Research released from CGA’s On Premise Consumer Pulse Check suggests that while digital platforms are gaining momentum, customers still prefer to order with a staff member.

CGA’s On Premise Consumer Pulse keeps tabs on 750 Australian on-premise visitors every month, tracking behaviour, general sentiment towards the on-premise channel and intentions for future visits in the oncoming month.

This month’s research had a particular focus on the role that digital platforms play in the on-premise path to purchase, taking a look at both pre-visit behaviour, and interactions with platforms once on-site.

CGA found that a vast majority (74 per cent) of consumers engage with a venue’s online platforms prior to visiting, with this figure swelling to more than nine-in-ten (91 per cent) in the 18-34 year old cohort.

A quarter of consumers said they were influenced by what to purchase by an online drinks menu, with roughly one-in-five saying they were influenced by an online cocktail menu (20 per cent) or a wine menu (18 per cent). In a statement, CGA said: “This is a significant opportunity for partnership between beverage brands and operators.”

Once on-site, 64 per cent of customers interacted with digital menus and online ordering systems, with the number again increasing amongst legal drinking age consumers in the under-34 bracket (to 84 per cent).

Scott Elliott, CGA Managing Director – Americas and Asia Pacific, said: “Globally we’ve seen a growing trend towards digital in the on-premise, with greater numbers of consumers coming to expect and adopt these platforms as common practice.

“Suppliers should be working closely with venues to understand the relevancy of these platforms from not just a consumer perspective, but how it fits their specific venue,” Elliott continued.

“If they get this right, there seems to be a great opportunity to enhance the experience for many customers and to provide a powerful vehicle for offer exploration, experimentation and premiumisation.”

Premiumisation certainly appears to be a key aspect of on-premise visitor behaviour with digital ordering solutions, as 10 per cent of consumers said they pay more for drinks via these methods, while 15 per cent said digital platforms help them order more drinks.

These trends are reflected by the sentiment of consumers towards digital menus and ordering platforms, with a third of consumers believing they delivered faster service, while 39 per cent thought of digital platforms as ‘more modern’.

Nevertheless, consumers still appear to prefer the human touch when more ordering options are available, with less than 10 per cent of on-premise visitors actively preferring the digital route to other, more traditional methods such as at-bar or at-table service. For high-end venues, such as upmarket cocktail bars, less than one-in-five drinkers said they expected to see digital ordering options present.

As Elliott says: “[Digital platforms] absolutely must be appropriate to the venue however and for more high-end outlets, our research suggests that bartenders and staff remain the most effective advocates for drinks brands and there is still hugely fertile ground for investment in advocacy and brand training.”

CGA’s statement also reflected this position, reading: “In short, the interaction and expert reassurance of ordering in-person still beats the speed and convenience benefits of digital.”

Cost of living crunch starts to bite

The most recent Consumer Pulse research has also shown that 63 per cent of Australians are visiting the on-premise with the same frequency as usual, with just over one-fifth (22 per cent) visiting more than they would ordinarily, eight percentage points higher than the number of respondents who said they were visiting the on-premise less than usual.

COVID (cited by 44 per cent of respondents) and disposal income worries are paramount amongst the concerns of those visiting less often. Eighteen per cent of this cohort also said COVID-related restrictions, such as self-isolation while positive, were a reason for their behaviour.

While COVID fears have abated slightly, dropping by seven percentage points, the cost of living crunch is being keenly felt by on-premise visitors, with four-in-ten of those visiting less saying that this is a driver for their behaviour.

These concerns have not reduced over the last month and have in fact increased by some nine percentage points. CGA noted that if these trends continue, next month will mark the first time that disposable income challenges will dissuade more visitors than COVID since the company launched the On Premise Consumer Pulse.

The full Australia Consumer Pulse Report can be accessed here.

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