Australian consumers are choosing to catch up over a coffee rather than drinks at the pub, new research reveals, but an expert says pubs and hotels can still spark sales if they innovate.
The latest Roy Morgan State of the Nation Report, which is based on an ongoing survey of more than 50,000 Australians annually, highlights changes in consumers’ eating and drinking habits.
According to the report, which is updated quarterly, 55% of Australians went to a café for coffee or tea in the previous three-month period, up from 48.4% in March 2003.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
Meanwhile, 52.7% visited a licensed restaurant (up from 49.9% in 2003) and 41.2% went to a pub or hotel for a meal (up from 37.4% in 2003).
However, visiting a pub or hotel for a drink has fallen from 28.6% of the consumers surveyed in 2003 to 23.3%. Visiting a BYO restaurant has also declined, from 26.4% in 2003 to 23.3%.
Other reductions, albeit more gradual, are in eating at a fast food venue (47.1%, down from 48.7% in 2003) and ordering takeaway food from fast food places (57.8%, down from 58.9%).
Norman Morris, Roy Morgan industry communications director, says the biggest proportional changes can be seen in those visiting a café, which has risen 6.6% in just under nine years.
“Consumers might not be buying much at the moment but they figure they’re out anyway so they sit down and have a coffee. They say to themselves, ‘I can afford $3 for a coffee’,” he says.
Meanwhile, Morris says while fast food and takeaway has experienced a drop-off since 2003, these have been “very slight” and recent trends suggest these activities are now holding steady.
“With the ease, taste and convenience of fast food and takeaway, they will always likely hold a significant degree of popularity among consumers,” he says.
But with regard to pubs and hotels, Morris says it’s “not really the done thing” to go out and do nothing but drink. Rather, indulging in a drink is seen as an accompaniment to other activities.
“Going to a café for coffee or tea – there is probably some food being consumed. It’s a little more of a rounded experience I guess. Lining up at the bar, having a drink, [is less so],” he says.
“I think having some areas that look a little more amenable to eating something… takes a lot of the emphasis off how many rounds of drinks you can have.”
“Create a more rounded experience, but not by having three Laminex tables and a pool table and calling it the lounge.”
“Entertainment is another option – anything that gets away from that bar-only mindset.”
Morris says in order for pubs and hotels to attract more patrons, they need to decide who their target market is and set up their venues accordingly.
“They can go for the more sophisticated restaurant feel. There are [also] various pubs suited to families, with playgrounds and things.”
Morris says pubs and hotels should also consider introducing weekly specials such as “cheap Tuesday” to entice more consumers during the week.