Pub And Bar Operators Could Boost Off-Premise Visits Through Delivery And Takeaway Post Lockdown

And will they encourage app-ordering of food and drink to help customers in pub gardens and terraces observe social distancing?

Global information company The NPD Group says publicans and bar operators have an opportunity post lockdown to focus on the contribution of off-premise visits to their businesses. In the year to March 2020, 9.9% of all British pub visits were off-premise – up from 7.6% five years earlier, with this growth driven by delivery services and takeaway coffee. Once the British foodservice industry’s lockdown ends, there is scope to expand the range of delivery and takeaway offerings significantly to include alcoholic and other non-alcoholic beverages along with takeaway hot and cold food.

Pubs were missing out on the boom in delivery – this is about to change
Over the past decade, digital ordering (orders placed via the internet) in the eating-out market has increased by 700%, rising from 95m visits per year in YE March 2010 to 731m for YE March 2020. But within the pub and bar sector, growth has been slower. Take delivery as an example. A high-street quick-service restaurant can expect delivery to account for up to 10% of visits but delivery orders currently account for less than 2% of pub visits, although this is now growing quickly.

Inside a pub or bar, ordering via mobile apps account for just 1.4% of all visits. But this too is increasing rapidly driven by apps that, for example, allow anyone to order food and drinks to their table. Ordering this way has significant scope for growth in pubs and can increase the safety of operations for customers and staff. Visits through digital ordering are increasing across the wider foodservice industry – and not just among younger consumers. In the two years to March 2020, they were up 42% for 16-to-34s, 32% for the 35-to-49s, 22% for the over 50s and 18% for families.

Peter Linden, Insights Manger Foodservice, The NPD Group, said: “In Q1 2020, visits to British pubs declined by over 12% from Q1 2019 with this steep drop reflecting the UK government’s lockdown introduced on March 23rd. Visits to pubs essentially halted in April and there’s no reason to expect a material change for May when the figures come through. The pressure on business has been enormous and the impact has been devastating. When trading fully resumes, pub and bar operators will want to do everything they can to reinvigorate their offering while ensuring sales operations are as safe and socially distanced as possible. Doubling or tripling off-premise visits – from the current 10% to 20% or even 30% –is a viable ambition for some operators, and there’s also ample scope to grow on-premise orders via mobile apps.”

All operators have work to do to clean up their act according to pre-lockdown customer research
Any new initiatives post lockdown– on or off the premises – will need to be complemented by rigorous safety practices and cleaning protocols that protect staff and customers, as well as any third parties involved in delivering food and beverages. NPD’s second COVID-19 British Foodservice Sentiment Study recently found that almost six out of 10 respondents (58%) said restaurants and bars are the riskiest places to be infected with COVID-19, and nearly two thirds (64%) said they will only select restaurants, bars, cafes and other establishments that they trust. The same survey showed hygiene, prevention of infection, social distancing and trust are important issues for consumers. NPD Group data also shows that consumers have been acutely aware of cleanliness in out-of-home (OOH) establishments long before COVID-19. In Q1 2020, there was already 30% customer dissatisfaction regarding cleanliness at all eating-out locations. As the industry moves towards reopening, this represents a significant proportion of the market that will need even more convincing about cleanliness and safety.

Peter Linden added: “Whether you are talking about consumption away from the premises, through delivery or takeaway, or enjoyment on the premises through mobile apps, they still play only a minor role in many pubs and bars. But they have all been growing rapidly and publicans and bar operators have an obvious opportunity to use technology to build post-lockdown business. But any moves to stimulate sales channels or add new ones in the current environment must be complemented by careful attention to cleanliness, health and safety.”