Drink Occasions Are on the Decline for Younger Millennials

By Genevieve Lee Aronson July 20, 2018

While consumers between the ages of 21-24 have historically been one of the most active groups in the On Premise, new data from Nielsen CGA is showing that preferences within this age group are shifting - with more consumers opting to go to a bar or restaurant for a bite to eat versus going out for a drink.

According to Nielsen CGA's recently released On Premise User Survey (OPUS) an astonishing 1 in 4 American consumers within the age of 21-24 (the youngest subset of the millennial generation) haven't been out for a drink-led occasion in the last three months, meaning - for many young millennials, the main purpose of their visit to a bar or restaurant isn't for a drink, it is for food. While drinking out in this age group saw a 7% decline versus the last two years, monthly dining out habits have increased within the on premise this year.

Regardless of their lower income, this year's survey results show that 21-24 year olds are eating out almost as often as the 25-34 age group, reinforcing to food service establishments that this consumer set is one to watch.

To continue capturing drink sales, suppliers need to get creative with a shifted focus on tailoring brand messages and promotions around eating occasions. Bar-focused promotions (think food and drink specials only available at the bar) is an effective method to get consumers in front of a bartender, increasing the chance of drink ordering.

Another effective marketing method that is growing in popularity is through food and beverage pairings. In fact, Nielsen CGA's OPUS data found that across all survey respondents, "suggested with a food pairing" was the third highest deciding factor that influences a consumer to choose what category they'll drink. Leveraging this interactive culinary experience to outlet visitors encourages the idea that their meal would be even better with an alcoholic beverage to accompany their meal

Let's keep in mind that eating out is a social occasion and that fact is reinforced in the latest OPUS data. When asked which food-led occasions beer is typically drank, 70% answered with "a meal with friends" followed by 50% saying a "a meal with family." Therefore, there are ample opportunities to creatively engage consumers through sharing vessels such as beer pitchers, to encourage alcohol sales during a meal. Brands can make themselves a part of this narrative through offerings such as "Pitcher of the Month" promotions as well as leveraging exciting and different beverage vessels such as Beer Towers.

Finally, offering a discount on drinks after dining or encouraging visitors to wait in the bar area for the table to be ready generates revenue in an effortless way. In fact, 50% of Spirits drinkers surveyed say that they drink spirits before their meal - a prime opportunity for outlets to capture sales.

According to Matthew Crompton, Client Director at Nielsen CGA:
"The nature of how consumers are interacting with the trade is changing. The latest Nielsen CGA OPUS data shows that food is as important as ever. For retailers and suppliers alike, the crucial opportunity to maintain engagement with outlet visitors is through branded promotions, meal pairings and more. A good drinks program across beer, wine and spirits really could be the key differentiator in helping retailers extend dwell time, maximize consumer spend and stand out from the crowd."


Nielsen CGA on-premise consumer survey was conducted online, in English, within the U.S. between March 7 - April 3, 2018, among 15,000 adults (aged 21 and over) who have visited an on premise establishment at least once in the last three months during the time of the survey.

The Nielsen CGA On-Premise Consumer Survey (OPUS) is a biannual survey of 15,000 on-premise consumers, all of legal drinking age, aimed to provide a comprehensive look into America's eating and drinking habits in restaurants and at bars. The market survey, which is nationally representative of age, gender and location (state), uncovers rich consumer sentiment data that speaks to all aspects of on-premise usage. Drilling down to gain in-depth insight into drinking trends, tastes, occasionality, chain usage and drink brand preferences, this survey can reveal: the cross-over between a retailer's customers and a beverage-alcohol (BevAl) brand's consumers, top outlets visited, occasions that drive visits (e.g., after work drink, celebration) and overall preferred drink categories and brands.