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Five Top Trends in the Night-Time Economy for 2019

7 Feb 2019

Every year comes with its changes; we’ve already seen the decline of the nightclub, the flattening of the cider and beer markets and the SIA and hospitality sectors reporting recruitment issues due to high employment levels and Brexit.

So just what exactly is drawing consumers into the night-time economy in 2019? Director of Night Time Economy Solutions™, Jo Cox-Brown, takes a deep dive into the top trends for operators in the leisure sector to consider in the coming year.

  1. Food

And not just any food; fast casual dining grew by 8% in 2018 and is set to grow by 8.3% in 2019 according to Technomic data. When I say fast casual dining this is the £10-£20 quick, easy, consistent, eat within an hour, taste-filled, world flavours market. You only have to watch My Million Pound Menu to see what the majority of investors are after. They are seeking the next Wagamamas (8.2% growth in 2018), Nando’s (13.9% growth in 2018) and Five Guys (8.9% growth in 2018).

All of these brands have bucked trends and are showing growth if not profit.  I expect the desire for world flavours will continue with street food and casual dining likely to make the most of flavours from the South Americas (think coxinhas from Brazil, aji amarillo from Peru or arepas from Venezuela), the Middle East (super healthy, vegan heaven with chickpeas, vine leaves and aubergines aplenty but also the shawarma craze has yet to be turned into a national concept and I suspect this low cost food would make for a good profit margin), Central, East and North Asia (Mongolian plov, or osh, which is like pilau veggie or meat filled rice, pelmeni dumplings from Siberia, Korean wings, bibimbap bowls and bao buns) and Nordic flavours of pickling, steaming and smoking. These all have strong street food traditions which could make good casual dining concepts.

The other trend in food is sharing of space such as Box Parks, Borough Market in London, The Kitchens at Spitalfields, Baltic Market in Liverpool and Mackie Mayor in Manchester. Cities like Birmingham and Nottingham have announced new food sharing spaces, while London has announced 5 more planned for this year. These create low risk spaces to try out new concepts, enabling businesses to grow from a food truck concept, keep costs low due to shared amenities, create theatre and instagrammable moments and fulfil the desire for experiential activities. It also means that one blocker friend who is fussy and may normally prevent their friends from trying new food can eat with the rest of the group as there is always something for everyone.

There is also the trend for solo dining, as nearly 40% of the UK and American population now live solo and marriage rates continue to decline. Solo dining has been big in Japan for a long time, with solo dining boxes brought to the market by the chain Ichiran, who also opened a restaurant in New York. I’m not suggesting all restaurants turn into solo dining havens, however restaurants should consider the solo diner and how to make them feel welcomed (tip: do not follow the recent example of one New York restaurant that banned solo female diners from eating at their bar and accused them of all being hookers!).

2. Experiential Activities

I’m going to break this down into three sections. It’s no longer enough to provide a purely transactional relationship with customers or users of the night time economy. People want to bridge the gap between products and unique experiences to make a trip memorable. The good news is that people are willing to pay for this.

  • Events: In a recent piece of research that we performed for a major UK city, 74% of people (both individuals and families) indicated that they would like to see more festivals and events, 67% indicated they would like to see more arts and culture and 63% indicated they would like to see more heritage venues open at night. In addition, 37% of these people said they would use a city centre at night more if there were more events. This indicates a sizable market that could be tapped into, with positive knock-on effects on retail as people shop before going out for clothing and make-up, transport as people travel in and out and footfall as more diverse, non-alcohol led footfall is already proven to drive down crime. Events such as Light Night, Museums at Night, Culture of Lates and Diwali have proven successful across the country, proving that there is an appetite for community friendly events such as these.
  • Culture: You could technically put this in events but I think it deserves its own separate section. Ever since I’ve been involved with the licensed trade back in the 1990’s, live music and crowd pleasers such as pub quizzes, language groups, cooking classes, book groups, food and alcohol tastings, PechaKucha, bingo, open mic, music jams like Irish trad and jazz nights have always brought a crowd in, creating an opportunity to socialise whilst doing something with like-minded people. When I scroll through Instagram and YouTube looking at the influencers, these types of events feature highly on their feeds and you can guarantee that if the influencers are promoting their love of live music and cool cultural activities then the tribes will follow. In our recent research, 29% of all those using the night time economy come in for these types of cultural activities. Rather than just driving Saturday and Sunday trade, they often run midweek too, which encourages footfall in what would be quieter nights within venues throughout the week.
  • Instagrammable moments: This is about creating beautiful, interesting, one-off moments that matter most to your consumers. These have to be unique to them and shareworthy; people are looking for likes and affirmation that this is a beautiful, exclusive moment in time. Whether you are a caterer whose food is wow-inducing, or a mixologist who makes breath-taking drinks, or a venue owner or city centre manager with the potential to make photographable spaces, you have to be building these moments into your offer in order to draw people in. Use of creative lighting, art, sounds, greenery, and textures can create these spaces without huge financial outlay.

