Drink sales in bars and restaurants are projected to grow modestly in 2015, according to Technomic's expectations for the on-premise alcohol industry.
Conditions at major chain restaurants that serve alcohol are slowly improving, and greater consumer confidence will lead to a more positive trend than seen in 2014.
Technomic's forecasts, released via its now available BarTAB Report and its Adult Beverage Insights Group, call for consumer expenditures on alcohol away from home to rise 2.7 percent next year, a slightly greater increase than is expected for alcohol expenditures at retail.
"Conditions are improving, and with lower gas prices and better consumer confidence, we're continuing to see positive movement in consumer spending away from home," says David Henkes, vice president at Technomic and director of the firm's adult beverage practice. "However, there's still a lot of lost ground to make up relative to how the industry was performing prior to the recession."
In looking at specific adult beverage categories in on-premise channels, Technomic finds the largest category, beer, challenged in terms of volume. BarTAB Report outlines sales growth of 2.3 percent for beer in 2015, lower than the projections for wine and spirits.
"Craft beer, cider, and imports are generally doing well at the bar, but domestic beer, which accounts for nearly half of on-premise beer sales, continues to lose share," says Eric Schmidt, director of research at Technomic. Wine is expected to achieve the highest sales growth rate of the three adult beverage categories, with spirits a close second.
Technomic's positive projection also comes with a note of caution: Alcohol sales will still lag broader restaurant and bar sales, due to fairly flat volume.
"Dollar growth is driven largely by price increases and gains in certain categories such as craft beer and whiskeys including bourbon, Irish and single malt Scotch," Henkes says. "Bars and clubs, the segment that generates two-fifths of alcohol sales, is expected to underperform many other industry segments, holding down overall growth expectations."
"We continue to stress to our clients the importance of a strong adult beverage program—it drives customer satisfaction, and it's obviously a source of incremental profitability," Henkes adds. "Many restaurant concepts that outperform the industry are emphasizing adult beverage, and we contend opportunities exist to leverage spirits, wine, and beer to achieve greater traffic, sales, and profits in 2015."