Now the on-trade is back open again, albeit with the handbrake on held back by social distancing rules and rule of six, on-trade operators and their drinks suppliers can actually put hard plans in place to attract and keep customers in their outlets. Here we examine the latest findings from KAM Media and Zonal on what bars, pubs and restaurants are going to have to do to appeal to the switched on, digitally driven, happy at home consumer.
Succeeding in the on-trade in the coming months is going to be about as much as having a good digital marketing and Google search strategy as it is the right food and drinks range, says new KAM Media and Zonal research.
If you are analysing the merits of whether to list a Vermentino over a Fiano, or an Albarino over a Verdejo, then you ought to be also thinking about how much money you are spending on your Google ad search or how well your new payment app works – because that’s what the increasingly digitised consumer is looking for from the on-trade as much as they are a good eating and drinking experience when they go out.
Joint research by on-trade consultants, KAM Media, and Zonal, the hospitality technology provider, of just over 1,000 consumers reveals just how important planning and preparing for a trip to the on-trade now is compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. Its report Plan to Plate looks at each stage of a consumer’s journey from deciding to go out, researching where to go when they do and then what the experience is like when they are from ordering to paying, to deciding if they want to return.
The first piece of research that stands out is just how much harder it is now to entice people to go out at all. We have all become so much more comfortable at home, be it enjoying home cooked meals, signing up to a recipe meal kits or binging on a box set – subscriptions to ‘in-home entertainment’ services like Netflix are up 167% increase during the pandemic, whilst video gaming is up 143%.
When consumers were asked about what they like about staying at home the top score was being in a more relaxed environment (30%), being able to cook your own food (29%), not being surrounded by other people (18%), using at home recipe kits (18%), trying new food styles (16%), and interestingly paying less for more interesting and quality food and wine (16%). Other likes were playing games (13%), catching up with friends online (12%) and making your own cocktails (8%).
The report found that:
- Customers now search digitally when deciding which venue to visit, be it a general internet search (38%), a Google’s ‘Near Me’ search tool (25%), or looking at hospitality review websites and apps like TripAdvisor (22%.) If you are not coming up in those searches then you are missing out on a large number of potential customers.
- Being visible on social media is also key with each platform important depending on which demographic you are looking to attract with Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, heavily reliant on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for ideas and inspiration on which venues to visit. It’s key says the report, you have a different strategy for each social media platform and not just a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- Booking is now key with 1-in-6 customers expecting and wanting to book before they go out. Crucially one in three said ‘difficulty making a reservation was one of the key reasons they might decide to stay at home.
- How we order when we are out is now so much more important with 42% saying a venue that offers mobile phone ordering and payment is much more important to them than it was a year ago – this rises to 65% for millennials.)
- Yet almost half (47%) get frustrated when they are ‘forced’ to order via an order and pay app. The key, says KAM, is to give customers the choice.
- The research identifies a strong desire for digital menus to complement traditional physical menus – almost a quarter (23%) of customers prefer digital menus over any other type of menu. This rises to 36% for those dining with kids.
Alison Vasey, group product director at Zonal, said of the findings: “Having accepted the need for technology over the past 12 months, consumers now have a greater understanding of how it improves their experience and helps remove some of their typical frustrations when eating and drinking out. From an operators’ perspective this can only be positive, as maximising the power of tech helps free up staff to concentrate on those elements that help enhance the overall guest experience.”
She added: “The use of digital order and payment solutions now has much longer-term appeal to both consumers and operators alike. What is clear is that customers are now looking for new features and more personalised approach. The full potential of digital payment solutions to create a frictionless guest experience is far from realised and it will only play an increasingly important role in the future.”
Blake Gladman, strategy and insights director at KAM Media, said: “Whether customers use digital ordering options will depend on the occasion, how much time they have and who they are with – so it’s not a case of one or the other, otherwise we risk alienating them – and in some instances it could be the same customer from one day to the next. The research showed, for example, that those dining with kids were more likely to want to option of ordering digitally. It offers them a quick, hassle free option.
“The last 12 months may have altered the consumer landscape but our behaviour triggers and barriers are ingrained, and it are these natural instincts that we are trying to influence. Alleviate the frustrations and accentuate the positive emotions. Cracking these two elements will ensure that the ideal customer journey leads straight to your venue’s door.
- You can download the full report from KAM Media and Zonal here.