3. Premium low volume high-quality drinks

Drinkers across beer, wine and spirits are drinking less but paying more for higher quality consumption. What does this mean? Instead of buying five pints at £4 a pint (I live up North), they’ll buy three pints at £6-8 or something more expensive. The tendency to switch to a higher price-point product is known as premiumisation. It follows the grocery trends that we saw 10 years ago and it shows no signs of stopping in the night time economy. Alcohol has historically held and continues to hold an important role in social engagement and bonding for many. Social drinking or moderate alcohol consumption for many is pleasurable and perceived to reduce stress and anxiety. According to the Office of National Statistics Opinions and Lifestyle Survey 2016, 56.9% of respondents aged 16 years and over drank alcohol, which equates to 29 million people. Meanwhile, the Health Survey for England 2017 indicates that the proportion of both men and women drinking at increased or higher risk of harm (i.e. more than 14 units per week) decreased between 2011 and 2017; from 34% to 28% of men, and from 18% to 14% of women. So, although a large proportion of the population may drink, far fewer are drinking to excess.

We are seeing these statistics supported by the growth of products such as IPA which grew at 15% last year, and Brewers Association (BA) Chief Economist Bart Watson said that this hoppy style accounted for most of craft beer’s 5% growth in 2018. The New England IPA craze may have some interesting influences and implications and Wheat beers, almost always sold unfiltered, have become the sixth most popular beer style in the  UK. Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, for example, sold 450% in 2018 than it did the previous year.

4. No alcohol, no sugar, high taste

If 56.9% of people do drink alcohol, that leaves 43.1% of the population who don’t drink alcohol. People don’t drink for a variety of reasons, such as health, faith, choice, and cost. 8% of the population have diagnosed diabetes, with 20% believed to be pre-diabetes, according to the Health Survey for England 2017. Young people aged 16 to 24 years in Great Britain are less likely to drink than any other age group. However, most night time economy venues still feature heavily on the alcohol offer, with the no alcohol offer being limited to on-tap cola, diet cola, lemonade, soda, syrup squashes (blackcurrant, orange and lime) and standard bottled soft drinks like J2O, or in the more upmarket venues San Pellegrino or Belvoir Presse. These are all high sugar, however, and with the pressing need for the population to reduce sugar, venues need to consider this and get creative when it comes to this huge market. From talking to friends at Coke and Britvic they have no sugar and low sugar offers (we see them in the supermarkets) but there is low uptake from the on trade.

Moving onto alcohol free versions of traditional alcoholic drinks, I’m not sure how Heineken 0.0% beer, launched last year, is performing as I’ve not seen it marketed heavily, however in America things are looking a bit rosier for those who don’t drink and want low sugar, and what happens stateside often ends up here in the UK. There is also a rising trend closer to home in countries like The Netherlands for young people to order alcohol free beer on a night out, especially midweek.

Seedlip launched the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit in 2018, while searches for ‘mocktails’ on Pinterest have risen by 100[% in 2018 compared to 2017. VinePair identified fine dining spots starting to cater to this culture such as Atera, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City, offering reduced rate for a “temperance pairing” I’m intrigued to see who will be the first to catch on to it here in the UK.

5. Health

Millennials like to get fit, however on the flip side they take more drugs. Drugs means that they can party all night, have a unique experience, and still get up and go to the gym, stay alert or get to University. Millennials are focussed on healthy bodies, healthy eating, and they are petrified of getting fat because of the government’s keen promotion of the obesity crisis, and in their opinion fat doesn’t look as great on YouTube or Instagram and they don’t want to spend as much money as my generation of 90’s clubbers as they are racking up enough debt on their education.

So where does this trend leave the night time economy? Well, we’re seeing the decline of the nightclub, they can’t make money from the water-and-lemonade-drinking Millennials, rents, operating and safety costs have increased so opening on just 2 nights a week is no longer viable. In order to survive many are having to innovate, by creating multi-purpose spaces, letting out their venues to health trends such spinning, Zumba, boxing, Dancercise, Clubbercise, pop up food markets, comedy, events, festivals, and gaming. One thing is for sure: in order to survive, clubs will have to adapt and evolve to embrace one or more of these or trends that will unlock the profitable use of their spaces.   So that’s my round up of major trends for the late-night business sector. I think that to survive they will have to hook onto one or more of the trends identified above and ensure that they have a relevant marketing strategy for their clientele to set them apart from their competition.

Written by the Night Time Economy Team ©2019 | Share this article link
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