GuestMetrics: Craft Up On-Premise, Premium Light Down

Based on recent sales data, one might deduce that on-premise consumption of craft beer is growing at the expense of premium light options. Taking a closer look at third quarter numbers, however, it appears that beer sales in restaurants and bars are experiencing a lull across the category.

On-premise volume sales of premium light beer dipped by 1.9 percent through the first 10 months of 2014, as compared to the same time period in the previous year. Meanwhile, craft sales have grown 2 percent year-to-date, according to a new report from GuestMetrics, which collects point-of-sale data from over 10,000 bars and restaurants.

Overall beer volume was down 3.4 percent over the four weeks ending October 5, bringing volume for the quarter to down 2.7 percent, according to its latest examination (volume year to date is down 3.5 percent). These figures persist despite increased foot traffic in the casual dining segment.

Despite what would appear to be rosy news for craft, in the third quarter, while trending positively, volume sales fell behind year-to-date gains; craft grew by only 1.6 percent in the latest four-week sample. The latest figures for craft, per GuestMetrics, are “well below” the segment’s first quarter gains of 2.3 percent on-premise.

Conversely, beer dollar sales were up 0.7 percent in that four-week span.

The growth in volume has been spearheaded, again, by demand for IPAs and cider, which served as the fastest growing segments, gaining 1.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, of the on-premise beer market respectively.

That specific trend was mirrored at Winking Lizard Tavern, an Ohio-based restaurant chain, according to John Lane, the company’s vice president of operations.

“Angry Orchard bottles overtook Corona for the first time. So Angry Orchard was my number 1 import craft bottled beer,” he said. “And then definitely IPAs are a big part of that volume. IPAs, pale ales, for sure — hopes are it.”

Saying he’s “bullish on craft,” Lane expects these trends to continue and is emphasizing consumer education with a focus on hop-forward and session beers as a means to further facilitate the growth of craft at his restaurants.

“We’ve been doing some programming with some session IPAs and we’ve been serving them in 32 oz. glasses, just like how we used to serve our domestic draft beers,” he said. “To educate the consumer that it’s alright to have a big craft beerÔǪ They look at craft beer and because it’s full flavored, they assume it’s high in alcohol.”