While 44 states have announced a partial reopening for on-premise dining, off-premise to go and takeaway sales continue to be the lifeblood for those that are open. According to the Distilled Spirits of the United States (DISCUS), 32 states plus the District of Columbia have allowed for operations to sell cocktails, bottled spirits, or a combination to be included in these sales.
The ability to sell high-margin beverages is paramount for any operation seeking profitability with capacity restrictions and reduced consumer demands in some areas. With Memorial Day weekend approaching, cocktail kits to go can help revenue for what is normally a thriving weekend. Bar & Restaurant discussed how to execute these programs with three successful operators, Hopdoddy, North Italia, and Honey Salt.
Hopdoddy has locations across the United States and this burger, beer, and booze-focused concept expanded out of Austin, Texas. As part of their cocktail kits to-go offerings, they are selling Doble Fina Margarita, Classic Frozen Margarita, Skinny Dip, Big Larry (a larger version of its famous "Little Larry" frozen margarita), Frozen Rum-a-rita and Frozen Strawberry Margarita.
North Italia also is a nationwide concept with more than 20 locations focused on Italian fare and is offering guests the opportunity to bring their favorite drinks home including five different kits available: the Milano Mule ($24, serves four), the Ginger Margarita ($20, serves three), the Sicilian Margarita ($20, serves three), the Aperol Spritz ($38, serves six) or Sangria ($18, serves two).
Honey Salt is a beloved, farm-to-table restaurant in Las Vegas famous for its chef-driven, locally sourced fare featuring only the finest and freshest ingredients. In addition to nutritious, well-balanced meals, the eatery offers irresistible craft cocktails (now available to go), including a new Casa Dragones cocktail kit featuring their pristine Blanco tequila, fresh watermelon juice and all the necessary garnishes—available for Memorial Day Weekend and Father's Day! Revelers may also take home their beloved Bloody Mary kit, seasonal Mojito and more with selections rotating daily.
B&R: How did you create cocktails to-go, and what led you to offer them in the first place?
Hopdoddy: We’ve always sold cold draft beer & great margaritas and cocktails including the famous Lil Larry. When we had to close our dining rooms due to the pandemic, our customers were really missing their favorites. So we were grateful the state regulations were revised to permit to sell boozy drinks to go & hope that continues in this new world of restaurants.
North Italia: We started out with just offering Beer and Wine To Go and have had great success with that. Our guests were super excited to have the option to add alcohol to their orders, but many began asking for our specialty cocktails that so many of them love. We are currently offering our most popular cocktails which range in styles from specialty Margaritas, Sangria, and our spin on an Aperol Spritz.
Honey Salt: On the Vegas strip, the drink-to-go culture is the norm, but we’re an off-strip community restaurant so we had to get creative. We wanted to give the people what they want; nourishing food and a great cocktail to go with it! It was a no-brainer to offer our full wine and beer list but we knew we had to incorporate mixed drinks. We started running 2 programs - bottled cocktails through a partnership with the fabulous On the Rocks, and signature Honey Salt cocktail packages that come with a bottle of liquor, a house-made Honey Salt mixer, and all the necessary garnishes. Whether it’s a Margarita or a Manhattan, our guests get to enjoy a professionally mixed, reduced-contact drink, safely in the comfort of their home. We can’t wait to see a full bar at our restaurant once again, but until then, this is how we can serve the neighborhood responsibly.
B&R: How are sales from the to-go cocktails faring?
Hopdoddy: It’s been interesting, they’ve been selling pretty well – especially our margaritas. margaritas are just not the same when you make them at home! 😊
North Italia: They have been a great success. We are seeing incremental sales week over week.
Honey Salt: Quite well honestly, especially the ones we have been pairing with our holiday takeaway offerings. On Easter, we served up one of our most popular pre-COVID signatures – the Alex & Piper – which happens to feature fresh-pressed carrot juice, so that sold really well. On Mother’s Day, our mimosa-to-go package flew out the door. For both Memorial Day and Father’s Day, we are working with our dear friends at Casa Dragones and have created an exclusive signature kit that we are super excited about. Their tequila is amazing and the kits include a few otherwise unavailable special touches; so far our guests have been thrilled!
B&R: Did you have to overcome any obstacles for execution, etc.? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Hopdoddy: The biggest challenge has probably been getting enough supply of the mini bottles (required to sell those for boozy drinks in most of our markets).
North Italia: There are different challenges with executing a program on a national level compared to a single restaurant. We want our program to be uniform in all locations and to be representational of the dine-in experience. Adding in the volume of sales that we anticipated doing and are seeing, finding the right container and labeling that would be available to all of our restaurants and looked great as a total package, was one of the biggest challenges. We looked at a number of different options for both containers and labels before settling on the final products.
Honey Salt: When we were deciding on the details, it was tempting to include the entire program and really go for it. We realized we can’t fully translate the whole Honey Salt beverage experience to someone’s home, so we decided to give people the best taste of it possible! With our love for relevant brand partnerships, it felt natural to bring in On the Rocks, which provides a variety of lovely drinks with the lowest contact possible. To follow alcohol-sale regulations, we narrowed down our signature cocktails to some crowd favorites, sold as a bottle of booze and a fresh-batched mixer. (Getting the smaller bottle sizes was crucial.) Our goals were to please our guests, charge a fair price, cover our costs, reduce contact, and reduce waste. So far so good!
B&R: Is there anything else you would like to share about your to-go cocktails?
Hopdoddy: We’re looking forward to when we can welcome back our guests in our bars, but until then we’ll keep the margaritas & beer stocked for them to take home.
North Italia: We are excited about the amount of support we have received from our guests. We are doing everything we can do ensure they get the absolute best experience at this time and are looking forward to when we can welcome them back into our restaurants and can serve them with an amazing dine-in experience.
Honey Salt: For Memorial Day and Father’s Day, our Casa Dragones cocktail kit is really exceptional. Their pristine Blanco tequila in a commemorative Honey Salt box, fresh watermelon juice, a beautiful silicone ice mold tray, and more! Our daily menu currently offers a rotating selection of On the Rocks bottled cocktails such as an Old Fashioned and a Mai Tai, and Honey Salt cocktail kits like our beloved Bloody Mary featuring Diane Mina’s Garden Fresh mixer and Absolut vodka, or our refreshing Seasonal Mojito. Something for everyone!