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According to GuestMetrics, the fourth quarter of 2012 was relatively week for alcohol sales at restaurants and bars in the U.S. The information is from GuestMetrics' proprietary database of POS transactions of more than $8 billion dollars in transactions.

"Comparing the year-over-year trends of the first nine months of the year against those of the final quarter, we see the number of alcoholic beverages sold deteriorated during the final quarter of the year, including the holiday season, which is obviously important for restaurants and their suppliers given December is the second largest month of the year for the on-premise sector," said Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC.

Total alcoholic beverages units sold on-premise was flat for the first nine months in 2012 compared to the same period for 2011, but then decelerated in 4Q12 by approximately 1.5 points. This brought full-year 2012 on-premise alcohol units down about 30 basis points versus the prior year. Looking specifically at December, alcoholic beverages were weaker than the overall 4Q12 trend by about 1 percent, primarily due to there being one less Friday.

"Looking at the deceleration in trends of 4Q12 versus the first nine months of the year, we believe this is indicative of a consumer base that likely cut back on discretionary spending in the face of unusually high levels of macro-related uncertainty towards the end of the year," said Peter Reidhead, vice president of strategy and insights at GuestMetrics.

The deceleration was seen across all three alcohol categories, with the number of beers sold slowing about 1.5 points (from -0.5 percent for the first 9 months to -2 percent for the fourth quarter), spirits volume also slowing about 1.5 points (from flat for the first 9 months to -1.5 percent for the fourth quarter), and wine volume slowing the most at nearly 3 points (from +2.2 percent for the first 9 months to -0.6 percent for the fourth quarter).

Subsegments of the beer, spirits and wine categories fared differently. According to Brian Barrett, president of GuestMetrics, premium regular beer suffered the largest decline in Q4 compared to the rest of the year, slowing nearly 5 points, while premium light was down about 2 points, and craft and imports were down about 1.5 points. Craft still grew against 2011, however.

In spirits, the biggest deceleration was seen among premium brands at about 3 points, while super premium, high-end premium and cocktails all slowed about 1.5 points. Wine slow downs are inversely related to the price tiers, with economy slowing nearly 4 points, super premium and popular premium both slowing about 2 points, and ultra premium with a slight deceleration of about 1 point. Ultra premium continued to outpace its 2011 performance, however.

Read more about trends and statistics.

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