Over the last year, memorable experiences and value for money were top priorities for UK drinkers heading out to their favourite restaurants and bars. This prompted an uplift in interest for novel and exciting flavours and serves. Notably, staples like tequila secured a prominent place on drinks lists, while Riesling found its way back to the spotlight.
As we bid farewell to 2023 and get the New Year underway, we’re looking ahead at what 2024 might hold for the UK on-trade. Drawing insights from research conducted by PROOF Insight, we’ve compiled our top ten hospitality trends to keep an eye on over the coming year.
1. Memorable experiences remain a top priority
Customers are seeking experiences and escapism. For Gen-Z in particular, having fun is most important, with 72% saying it’s their number one value. But with tightening purse strings, customers want to make sure they are spending their money on time well spent. For venues, this means providing value for money both in terms of price points and what they can offer customers to make their nights out fun.
Activity-led occasions, such as quizzes or karaoke nights, can help draw the crowds in. There’s also been a 9% increase in the number of competitive socialising venues between October and March 2023. Nostalgic experiences also remain a source of comfort, with 63% of consumers enjoy food and drink that makes them feel nostalgic.
2. Balanced wellness
A key non-alcoholic drink trend we saw in 2023 was that Brits are becoming more conscious of their health. It’s all about balance, with many agreeing that it’s important to have ‘treats’ as part of a healthy diet.
1 in 3 UK adults opting to cut down the amount of alcohol they drink or avoid it completely. Of those moderating, 47% say it is a lifestyle choice, with 34% hoping to give up drinking completely one day. This provides venues an excellent opportunity to tune up their low and no alcohol offering and drive footfall by reaching these non-drinkers.
3. Rewarding loyalty
With more customers seeking value for money, they are also wanting to be rewarded for their loyalty. In 2024, we expect to see more venues considering how they can help their customers save money, in a way that also rewards them for staying loyal to their business. Boxpark, for example, recently revealed a 26% rise in their ‘Black Card’ loyalty scheme members, who receive discounts and special offers, which they say has led to 35% revenue growth vs pre-Covid.
Venues can tap into customers loyalty and deepen ties with locals by offering perks, savings, and social events as part of a loyalty scheme.
4. Alternative wine formats
Alternative wine formats are set to be one of the latest drink trends for 2024, with draught and ‘bag-in-box' the perfect solution for maintaining an interesting wine by-the-glass selection, more important in 2024 than ever before as an increasing number of under-45s are opting to buy wine by-the-glass. Add to this the increased speed of serve, reduced wastage and improved sustainability and there is a clear benefit to exploring non-traditional wine formats.
5. Easy-drinking white and rosé wine
We saw a change in drinking habits in 2023, with more people opting for drinks-led occasions over food - up from 26% in 2022, to 36% in 2023.
The prominence of drinks-led occasions means customers are gravitating towards easy-drinking styles and are drinking familiar grapes when out in the trade, like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Although Italian Pinot Grigio Blush and French rosé have strengthened their share, New Zealand and Portugal are gaining ground in the category.
6. Alternatives to Champagne
Another drink trend we predict for 2024 is the rise of different sparkling wines. Champagne sales have been fizzling of late, with a 22% volume decline in the GB on-trade (2023 vs 2022). The good news is that alternative sparkling wines, such as English Sparkling and Franciacorta that similarly produced in the Methode Traditionelle and retail at a significantly lower price point, are gaining favour across the on-trade.
Warmer growing seasons in recent years has seen the quality of English wines improve significantly. Combined with the ‘buy local’ movement which sees produce from closer to home as more environmentally and socially responsible, and we are likely to see sales of English wine continue to sparkle in the years ahead.
7. Customisable cocktails
As customers seek value for money and fun, there’s an increased appetite from customers who are keen to tailor their drinks to suit their personal choice when out in the on-trade. 70% of under-45s would customise a cocktail when visiting a bar or pub if they were allowed to.
Venues can use this new alcohol trend to help draw customers in with the option for customers to tweak a cocktail to their preference. Allowing them to choose the spirit, for example, is a great way of providing the most choice without the need for a long cocktail list.
8. More fruit flavours seen in cocktails
In 2023, more variety of fruit flavours in cocktails were found in trendsetting bars in the UK. Rhubarb was found in cocktails in 34% of bars, up from 18% in 2022. Figs have been spotted as one of the major trends in cocktails in 2023, now listed in 34% of premium bars. Plum also appears on cocktail lists in 46% of trendsetting bars, up from 36% last year.
While there is more experimentation in flavour from top-end bars, 65% of customers still want to see familiar, fruity flavours on cocktail list with strawberry being the most popular flavour.
9. Continental lagers
World lager now accounts for over 1 in 4 pints sold in the on-trade, climbing from 14% of total beer volume in 2019 to 26% in 2023. This has been driven by continental European lagers.
Italian lagers, often considered a more premium beer option, are continuing to gain share, while new launches are driving growth of Spanish lager in the UK hospitality sector.
10. Journey across the USA (in wine!)
While California wines are still the most common US wines seen in the trade, 2023 saw an increasing number of premium restaurants featuring more wines from other US wine regions. Listings from neighbouring states Oregon, particularly Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, and Syrah from Washington State’s Walla Walla Valley are gaining prominence.