It’s no secret Australians love a night out, but what are the motivating factors and behaviours defining the Australian on-premise?  

The past 18 months have seen significant changes to the way diners and drinkers are spending time and money at venues. In their OPUS (On Premise User Survey), research agency CGA Strategy – experts in the hospitality industry – reveal the key consumer actions that on-premise owners and operators need to know.  

  1. Drinkers have reservations  
    Table service and worries about availability have led to a shift in long-established paths to purchase in venues.  
    Over half of consumers are more likely to book tables for food in the light of the pandemic, with 32 per cent saying they’re now likelier to reserve a table for drinking too.  
    This shift in attitude presents opportunities for the on-premise, raising the possibility of advantage payments, deposits and pre-sold items. 
  2. Bubbling up 
    Consumer interest in healthier drinks options have led to hard seltzers becoming one of the fastest growing sections of the on-premise. 37 per cent of patrons said they are drinking more hard seltzers than this time last year, with only 13 percent reporting a dip in interest.  
  3. Undecided drinkers offer opportunity 
    Almost half (47 per cent) of Australian on-premise customers don’t make a decision on what to drink until they arrive at the venue itself. 
    With drinker’s decisions up for grabs, Loudon believes the on-premise presents a wonderful opportunity for brands. 
    “This is where great in-outlet activations come in … drinkers are there to be influenced.” 
  4. Tasting, testing, trading up 
    The on-premise is the place that drinkers go to discover new products. Over two in five consumers stated that they like to experiment by trying new drinks in venues. Moreover, 43 per cent of drinkers believe that on-premise experiences have led to them purchasing products in the off-trade.  
    With this in mind, the on-premise remains the ideal location for brands seeking to activate new expressions, as CGA Managing Director, Graeme Loudon says: “The on-premise is a heartland for trial”. 
    He continued: “it’s a great place for launching new products into the market, as we have a consumer who is actively seeking the new”.  
    It’s not just the new that the on-premise visitor is looking for, but the more premium, with half of patrons surveyed willing to spend more on a drink they believe to be better quality. 
  5. Range is critical to attracting drinkers 
    For on-premise consumers, good value and high quality remain of paramount importance, but they also place above average emphasis on the range of a venue.  
    For venues, attracting valuable patrons is all about ensuring both quality and range are spot on, and according to Loudon, that’s where suppliers have a role to play.  
  6. Consumers value the human touch 
    COVID-19 has undoubtedly led to a rise in the number of venues using digital menus and ordering services. The likelihood is that these will remain a part of the on-premise for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean that venues should overlook traditional wait-staff. 
    “There is an over-arching demand for that personal touch that hospitality is so good at offering” Loudon said, with 66 per cent of patrons saying they prefer to interact with waiters, bartenders and other staff.  
  7. Changing choices and shifting trends 
    Unsurprisingly, the OPUS found that beer has retained its status as the top drinks category in the on-premise, being enjoyed by 35 per cent of drinkers. By comparison, 29 per cent of consumers drank wine.  
    Spirits and cocktails were drunk by 19 and 16 per cent of patrons respectively, though frequency of consumption is on the rise in sub-categories of both sectors. 
    Conversely, the popularity of domestic beer consumption is on the slide, with about a quarter of consumers drinking domestic beers less than a year ago, compared with 11 per cent drinking it more.  
    As consumers return to venues, keeping abreast of these changing trends is likely to be crucial to success.  
  8. Lockdowns lead to community drinking 
    With many drinkers restricted to their local area by health orders, consumers have looked nearby for drinking options.  
    Just under a third (31 per cent) of patrons are drinking more locally-made products than this time last year, with 18 per cent stating they are “investing” more in their nearby areas.  
    This uptick in interest puts locally produced brands (especially beers) at an advantage and provides an opportunity for venues to capitalise with regional and community-made produce.  
  9. Different factors impact consumer choice 
    Data gathered in the OPUS illustrates the complex factors influencing drinker choice.  
    Both day part and venue type are shown to have a distinct effect on consumer decisions. For instance: still wine, sparkling wine and hot drinks are the three most popular drinks categories in restaurants, but not one of these features in the top three for bars — where vodka, domestic beer and cocktails lead the way. 
    As Loudon says, understanding what customers want from a drinks range allows venues to “lead with the right brand, position yourself correctly and give the right cues to consumers.” 
  10. More than most, Australians love venues  
    According to CGA’s data, Australian consumers are more engaged with the on-premise than pretty much every country in the world. More four-fifths (81 per cent) say they typically visit the on-premise, whilst 51 per cent visit at least once a week.  
    These patrons tend to be urban, younger than average and more affluent — spending 25% more than average on monthly eating and drinking out.  

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