Innovation in To-Go Cocktails Highlights Unanticipated Pandemic Opportunities for Restaurants, Breweries and Bars
The pandemic and stay-at-home measures have indelibly altered the restaurant, brewery and bar industry, with the National Restaurant Association estimating at least 110,000 businesses closed as of January 2021.
And yet, in step with changing consumer food and beverage habits, unexpected opportunities have developed for an industry in distress: An article in Forbes describes how the pandemic has influenced innovative and positive changes in food service alcohol consumption and sales, notably in restaurant, brewery and bar segments struggling to expand to-go options:
“The pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns have forever altered the liquor industry in the United States. It ushered in the most extensive list of liquor law changes seen in the country since Prohibition. Booze-focused delivery companies surged to the forefront, becoming a daily part of many consumers' lives. A growing focus on well-being has fueled the growth of multiple healthy beverage options—hard seltzers, non-alcoholic drinks, infused drinks. It also hammered home the importance of packaging your product in a to-go container for sale.”
The article goes on to describe how, faced with huge slumps in sales, restaurant, brewery and bar owners found themselves scrambling for a way to package alcoholic beverages to go, and many turned to Oktober Can Seamers’ canning machines. The success of these innovators attracted the attention of Bacardi and led to a program that rolled out can seamers to bars and restaurants in several states.
Of interest, even with the advent of vaccines, the chances are good that canned or other forms of takeaway alcoholic beverages will become the norm at many bars and restaurants in the future. These new take-out options can expand exposure for brands, as has been the case for companies like California-based restaurant group The Fish Market.
Certainly, consumers are likely to agree: Our Snacking: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted report found that 7% of consumers say they have alcoholic beverages as one choice in pleasure-oriented snack categories during after-dinner dayparts, and the 2021 Restaurant Trends report from the National Restaurant Association found “a third of off premises restaurant customers (ages 21+) saying they included an alcoholic beverage with a takeout or delivery order since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, and [indicate] they’ll continue to in the future.”
The rise in to-go alcohol—and related innovations in packaging—is another example of the unanticipated impacts of the pandemic on America’s food culture and landscape and highlights the emergence of new product formats, altered eating and drinking occasions and business opportunities resulting from creativity, improvisation and innovation.
While not the most disruptive change to the food world, the loosening of liquor laws and the pivot to take-out alcohol among food service operators suggest potential long-lasting changes to the food service industry and restaurant culture. These include new ways for brands to reach consumers, opportunities for menu innovations, potential for restaurants to add or expand grab-and-go and packaged offerings, new needs around packaging, and new markers of quality by which consumers may evaluate their options.
White paper: Eating Occasions 2020
Article: Snacking on Leftovers: A Hidden Opportunity for Restaurants to Recover Some Revenue During the Pandemic?