Is Made-Just-for-Me Good for Your Bar?

We Americans are a demanding and, dare I say, selfish lot. We want just about everything we buy, download, eat or drink to be special, unique, made just for us or only available here. Decades after Burger King made “have it your way” its point of differentiation, it’s now the point of entry. But is customization always good for business?

I’ve seen too many make-your-own Bloody Mary bars to count, and more often than not, the patrons who try their hand at mixing this classic wind up with a highly unbalanced (read: tears streaming down their faces from adding waaaaay too much spice) libation. Ultimately, they’re disappointed in the drink and feel like they’ve wasted some money, neither of which reflects positively on the overall operation and doesn’t bode well for a return visit. What’s more, the hosting venue winds up with a very messy bar station to clean up where no doubt a lot of product is wasted.

If you’re going to invite the general public to play bartender, give them some guidance. Staff the do-it-yourself station with your most personable bartender, so he or she can walk them through the mixing process with panache; the key is to guide them away from certain unsavory combinations and toward those that will result in the best drink, make sure they’re not overpouring (controlling costs and serving responsible are really important here), all the while making them feel like a rock star. Concerned that a bartender might be less than excited about manning that station? Put a tip jar front and center, along with the bartender’s business card and some signage indicating when patrons can return to see this stellar cocktailian work his or her magic during their regular shift.

Another option is to limit the guest’s involvement. Studying the surfboard-shaped drink menu loaded with island-themed drinks during a recent visit to my local Hurricane Grill & Wings, I came across “Create Your Own Mojito.” For $8.50 — pricing on par with the other specialty cocktails — guests can customize their Mojito by choosing one of five flavored rums. The guest gets a “made my way” drink, which gives them the warm and fuzzies, that’s executed by an actual bartender, which indicates it should be balanced, delectable, satisfying and worth the $8.50. Win-win.

So next time you want to jump on the customization band wagon, first give some thought to cost controls, responsible service, maintaining a presentable and clean environment and the quality of the actual drink the guest will be sipping. All those elements go toward ensuring that “having it your way” means happy customers and a happy bottom line for you. 


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