7 Steps to Develop a Successful Bar Beverage Plan

Steps to Develop a Successful Bar Beverage Plan
Dean Feddaoui of Jackson 20 in Alexandria

Are you serious about a plan and can you and your team stick to it? Can you remain on the high road through the ups and downs?  Too often bar owners and managers simply move away from the goals and objectives set forth.  However, if your plan is well laid out with buy in from all levels of leadership and you remain steadfast, you will put yourself and your team on the path to success. 

Here are 7 simple steps to developing a great business plan where key strategic objectives are developed to ensure a “kick ass” bar and beverage plan. 

1. Capture Trends: We know that the beverage and bar industry evolves quickly with trendy products, new innovation, and cyclical tactics. Part of a great plan will be the need to shift from trend to trend and utilize best in class category management initiatives that most large beverage companies can provide. Shifting a bit does not mean you sway from your original plan, yet simply that you’re nimble with a desire to stay ahead of or in tune with trends in beverage, which will give you the necessary edge.

2. Who’s Your Target: When planning, determine your sweet spot with respect to your target customer. Are you looking to build your business around Millennials and their demanding influence in hospitality? We know that this is a powerful demographic has the highest incidence of trying new adult beverages, especially in the casual dining segment. Boomers still have a strong pocket book and love happy hour and visit bars on weekends. Determining your target customer may also play a key factor in how to select, train and develop team members.

3. Who’s The Boss: You will need to insure that leadership places a high level of confidence on performance management. Put the right leader in the role to develop and follow-up on all activities related to your bar. Writing schedules and ordering liquor is not enough. Your bar manager position should be one attained through delivering upon and maintaining a level of excellence in sales building, margin improvement, staffing and manpower planning, and marketing your products. Trends in mixology are showing that new products come fast and furious. Your lead bar manager should remain alerted and aligned to the changes in the beverage industry.

4. Layout and Schematics: How does you bar look and feel? Do you create the right vibe for new traffic and current customers? Is it sustainable? Your bar must look and remain fresh, including your back bar set up. Your back bar is part of your landscape and architecture, so take time to lay it out properly. Schematics or how the mechanics work with storage, work stations and working applications for team members are critical. This plays well into execution and how long it takes to deliver a drink feature or quickly cash out a guest. Throughput at your bar will play a key role in return traffic as your honored guest will always remember excellent efficiency.

5.  Innovation: It goes without saying, “if you’re not innovating, your bar business is dying a slow death.” Competitive brands will pass you buy quickly as they make innovation of new beverage features a top priority. While some are pioneers or first out with a new trend, look to always be relevant with well-planned change. While you may not be the first with the new trend, work to insure you are not the last. It’s ok to monitor and watch some pioneers lead the way as all new ventures do not automatically win. Be careful with change for change sake.

6. Shout: Marketing your products or the way in which you shout about your brand’s beverage is critical as competition is fierce. Competitors are looking to break out of that “sea of sameness” so a solid strategy with menu design, new drink development, promotions including LTO’s, a strong happy hour and late night program may be essential for your success. You must maintain a relevant beverage calendar that is nimble and signifies a compelling message. At the same time, simplistic messaging will always win over cumbersome and lengthy prose in all marketing and “point of purchase” material.  

7. Pricing: When you determine your customer base and where you fit in with your bar beverage plan, pricing should fall into place.  Maintain a blanched approach to pricing so as not to overcharge and win for a short period of time. At the same time if you undercharge for your best in class recipes and features you will pay in the long run as costs will balloon out of control. Now you see why so many single unit and small bar operators remain in business for a very short tenure.

Absolutely none of these seven components to developing a great beverage plan for your bar will work without - Great People.  Selecting the best to play on the team, training with integrity and a desire to set yourself apart from other bars will not be easy, yet attainable.  Your guest will always remember how they were treated and the way in which your team took care of their short visit in your establishment. Anyone can make drinks and provide a cool happy hour. Your team will set you apart.  

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