What’s Hot?

We look to the year ahead, sharing our predictions on what 2024 has in store for the industry!

2024 is upon us, which means another exciting year for hospitality, with new trends and innovations on the horizon. Following on from what was an incredibly successful and vibrant 2023 for the industry, now is the time for your venue to get ahead of the game – and we’re here to help!

In such a dynamic industry, with ever-changing consumer demands and preferences, it is crucial for your bar to be in-the-know of what’s hot and what’s not, and make the necessary changes to ensure success for your business.

Gaston Fusco, Bar Manager at The Churchill Bar & Terrace, explains the importance of being up-to-date with industry trends and, therefore, why bars should be revamping their menus for 2024: 

“Being in tune with new trends, and meeting consumer demands, is pivotal for bars, especially the top-tier ones. It’s not just about research; it’s about continuously elevating standards and practices. Consumers are constantly seeking improved cocktails, innovation and novel flavours, year after year. This is particularly so in the discerning London market, where guests have cultivated sophisticated tastes over time, becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to cocktails. 

“As we approach 2024, bars must adapt and update their menus. This isn’t merely about making changes, but responding to consumer expectations. Organising takeovers or trips for bartenders to explore diverse ingredients is a great strategy to infuse new life into menus. By embracing these opportunities for exploration, bars can bring fresh, exciting elements to their offerings, keeping pace with evolving tastes and staying ahead in an ever-changing industry,” Gaston adds.

When it comes to adapting your drinks menu and making new and exciting additions for guests, it is important to examine the categories that are showing significant growth.

2023 saw the boom of agave spirits, particularly Tequila and Mezcal, with more new brands entering the market, and an increasing curiosity for the spirit amongst consumers. Oliver Castilla-Tristan, Co-founder of Mezcalito, comments on the category’s success last year, revealing how the narrative surrounding agave spirits has changed:

“In 2023, I don’t think I have ever seen as many new agave spirits brands entering the UK market, not only Tequila and Mezcal, but also Raicilla, Bacanora and other Agave distillates. Although not made from an Agave, Sotol is a Mexican Spirit that is starting to shake the market, and we can now find celebrity backed Sotol brands. Tequila is still way ahead of the game, and premium and luxury tequilas are leading the growth, with customers prepared to try superior liquids which they can truly enjoy.

“I think there is a pre and post Covid-19 era for Agave spirits, particularly for Tequila. We have seen a massive change in how our guests enjoy it: before Covid, it was rare to have a non-bartender Tequila enthusiast, and now consumption has shifted from shots at the end of the night to cocktails, or sipping it neat or on the rocks, as you would enjoy a fine Whiskey or Cognac. It is very encouraging to see guests keen to learn about brands and their production methods and provenance.”

As guests become increasingly more discerning about agave spirits, 2024 is set to be another bright year for the category, and Oliver agrees:

“There is no doubt that 2024 will be another record-breaking year for Agave Spirits. Bars and restaurants are constantly increasing their Agave offering; you can find at least one, if not multiple, agave spirit cocktails at top London spots, and this is something I can only see replicating in more and more venues over the next 12 months.

“Brands are investing heavily on education, and you can see the craze over Agave spirits, with more celebrities getting into the game keeping the Agave spirits awareness on the rise. Also, let’s not forget that the Margarita is one of the best-selling cocktails in the world, and that Tequila is on the verge to overtake Vodka as the most valuable spirit category globally!” Oliver adds.

The growth of the category is why the team at Mezcalito decide to expand with an additional venue under their name – Mezcalito Brompton, which brings a taste of modern Mexican nightlife to the SW5 area, opened its doors in December. Oliver explains:

“Premium Agave spirits are in such high demand that we felt the need to open another specialist venue, Mezcalito Brompton, which features a cocktail bar on the ground floor offering an extensive Agave spirits list, Agave cocktails and cigars to enjoy on the front terrace. There is also a boutique nightclub in the basement, where the bottle service menu and cocktails are led by Agave spirits.”

