Hard Rock Keeps Winning at the VIBE Conference

It seems that Hard Rock Cafe is among the VIBE Conference award winners each year. This year, the international chain took home the prize for the “Best Overall Beverage Program” for a restaurant chain.

Hard Rock’s overall program (which drives incremental traffic and increases sales) shines a spotlight on one of the most integral parts of the chain’s brand: the Hard Rock bartender.

“Hard Rock wants to provide guests with premium beverage selections and a targeted cocktail variety that is beautifully highlighted and easily navigable in a beverage menu that lives on the tables,” the chain notes in its winning entry.

The menu is used to promote limited time offerings pertinent to a given season, event or cause. BARocker and the Imagine Dragons Program are 2 ways the chain increases the value of the drinks on their menus and promotes the core beverage menu and future LTOs. The BARocker results alone were telling: beverage sales on BARocker event nights increased from 5 to 46 percent, depending on the night and location.

Other promotions also exceeded expectations. The May/June LTO program showcased world flavors including mezcal, cachaça, bourbon, rum, and vodka on one platform paired with world tour burgers. The Hard Rock Rising event served 864 glasses of wine, 8,640 beers, and 9,096 cocktails over the course of 2 days. Their most successful summer drink promotion sold in excess of 1 million dollars’ worth of mason jar drinks in the first 6 weeks. And the Moscow Mule promotion, run as a test in only 2 locations, sold more than 1,400 units despite the high price point of $19.95 for the cocktail and copper mug.

In addition to regional training and corporate training at each location, each beverage program is accompanied by step-by-step instructions and detailed drink recipes. An annual Beverage Specifications Guide was created to provide managers, servers and bartenders with valuable information about Hard Rock Cafe’s beer, wine and spirits offerings. In addition, each location’s bar is equipped with a comprehensive full-color drink Rolodex (which is updated regularly). The Rolodex is available behind the bar as well as within the point-of-sale system for quick reference. Additionally, staff members are equipped with step-by-step bar training videos designed to teach and reinforce Hard Rock’s proper drink-making techniques and steps of service.

To bolster the LTO programs, limited edition merchandise including unique shirts and pins, creative signature drinks with glasses guests can take home, menus, and poster and print ads were employed. Hard Rock’s social media outlets - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr - were also employed, and hashtags (including #BARocker) encouraged guests to engage through their own social media channels. Marketing strategies included event logistics, during which each cafe leverages local media/radio partnerships, and social media promotions, in which cafes create teaser videos and post Facebook bios for events. Cafes target local businesses to have a “happy hour” around certain events and hold “teaser shows” on select nights to build excitement leading up to the events. They also work directly with PR firms to determine additional opportunities to drive traffic in the Cafes during competitions.

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