A common criticism of campaigns like Sober October and Dry January is they encourage people to avoid going to the pub.
Yet these campaigns – where those who take part temporarily take a break from drinking alcohol – aren’t going away.
Nowadays, 1 in 5 adults don’t drink any alcohol at all.
And those who do still drink are drinking less or actively moderating their intake. In a 2018 NHS survey, 35% of men and 50% of women hadn’t drunk any alcohol in the past week while another survey found 72% of people take drink-free days and 62% avoid drinking on a work night.
People are becoming more health conscious too, with 6 in 10 actively following a healthy lifestyle.
All this presents significant challenges for pubs and bars that don’t evolve – not just for the months of October and January but for the long term.
Five ways pubs and bars should take advantage of Sober October and Dry January
So how can pubs and bars treat Sober October and Dry January as an opportunity rather a threat, and take advantage of the trend for drinking less alcohol?
1. Hold a non-alcoholic drinks festival
A festival-style event, held over a few days or the whole month, is an ideal way to showcase different non-alcoholic beers and other alcohol-free drinks. And get a feel for which drinks your customers would like to buy all year round.
You could encourage customers to try multiple drinks with tokens they can buy in advance or highlight different drinks each day through discounts and promotions.
2. Non-alcoholic beer tasting
Every beer – non-alcoholic or not – has its own distinct characteristics and story, and savvy drinkers love finding out more about what they’re drinking.
A non-alcoholic beer tasting or “meet the brewer” event will showcase what’s available and educate your customers on the differences between styles and brands, including production methods and ingredients.
This doesn’t even need to be a guided tasting. If you can’t get an expert or brewer in, or don’t feel confident enough to do it yourself, provide customers with instructions and information about each beer so they can do a self-guided tasting.
3. Food pairings
Few people want a cola or lime and soda with their food. If you usually recommend specific alcoholic drinks with the food you serve, consider recommending non-alcoholic drinks too.
For example, you could match a bitter non-alcoholic IPA with a Thai curry, a non-alcoholic milk stout with chocolate fudge cake or a non-alcoholic wheat beer with friend foods (that’s a beige buffet I can get behind).
You could even produce a special non-alcoholic drink and food pairing menu to showcase your non-alcoholic offering.
4. Focus on health
Most people who give up alcohol temporarily do it for health reasons. Yet research shows those following a healthy lifestyle are actually more likely to go out to drink on a weekly basis.
Tap into this mindset by promoting your pub or bar as health-friendly destination or as somewhere people can “refuel” after exercise without undoing their good work.
Offer healthy food options alongside your non-alcoholic drink offerings and make sure “grown up” non-alcoholic drinks like beer, cider, wine and craft sodas are included in any food promotions.
If you have the space, you could also host exercise classes or running clubs, encouraging participants to stay on for food and drink afterwards.
Even when people aren’t on a health kick, they’re more likely to be healthier earlier in the week. Could you promote alcohol-free drinks alongside healthier foods to boost footfall on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays?
5. Bring back the lunchtime pint
With more and more people working through their lunch breaks and companies banning drinking alcohol during the working day, it’s no surprise the lunchtime pint has died a death.
A pity seeing as regular breaks actually improve people’s productivity.
With a bit of promotion, you could bring this tradition back with non-alcoholic beer or other alcohol-free drinks in place of alcoholic ones.
Over to you
Have you tried any of these approaches or are these examples something you’d like to see your local pub do?
What other ways can pubs and bars take advantage of campaigns like Sober October and Dry January?