To align your bar with the growing demand for Agave-based serves, consider revamping your menu with some interesting Tequila, Mezcal or other Agave distillates: ‘twists-on-classics’. This will feed your guests’ curiosity surrounding the category, and also delight them with something new and exciting!

2024 is also set to see the return of a category that peaked in recent years – gin! Chris Jones, Managing Director at Paragon Brands, explains: “What we saw during the Gin Boom, from 2017-2021, was an unprecedented explosion of brands and flavours entering the UK Market, with over 1200 different gin products available at the peak, many from small pop-up distilleries and producers. 

“It is fair to say that while the Gin-Bubble hasn’t burst, it has certainly deflated, with many smaller brands exiting the market, and consumer behaviour moving away from the ‘What’s-Next/Collector’ mentality, which existed towards each new flavour entrant. Consumers are now becoming more selective and have established their own repertoire of favourite brands and flavours,” Chris adds.

Chris reveals that customers are increasingly seeking both authenticity and quality when it comes to gin, which means a rebirth for the category as a whole is on the horizon.

“As consumers become more discerning in their choices, they are more aware of the origins and heritage of the products they seek to try, as authenticity and quality become two of the key purchase rationales. There is now significantly falling demand for the ‘Sweet-Shop’ and ‘Bubble-gum’ flavours that appeared during the boom. Instead, consumers are mirroring their gastronomic habits by seeking authentic flavour profiles with natural extracts – and definitely no crazy artificial colours! Additionally, gin has now established itself as a firm cocktail favourite, featuring heavily amongst the best cocktail lists, where previously it played second-fiddle to Vodka as a mixology spirit.

“G’Vine has met this change in consumer demand by offering gin drinkers an authentic premium alternative to mass-market products. It has a strong heritage based in the Cognac region in France, and is made from Grapes (not Neutral Grain – as is common with most gins), making a smoother, more refined, gin and tonic, crafted in a region known throughout the world for refined spirit production. For those seeking a more intense flavour experience, there’s JUNE by G’Vine – a fruit-flavoured full-strength gin available in Wild Peach, Pear and Cardamom and newly launched Watermelon – all made to enliven the humble G&T, while also providing an exceptional flavour base for mixologists.”

When looking to revamp your drinks menu for the year ahead, it is important not to turn a blind eye to your bar’s wine list – after all, an exceptional wine offering provides the opportunity to elevate the guest experience and increase revenue!

Tom van der Neut, Business Unit Controller at Lanchester Wines, comments on how the wine category is forecasted to grow in the coming year, making two predictions that venues should keep in mind:

“We see a huge opportunity for sparkling wine in 2024 – but not necessarily from the traditional Champagne region. English Sparkling wine, Crémant, Cava and Prosecco continue to grow, especially the more interesting styles from these regions. Easy growth potential is found for ‘premium’ Prosecco and Prosecco Rose, which has room to grow as customers look for a more balanced, developed style that costs slightly more than entry-level examples.

“Low, or lower, alcohol wines will grow in the category in 2024, as the punitive Government alcohol duty increases start to take hold. As a whole, the trade needs to be careful to ensure that the quality of low(er) alcohol versions of wines is still there,” Tom adds.

While aligning your menu with new trends, Tom urges bars to be cautious in making swaps simply for the sake of it: “Always be mindful of your core customers’ needs, as they will remain the most important contributors to your wine lists success in 2024. While it’s tempting to push the boat out and make wholesale changes to your list to suit new trends, be careful not to do this at the expense of top-selling wines that your customers love.”

Commenting further on the importance of being purposeful in the changes you make to your wine list, Tom advises venues to look at the facts – your sales data:

“It’s critical to use sales data to drive your wine list adaptations. If a wine isn’t selling, then it is taking up valuable real-estate on your list and needs to be replaced. Try to keep the balance of the list, whilst retaining a logical pricing ladder that signposts your customers to your more interesting wines.”

