Professional Comment

Three Trends Of The Post-Lockdown On Trade

By Andy Wingate, Senior Category Manager On Trade at HEINEKEN UK

ere at HEINEKEN we’ve conducted a number of pieces of research to best predict and help you prepare for the changes we expect to see in the on trade over the next few months. Using the latest insights and data from our Star Pubs & Bars estate, we are in a unique position as a supplier and an operator to provide a broader understanding and perspective of the current situation.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has resulted in the world talking consistently about the ‘new normal’. Naturally the big group occasions that we are used to seeing in the on trade are, have been reduced and now limited to groups of six, but other trends we anticipate will be an acceleration of previous behaviours.

Here are three trends to expect in the post-lockdown on trade and our recommendation on how best to prepare and adapt accordingly:

  1. The highs and lows in footfall

Consumers have settled into lockdown life and living with Covid-19 in the midterm. But, as we move into a new phase, new anxieties are emerging. Firstly, the fear of a second wave is increasing (+8%) to 76%[1], as the resumption of normal activities increase.

The on trade is at a point where over half of its customers have now returned (55%), and this figure has increased by +10pp on the same period two weeks ago[2]. The increase in consumers returning is steepest in areas which re-opened last, with the proportion of consumers returning to Scotland increasing by +15pp versus two weeks prior (49%)[3]. As we expect this percentage to steadily rise, there are still things you can be doing to reassure and encourage more customers into your outlet.

The latest data shows older customers remain the most concerned demographic and are more reluctant to visit the on trade. However, this is changing as 48% of over 55s have been out to the on trade, +14pp versus two weeks earlier[4]. The most comfortable group are young men, who appear to feel less at risk and so have been quicker to return to previous behaviours[5]. The difference between these demographics, in terms of intention to visit, is in fact increasing. Therefore, it’s crucial that operators can meet the needs of those who are visiting while at the same time reassuring those less comfortable to venture out.

Your offering – The current demographic split will have greater impact on products such as traditional Keg and Cask Ale, while venues such as Working Men’s Clubs and Community Pubs are likely to be more affected. Look at appealing to different customer groups during different day- or week-parts to help maintain footfall.

  • For example, consider running drinks promotions during quieter periods to encourage those customers not yet comfortable visiting during the evenings or weekends. We have previously been running Rhythm of the Week activities through our Star Pubs & Bars estate which generates footfall and loyalty with different consumer groups.
  • Recent data has also demonstrated weekday food occasions are down as much as 44%[6] versus the same time last year. So, it’s worth considering changing your menus and prices to attract more customers at this time. For more information on this, check out the Keg Talks podcast – HEINEKEN customers can also make use of POS Direct to professionally print both safe social distancing signage and footfall driving materials.

Your cleaning regime – When asked “What would make you more likely to visit the on trade?” respondents’ most popular answers were enforced social distancing, regular viral cleaning and staff wearing PPE[7].

  • In addition to displaying social distancing signage in your outlet, consider sharing these measures on social media, alongside images of people having a good time, enjoying your food and drink offering while following guidelines. Show that cleaning is being done regularly by having visible timesheets. Tick lists are commonplace in bathrooms but consider having these in other parts of your outlet at this initial stage of reopening.
  • Finally, although we appreciate the fine balance of managing costs versus revenue, ensure you have enough staff to maintain this regular cleaning process. Your customers will notice this and feel more at ease witnessing it first-hand. For more information on Managing Health & Safety Post-Lockdown check out the last Keg Talks podcast here.

Adopt barriers – The desire for a safe amount of space is reflected in the types of outlets customers are most comfortable in visiting. Overwhelmingly venues with garden seating areas are preferred (69%), with intimate bars and night clubs on the other end of the scale (22%)[8] .

  • When indoors, place screens in areas where there may be sub 2m interaction, e.g. the bar or between tables, as this is a great way to encourage physical distancing indoors.
  • The British public has embraced the value of facemasks. Consider making PPE available to your staff and encourage its use, particularly when handling food and drink.
  • Sealing or wrapping cutlery, condiments and food for take away indicates no unnecessary contact has been made.
  • Sanitiser and free masks available for patrons demonstrates your customers’ health is priority to you as a business
  • Use a simple contactless and at-table payment software solution such as Swifty, to reduce unnecessary human contact, encourage reservation of tables in advance and manage capacity.

Tone of voice – After a period of uncertainty and difficulty, there is optimism for the future and that as a nation we’re over the worst of the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Using humour and positivity in signage or online implies this optimism and reminds consumers of the good times they’ve had in your venue.

Community minded – Being vocal and visible within your local community will help keep your business front of mind and therefore one of the first choices people consider when going out.

  • Embrace digital – including a great website and social media presence – to communicate your opening times, food and drink offering, facilities such as Wi-Fi and measures being taken to maximise customer safety.

[1] Ipsos Essential report May 21st to 24th, Kantar G7 countries perception of COVID 19 survey, Kantar Covid 19 Barometer UK Wave 5 n = 500

[2] CGA’s Pulse Survey 14.08.20

[3] CGA’s Pulse Survey 14.08.20

[4] CGA’s Pulse Survey 14.08.20

[5] Attest study 06.07.20, n = 500

[6] HUK On Trade Weekly Performance Update 20.07.20

[7] Attest study 06.07.20, n = 500

[8] Attest study 11.6.20, n = 433