Clearly, success greatly depends on knowing your clientele, understanding their desires and finding a way to provide for them.
While you probably already know who is coming into your establishment, demographic shifts do occur. Sometimes the changes happen slowly, almost imperceptibly; other times they occur rapidly. For example, a new business complex might open nearby or a manufacturing plant down the road might go out of business, causing changes in your clientele for better or worse.
If your bar is experiencing a significant demographics shift, confirm the trend by analyzing your sales mix. A change in your sales mix often signals a change in your client base. For example, if a major corporation’s headquarters opened down the street, the likely result would be a more professional clientele during lunch and happy hour. Your credit card sales likely would increase. Predictably, sales of premium and super-premium spirits would increase as well. The sales of certain menu items as well as bottled wine also might increase.
Make note of subtle changes in your sales mix. Ask your bartenders and servers if they have perceived any changes in the clientele base. Are different types of people being served? Is the cast of regulars changing? Employees often can prove to be an invaluable source of information about clientele.
There are, however, more precise ways to quantify changes in your sales mix. Track the ratio in sales among your major product categories. Begin by tracking the ratio in gross sales between food and beverage. For most establishments that ratio remains relatively static, so a shift one way or another could prove significant.
Additionally, track the ratio in sales among liquor, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. If your clientele is changing, it likely will reveal itself in the sales mix of the various categories.
A shift toward a more blue-collar, working crowd often is indicated by an increase in well liquor sales in contrast to top-shelf spirits. A shift toward a more professional, white-collar crowd likely will be revealed by an increase in the premium and super-premium spirits.
How can you find out what your clientele wants? One approach is to ask them directly. Walk the floor and talk to your guests. Who doesn’t like the owner or manager to pay a brief visit? A chat creates good public relations as well as an opportunity to ask questions about what patrons would like that you don’t have or what they’d like to change. One point of caution: Most people are hesitant to say anything negative to an owner, so gauge responses accordingly.
Also, routinely ask bartenders and servers about your clientele’s needs. Your staff is at the point of every sale, practically making them resident experts. Your employees possess first-hand knowledge about how customers respond to new products, specials and menu items.
Another viable approach is to incorporate your clients in the decision-making process. For example, instead of determining which of several new micro-brews to put on tap yourself, why not conduct a beer tasting, letting the consensus choice earn the handle. The same approach can be taken when selecting which new house specialty drinks to feature, what labels of varietal wines to promote or which new deserts to add to the menu.
Information is an invaluable tool, especially when it comes to running a food and beverage business. The more information you have at your disposal, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the enterprise to success.