Is your boozer too boozy?

Does your bar cater to non-drinkers? You might think it does. You probably have a mocktail list and maybe even a few non-alcoholic lagers gathering dust under the counter. But if you really think about it, would someone who’s not drinking choose your bar over the coffee shop around the corner?

This isn’t just about not offending people who don’t drink (but with a fifth of adults now claiming to be teetotal, you’d be smart not to.) It’s about ensuring you don’t miss a key opportunity to have more satisfied customers and, ultimately, make more money.

Research suggests boozing is becoming less appealing - to the younger generation at least. According to Office for National Statistics figures, 25% of under 25s now say they don’t drink alcohol at all. Separate research published by The Grocer last year also showed that 41% of us are actively trying to drink less, up from 33% the year before.

All of this means there is real potential to increase the average spend per non-drinking customer at your bar or restaurant, by offering them something different. The problem is, the industry has been doing it wrong for so long, it’s become oblivious to its mistakes.

Mocktail lists are at best an afterthought and, at worst, a begrudging attempt at catering to teetotallers who are unlikely to spend as much as drinkers. But the list of potential customers for non-alcoholic drinks is a long one and shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, if you can convince someone to choose a £6 mocktail over a £2.50 standard soft drink (or indeed, a tap water), you’re on to a winner.

“25% of under 25s now say they don’t drink alcohol at all”

Mindful drinking movements, like Club Soda, who represent a generation of people for whom drinking isn’t about getting drunk, are on the rise. Club Soda provides tools and online support to manage your drinking habits, including a course to help you achieve your “drinking goals,” whether that’s cutting down, stopping for a while, or quitting alcohol altogether. There’s even a Club Soda Mindful Pub Crawl you can complete, which highlights “the best places for low and no alcohol drinking in London and across the UK.” You can list your venue for free, you just need to answer a few questions to calculate your Club Soda “score,” first.

Providing your punters with a convincing non-alcoholic spirit could be an effective way of appealing to the mindful drinking generation. The makers of Seedlip would certainly argue so. They’ve created two distilled ‘spirits’ designed to add the same depth of flavour and interest to tonic, soda and other soft drinks, as gin or any other alcoholic spirit.

Founder Ben Branson worked with a number of big drinks brands before launching Seedlip, including Heineken, Veuve Clicquot and Freixenet, and noticed a gap in the market for a non-alcoholic spirit that could be mixed the same way as gin or vodka. “If somebody orders a whisky and coke, and somebody orders a Seedlip and tonic, the bartender does exactly the same thing,” says Ben. “He takes both bottles off the back bar, he pours measures, he fills a glass with ice, and he tops up with a mixer. I don’t know of other non-alcoholic drinks where that happens. All of the work that has been done on rituals around drinking...we’re bringing that into non-alcoholic drinks.”

Seedlip isn’t brand new, it’s been around since 2015, but increasing numbers of bars are now choosing to stock it across the globe. What’s exciting is that it gives mixologists a basis from which to build a non-alcoholic cocktail, rather than simply serving the usual classics minus the alcohol, which can feel like you’re being served half a drink.

This week, 15 bars around the world took part in Seedlip’s ‘Nolo’ initiative where they each hosted a pop-up serving only no- or low-abv drinks. With some of the world’s top venues, including Dandelyan in London, Tjoget in Stockholm and Operation Dagger in Singapore getting involved, perhaps it’s time you paid your most lucid customers some attention...

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