To give your menu a revamp for the year ahead, and offer guests something new and exciting, Tom also urges bars to explore alternative labels: “Benchmark all your wines with your wine supplier. There will be alternative labels from the same regions as your current wines, which can be swapped in to ‘refresh’, without replacing a core grape variety. New labels are always exciting and label design is constantly evolving, so this can be an easy win without too much effort.”

Moving away from wines and spirits, it is crucial for your bar to examine the edible elements on your menu, especially as the role of food and drink pairings continues to grow. 

Offering premium bar snacks is a simple way to elevate the guest experience, as well as increase customer spend in your venue. Ekaterina Petrova, Pipers Senior Brand Manager, tells us more, commenting on the growing category, and how this can benefit bars:

“Snacking remains hugely popular in the UK, with savoury snacks now worth £4.16bn, and growing at +13.8%. Within the away-from-home channel, crisps and snacks have continued to be a critical sales driver for operators, despite macro challenges being faced by many businesses and consumers today. Premium single crisps are currently worth £31.97 million in the UK in the channel and growing at 16%. 

“For the on-trade, this means the snacking channel is well positioned for growth. There is a real opportunity to offer customers a range of flavours for their snacking needs, and Pipers is perfectly positioned to help operators drive sales in 2023.”

Adding a premium bar snack to your menu means that you are aligning your bar with consumers’ growing demand for a quality experience, but also driving sales. Ekaterina says:

“Even though consumers are going out less, they are opting for premium experiences when they visit the on-trade. In the last four years, premium crisps have grown at double the rate of the total savoury snacks category in pubs2, so there is a large opportunity for operators to offer a premium option, like Pipers, to encourage customer spend. As the second biggest brand across the crisps, nuts and snacks segment in pubs and clubs, Pipers is well placed to provide consumers with these experiences and help drive sales in this growing channel. The brand grew at +42% in 2023, demonstrating that consumers are still looking to trade up to a premium snack option when socialising.”

Deborah Bradfield, Sales & Marketing Manager at Cambrook Foods, also notes the growing demand for high-quality, superior snacks at the bar: “We have found there is a growing demand for our nut mixes with spicy, sweet and savoury combinations, which is one of our specialities, and one that is driving incremental revenue at the bar.”

Cambrook 1kg bulk bags are a great choice for bars looking to wow guests, offering the chance to decant the nuts into a serving bowl or jar of their choice. Deborah explains: “The Cambrook nut mixes displayed in Kilner jars behind the bar are very eye catching and pretty much sell themselves. Customers can literally see the quality and it grabs their interest.”

As the role of technology within bars continues to grow, making day-to-day business operations smoother and more efficient, it’s a good idea to look to any new innovations that can keep you one step ahead.

Copa Drinks, developed by Bostocap, is a cutting-edge, free mobile app reshaping the spirit appreciation landscape. This innovative platform offers users instant access to detailed tasting notes, distillery information and historical backgrounds, creating an immersive experience for both seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers to the world of spirits.

Chris Lancksweert, Founder of Copa Drinks, suggests why this new, innovative technology is a must for bars entering the New Year: “As we enter 2024, Copa Drinks becomes indispensable for bars seeking to elevate their offerings. Embracing Copa provides bars with a competitive edge, positioning them as tech-savvy trendsetters in the evolving hospitality landscape. Copa Drinks emerges as a must-have for bars, offering a comprehensive solution that not only enhances spirit exploration for enthusiasts, but also streamlines operations, fosters innovation in mixology and positions venues at the forefront of the evolving hospitality industry.”

Ultimately, it is crucial for venues to look to industry trends and innovations and align themselves accordingly to ensure a successful 2024. While revamping your drinks menu is a fundamental place to start, it is also crucial to look to other areas of your business to stay ahead of the curve and guarantee happy customers and increased revenue!

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