By Venues of Excellence

Choosing an alcohol-free drink is not new, but what is an increasing trend is conference and event delegates and guests looking for a range of alcohol-free drinks that are not soft, sugary, fruity alternatives.

Venues of Excellence were first introduced to The Alcohol Free Drinks Company when we attended our Annual Conference in January this year to showcase our products to our member venues. Jon Kett-Reynolds, Centre Manager at Cranfield Management Development Centre, first met Andy at the conference and we interviewed Jon about his journey to stocking alcohol free products and how it has been favourably received by their clients.


What were your initial thoughts when you met Andy at the Conference?

The array of drinks on display with The Alcohol Free Drinks Company was impressive, and talking to Andy for the first time, I began to consider how we could introduce some of these products into our bar and private events at Cranfield.  I just had to take away some information around the products and range, to then share with the team back at the venue to see how we could look to introduce a more enticing range of alcohol-free drinks, and ultimately how this would be received by our clients.


On a personal note, what are your thoughts around alcohol free drinks?

To drink or not to drink is of course an individual’s right of passage, however there is something about having an alcohol free drink, whether it is ale, beer or sparkling wine that lets you party without losing your clarity of thought. What impressed me with the range of drinks was that they tasted so good. Were we missing a trick by not introducing them into the venue?


How did you choose what to stock?

When we decided that we wanted to expand our alternative to alcoholic drink options, I looked to select from the vast range The Alcohol Free Drinks Company has on offer to test the market and see the demand. I was conscious that we didn’t want to overstock when we first launched the range. Pricewise we didn’t want it to have an impact on our GP, and they do sell at a similar price to their alcoholic options, so I was pleasantly surprised, when after a few weeks, they had been selling better than we had anticipated and had been well received by our customers.


So, tell us a little bit about your customer reactions to the new range.

There are many reasons why people choose not to drink, and our experience is that this is a trend that is being driven by a lifestyle choice. Some found it nice to have a glass of something and not feel awkward choosing an alcohol-free option. They could enjoy the social stance of networking over drinks and maintaining their personal well-being.

We value our delegate feedback and were pleased to receive this comment around our alcohol free range: “I simply do not like drinking when away on company business, especially training and development courses, I now feel that I can join in and not feel as self-conscious as I would just sipping another orange juice or coke. Sometimes you just get literally fed-up drinking water, juice or other established soft drinks. These alternatives give me greater choice and I no longer feel as awkward when I might be ‘the only one not drinking.’”


How has your business benefited from the introduction of alcohol free drinks?

We were both impressed and intrigued by the great range of alternatives to alcohol options on display at the Venues of Excellence Conference. We were genuinely surprised by the sheer volume of options available now – and all through one supplier, which is incredibly convenient. The initial range that we are stocking includes lagers and ales, ciders, sparkling wine, and a couple of gins, and we are planning to increase this with vodka, rum, and table wine options soon. Increasing the range of alternatives to alcohol drinks just felt like the right thing to do on several different levels; as well as improving and expanding the range of drinks available to our guests and delegates to give more choice, the offering sits well within our focus on health and wellbeing. And it allows customers to ‘join in’ with those that are drinking alcohol and not feel socially awkward.

The feedback that we have received from delegates directly in conversation, plus the more general feedback from programme leaders and client contacts has been very encouraging – one company in particular stated that “it fits well with their own company drive on wellbeing” and another programme leader said “I can join in with the group, and ‘have a drink’ if I wish without compromising my clarity of thought in conversation and when preparing for the next day’s programme content.” Most importantly, the increased range and options has been noticed and lots of people are enjoying these alternative drinks.

From a purely business orientated perspective, we genuinely feel that there is greater opportunity for improved sales revenue when drinks are purchased from this range, as opposed to soft drinks alone, as the selling price is greater; and providing the balance is maintained across the entire drinks range, there is no noticeable impact on profitability.

Undoubtably, there is a trend people are moving towards and here at Venue Cranfield, we want to embrace this lifestyle choice and ensure we keep abreast of how people want to network over drinks. We have introduced our range to our private banqueting and events and have seen a positive uptake on our range.


At Venues of Excellence, we also asked Andy Mee at The Alcohol Free Drinks company about their partnership with Venue Cranfield and he said:

“I was delighted to attend the VoE conference at Silverstone earlier this year which is where I met Jon Kett-Reynolds from Cranfield, this led to me visiting the team at Cranfield and taking a number of samples for them to try. The team were so surprised at the depth of flavour of the products I supply, and they selected a great range of products to give a great choice to their visitors. I’m pleased to say they have now ordered multiple times following the success of the products, from great beers from Nirvana Brewery, Gin alternatives from Pearsons and great sparkling white wine from Teetotaller.”

Venues of Excellence actively promotes its Preferred Partner Programme to companies offering products and services to the hospitality sector and this case study demonstrates a great partnership that has been developed between Cranfield Management Development Centre and The Alcohol Free Drinks Company.

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