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Hamilton Beach Commercial Blog


Gen Z is Changing Bar Culture. Here’s How to Keep Up

11:00 AM on July 8, 2024

Gen Z is Changing Bar Culture. Here’s How to Keep UpMost bar-trend analyses focus on what people are drinking: the spirits that are rising in popularity, the flavors that are in or out.

In 2024, we’re seeing bigger shifts in how people are drinking alcohol, if they’re even imbibing at all.

“Younger, legal-drinking aged Gen Z consumers increasingly enjoy a very different relationship with alcohol versus older age cohorts, exhibiting rising levels of abstention, moderation, experimenting with new categories, and turning away from traditional, high-volume categories,” reports IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

That’s a lot to unpack. What does this seismic change in Gen-Z drinking habits mean for your business?

Understanding Gen Z’s relationship with alcohol

Does Gen Z really drink less? That’s what the numbers say. As Gen Z (people born from 1997-2012) increasingly reaches legal drinking age, a growing percentage is abstaining from alcohol entirely. “This is particularly true in Japan and North America, but the moderation trend is also prevalent in other markets across Europe, Asia and Australasia,” said Richard Halstead, COO Consumer Research, IWSR. The company’s research found that 63% of Gen Z consumers in Japan and 54% of those in the U.S. said they hadn’t had a drink in the past six months.

Why are younger consumers avoiding alcohol and bars? Several factors are coming into play.

  • They know it’s not good for you. 52% of young adults in the U.S. say that even moderate drinking is unhealthy, a recent Gallup poll found. That’s an 18-point jump from 2018. Their belief is in line with guidance from the World Health Organization, which has stated that “when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.”
  • They like clean living. Gen Z is supremely conscious of how their bodies and minds are affected by what they consume. They may choose to avoid sugar, other carbs, and gluten in addition to alcohol.
  • They prefer to stay home. This generation’s idea of a fun night may be food delivery, video games, and streamed entertainment. Just 58 percent of Gen Z say going out to bars and restaurants is “an important part” of how they socialize, compared to 65 percent of millennials, according to 2021 survey findings from Technomic.

How bars may have to change to attract Gen Z customers

There’s no need to throw out your entire cocktail program just yet. Plenty of millennial and older customers continue to enjoy strong cocktails, craft beers, and convivial bar culture. But if you were going to build a bar specifically to attract Gen Z, what might it look like?

The drinks menu might feature fewer beers, wines and whiskey-based drinks and more aperitifs and cocktails with white spirits, as this seems to be a global trend. It’s important, however, to pay attention to the cocktail trends specific to your country or region. Sparkling wine is on the rise in France and Germany. In China, IWSR reports, “Gen Z consumers are drinking more beer, plum wine, huangjiu (rice wine), grape-based wine and US whiskey.”

Drinks should appeal to health-conscious customers, too, with ingredients that are organic, all-natural, and locally sourced. Instead of sweet drinks, try low-sugar cocktails that rely on umami, spices, and herbal flavors.

There should be abundant options for light drinkers and teetotalers: low-ABV and alcohol-free offerings that are delicious and thoughtfully made. Functional drinks and kombucha remain popular. Bars can still charge premium prices for low- and no-alcohol beverages, as Gen Z consumers seem willing to pay more for drinks when they choose to consume them. (Did you know that the Bartesian Professional Cocktail Machine can make delicious, naturally flavored mocktails and light cocktails? Just select the desired strength, insert a flavor capsule, and the drink is ready in 30 seconds.)

What about the bar food menu? “Little treats” are a big draw for Gen Z. Create a menu of small, affordably priced, and attractively plated delights that make bargoers feel special when they order them. Younger customers also like novelty: unexpected flavors, unfamiliar ingredients, and fun themes.

Finally, give Gen Z customers a reason to go out. For them, it’s all about the vibe. How can you use lighting, sound, furnishings, and entertainment to create an environment more enticing than their living room?

Set yourself up for future success by investing in innovative, labor-saving bar equipment! See the full line of Hamilton Beach Commercial products for cocktail bars.

Topics: cocktail trends, bar trends, bar industry trends, does gen z drink less

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