

  • Make jugs of water freely available and accessible for people to help themselves throughout the games so that they can keep hydrated
  • Be creative with your alcohol-free drinks range and include spirit or cocktail alternatives as well as beer and cider. Maybe even create a special menu reflecting the countries in the tournament
  • If you attract people into the venue by organising sweepstakes such as ‘time of the first goal’, offer prizes that don’t include alcohol – or that require people to come back another day to claim them rather than continuing to drink more alcohol that session
  • Where possible, make food an integral part of your offer for sports events so that spectators can swap stories about the game over a pie, not just a pint, as food helps slow down the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol
  • Avoid running promotions that may encourage people to drink more than they might otherwise. Pitcher or multiple purchase deals can make it harder for people to know how much they have drunk and more difficult for your staff to supervise
  • If you have outdoor areas with screens (& heaters – it will be November after all!), ensure that staff are visible and able to monitor whether any guest may be vulnerable
  • Because of the time difference, some games will be played as early as lunchtime in the UK so organising “sittings” might be one way to make sure that people don’t stay drinking all afternoon and evening whilst watching matches

“You may not be able to influence results in the sporting arena but taking a few simple steps can help customers have lots of fun at this fantastic event – with all its ups and downs – safely and enjoyably.”

For more information, go to https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/

For more information on the research findings, go to https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/research/research-and-evaluation-reports/alcohol-free-and-low-alcohol-drinks-in-the-uk