What women want... from your bar

Women in a bar

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Here is a surprising statistic that will make your head spin. Women influence 83 per cent of all purchases!  That's  60 per cent of new cars, 55 per cent of home computers and 74% of food and drink choices in bars / restaurants,  as well as deciding where to go.

According to a recent Technomic study, women are 30 percent more likely to spend more on adult beverages on-premise than last year and have therefore become the most important demographic for a bar and restaurant business growth.  So next time when a woman walks into your bar, be prepared and offer her choices she wants. 

I have approached a few leading bar professionals to obtain better insight into how leading bars are tailoring their offer to appeal to female customers. The rise in popularity of healthy menu items, skinny cocktails, fresh, quality ingredients, premium botanical and floral fragrances, and the customisable drink model reflect the typical values of the female consumer.  In addition to the range offered, the service element is crucial.  It is not just about adding a mirror to the dessert menu (no joke, STK did this in the States) it is about understanding all the elements that drive the experience for your female customers.

Healthier yet indulgent

This trend is here to stay and women are more concerned than men about what they are consuming or drinking.  The growing interest in locally sourced foods and fresh ingredients is making its way into the drinks menu.  Tom Cole, product innovator at London's Dirty Martini sees an increase in '‘better-for-you’ produce; think cold-pressed juices, shrubs, super-fruits, herbs and spices packed with live probiotics and endless health benefits. Then topped off with glamorous glassware and unusual garnishes.'  

But there is no need for healthier to be boring.  Sugar is being reduced across the board and is replaced by dried fruits, coconut or agave to provide the sweet zing we crave.  'Skinny' cocktails which use fresh fruit such as watermelon or strawberries, topped up with coconut water, rather than fruit juice, can still be indulgent.  At Tredwell's the Gunpowder Gimlet has Gin, cardamom, green tea and lime.  You could almost feel virtuous!

More premium and exclusive

Women are increasing looking for 'authentic' drinks which are characterised by their heritage or the craft that goes into them.  

A recent Mintel report showed that being made with high quality ingredients is a given for premium soft drinks and this is linked to 'all natural ingredients', but interestingly one in five mention that 'extra care / time is taken in production' as being important.  Drinks companies such as Fentimans are capitalising on the savvy consumer who cares about how their drinks are made and their ever increasing range from the 'botanical brewery' offers a variety of mixers and lower calorie premium drinks to appeal to many tastes.


Fever Tree has also recognised how a 'sourcing  story' can appeal.   It is a young brand, launched in 2005, but built upon the highest quality ingredients starting with the specific quinine from the Rwanda/Congo border.  Its tonic range has expanded to include lemonade and ginger beer, but always with the emphasis on quality botanicals with authentic flavours.  Given that there is a consumer trend to drinking less alcohol, with 1 in 5 adults now teetotal (Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre, Statistics on Alcohol 2015) it is important that as well as being the mixer of choice, these companies have developed drinks that are successful in their own right.

Adventurous and exciting

Women are as demanding as men in wanting something new and different.   This means continually refreshing your drinks menus to ensure that the bedrock of the classics are enlivened with enticing options.  Tony Conigliaro at Grain Store offers savoury cocktails such as a Bloody Mary made with Horseradish vodka and an Aubergine sour made with Aubergine rum.  If that is taking things a little too far, there is also a blood orange and saffron Bellini or a sour cherry lemonade. 

For summer drinking, frozen cocktails are becoming more adventurous and sophisticated each year.   Aqua Shard's 'Frosted vines' accompanied by frozen grapes was stylish and  delicious.  But menus should be seasonal, so ensure that your drinks are in keeping with the weather!  

Make it personal

'Custom-made' or 'personalisation'  is a key consumer desire and bars satisfy this need with cocktails and mixer experiences.   Premium spirits is one of the few growth areas within alcoholic drinks last year,  up almost 20%, versus the 2% within mainstream spirits (Source: CGA Total On Premise, Value sales.)  Premium mixers have grown strongly too as the discerning customer wants a distinctive and sophisticated taste to match the spirit.  

Customers can rely on the well trained bartenders in places such as The Connaught bar or the American Bar at the Savoy, both winners in this year's Spirited awards.  Head bartender at the Savoy, Erik Lorincz, combines the familiar with the exotic.  So if your preferred tipple is Amaretto sour, a cocktail called Hackney's City lights with Grey Goose vodka flower shop tincture, lemon juice, sugar and Moët & Chandon Rosé is recommended.  The drinks can be tailored to individual preferences and mood to ensure the perfect drink.

But above all...service is key!

Service is not just about pouring a beautiful cocktail or ensuring your drinks menu has an extensive choice.  Many customers in your bars  will order only from what they can easily see.  When pubs were built, the beers and lagers were always clearly visible with the taps at the front.  Spirits were positioned high up but could still be seen.  With fewer, but known choices, it was acceptable to have lemonades, tonics  and colas stashed away in a small fridge at the back.  But times have moved on, although sometimes the design hasn't.  According to research from Anglia Ruskin university, women take longer to order what they want because soft drinks, wine and bottled cider are not immediately visible and are certainly not promoted to the same extent as the beer.  It makes no sense for bar or restaurant owners to ignore this fact because Mintel research shows that 55% of customers would order 'a soft drink that I can see behind the bar' and if it is hidden away that is a missed opportunity.

So ensuring that women get what they want when they come to your bar or restaurant is not about making all drinks pink and fruity or patronisingly assuming women want smaller steaks or smaller glasses (if we do, we'll ask!). No, both men and women go out to be social and not to have gender stereotypes thrust at them.  It's important that bars increase the availability and visibility of all the non alcoholic  drinks that may be chosen by those embracing the 'better for you' trend.  Make sure you cover all the basics of good hospitality and go that extra mile on serving the key influencers, women, with the drinks they desire.  In this competitive and swift changing environment, it is only by surpassing a woman's expectations that your business will thrive.