Australia’s pizza wars are about to extend to evening beers, with Crust Pizza throwing down the gauntlet by announcing the roll out of alcohol delivery starting with four Melbourne stores.
The move is aimed at young couples and professionals wanting to match alcohol to their meals, but it also speaks to a major trend in the fast food space: Australians are homebodies.
The past few years have seen a number of alcohol delivery services pop up across the country, as consumers develop an appetite for artisan food and drinks. This is being extended into the work environment, with Deliveroo and Uber Eats focusing on the lunchtime worker rush, while start-ups like Friday Beers deliver craft beers straight to the office door.
“There’s a fundamental human reality here – we like the path of least resistance,” says Pippa Kulmar, senior strategist at RetailOasis.
“The easier you make something, the more likely a consumer is to choose it, and alcohol delivery is quite clever because you tend to go to a bottle shop that is close to you anyway.”
Crust Pizza general manager Renée North told SmartCompany the chain is now looking to work with licensing authorities in each state to roll out alcohol delivery beyond Melbourne.
In Victoria an “alcohol delivery” liquor licence is available, which the four Crust stores in the initial rollout – Armadale, Mill Park, Fitzroy and Melbourne’s CBD – are currently using. Not all Crust stores have liquor licences, but all delivery drivers will have to have Responsible Service of Alcohol certificates to make deliveries.
“I think that every time that a customer decides they’re not going to cook, they have the option of delivery or going out,” North says.
“We see alcohol delivery as something for when you just want to relax on the couch on a Friday night.”
Friday Beers founder Lee Mathers told SmartCompany his business is working on expanding to Melbourne before the year’s end. The business is already up and running in Brisbane and Sydney.
“For us, it’s about the experience, and different beers showing up – stuff that you wouldn’t normally know about.” he says.
“Craft beer has just exploded in Australia and there’s a lot that people don’t know about.”
Kulmar says trends such as the “Masterchef” phenomenon have had a big effect on consumers, and there is a new drive to stay home when entertaining. Combined with Australian’s affection for a Friday afternoon drink, alcohol delivery is another way to capitalise on this type of shopper.
“Especially around Christmas, that’s a really big time. If you’ve had a couple of drinks already and you can’t drive – I think it’s a great offer,” she says.
Crust’s announcement is another change in Australia’s rapidly changing pizza and takeaway market. While app-based ordering and robot delivery have dominated headlines, fast food operators are moving towards more diverse menu offerings as they rush to capture the base of consumers who want food delivered fast.
While some Crust stores serve alcohol on premises, as do Grill’d burger outlets, the likes of McDonald’s, Red Rooster and Domino’s Pizza do not. North says that while deliveries are a growing area of the Crust business, the brand is also mindful of other dining options.
“A massive trend for dining out continues, and there’s always an opportunity to find a better dining environment,” she says.
Alcohol delivery licences differ between state and territories and any new businesses have to play within those rules. In New South Wales, lockout laws also apply to delivery services, preventing operations from selling products after 10:00pm. However, a recent independent review of the lockout regulations has recommended that alcohol delivery be extended to midnight.
Kulmar says that beyond beverages, it’s worth remembering the young professional target market is only set to grow as a consumer base in coming years.
“Gen Y will be the primary retail spending group in the market before 2020,” she says.
“There will be a whole lot of money there.”