Selling Points

More than Just Eye Catchers, Point-of-Sale Pieces Must Quickly Engage the Guest and Get Them to Buy — Here’s How

When was the last time you took a good look at your point-of-sale (POS) display campaign? Sure, most bar owners are fairly seasoned in these campaigns — you may have been hanging up posters and ordering waterproof banners even before this magazine existed. But when was the last time you really studied your POS output and its effectiveness? Was it before social media? Before tweeting from iPhones drove the lives of young adults? Was it before you last changed your décor? Before you changed your latest cocktail menu? If so, you need to review and update your approach, because today, a bargoer’s attention span is shorter than ever and if your POS campaign doesn’t catch their eye, someone else’s will, and that venue will get their dollars.

Picture It

The first thing you need to do is make sure your tactics make an impact. In this fast-paced age, you have to let your patrons know what you are offering immediately and effectively, so your POS materials must deliver that message succinctly while also making it visually enticing. “POS should be thought of as a billboard or e-mail headline with two to three seconds to communicate the message,” says Mark Vidano, vice president of operations for MarkeTeam Inc., the Mission Viejo, Calif.-based sales and marketing team specializing in food and beverage clients. ”All of us, as consumers, have moved to ‘iconic’ or ‘iPhone’ thinking, meaning that icons — or pictures — communicate to us initially and then we decide if we need more information or if it applies to us. This means that having compelling photos on [point-of-purchase materials] is imperative.”

Custom Messaging

Bar Louie Cinco de DrinkoWhen creating these materials, it’s critical to stay true to your image. To project an image of your brand’s perceived value and quality, you should use high-quality paper and printing services, especially if you’re allowing outside sponsors to create POS materials for your bar. Why does this work? “Custom POP reinforces your brand and quality statement rather than the ‘off-the-shelf’ provided POP,” Vidano says.

This is true whether you have one location or 45, as Blake Rohrabaugh, national beverage director for the Chicago-based Bar Louie chain, learned. Bar Louie doesn’t do outside marketing, so “our POS is our advertising,” Rohrabaugh says. “We began on our beverage menus by listing our specials and promos. We don’t do table tents, but we now have posters, including a large one when you come in telling you that week or month’s activities,” he says.

For example, each sponsor brand is allowed and expected to create posters for the bar’s Beer of the Month promotion, but Bar Louie sets design parameters so it fits with the bar’s image. 

“They can create the poster, but the design has to meet our standards,” Rohrabaugh explains. “We generally have all black-and-white print campaigns with a little splash of one color. Our logo is black and white, to match our bars’ décor. We have to explain to these beer companies that we will not put up a neon poster with handwriting on it. We want to keep our brand and our image classy. POS is a part of that.”

Rohrabaugh’s attention to Bar Louie’s POS materials is key to the success of the campaign, as it should be at any establishment. After all, this is still your bar — the materials should be created on your terms. “You also have to ensure that you don’t end up with a finished product with their logo larger than yours,” Rohrabaugh says. “You are advertising for them in your bar, not the other way around. Keep the bar as the focus.”

Additionally, the signage is a great tool to help your employees talk to guests and grow sales. “Make it easy for the server to use. If the server can simply reference the POP at the table, you’ll have a better chance at selling your feature,” Vidano says, adding that bars looking to sell more appetizers should feature appetizers on a table tent. That allows a server to reference it when he or she takes a drink order.

Continuing Coverage

Staff references are what really bring POS materials to life and makes them work, and that’s exactly what Joe Prino, general manager at Sheffield’s in Chicago, teaches his employees. Named to Esquire magazine’s “Best Bars in America” list in 2009, Sheffield’s uses standard POS materials — with a twist.

“I think everyone uses the same tools, generally,” Prino says. “We have table tents with drinks specials or daily specials. We do a lot with posters in the windows and banners that we hang outside, and it’s all aimed at being kind of in-your-face marketing. Most importantly, we want our staff to verbalize what we are offering, and we back what they should be telling customers with print.”

Employee training is key for Prino, but another must-do tactic at Sheffield’s is the incorporation of web-based information on all POS. Prino’s POS includes a link to Sheffield’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages when applicable, and when customers head to any of these sites, they find the mirrored POS information there.

Likewise, Rohrabaugh says he relies on social media at Bar Louie to spread the word. In fact, the chain recently hired a staff member dedicated to increasing local, regional and national awareness through social media, backing this up with POS output.

Prino extends Sheffield’s online presence even further by offering discounts through and listing these offers on in-house POS. This directs traffic to the web, only to have the traffic return to Sheffield’s soon after to use the outstanding deal they purchased online.

When offering deals, whether they’re through websites or displayed on your POS materials, there’s one thing Prino says all bars should be careful to note: “I think if you are going to do point-of-sale, it has to be a sale,” he warns. “I see so many places that have something like ‘buy one entrée of $9.99 or lesser value and get $5 off your next appetizer,’ and it’s too complicated and not really a deal. Your customers are intelligent, and the economy has put people in a tough place. So don’t insult them with your POS or make it a math problem to figure out. If you are going to offer a deal, make it simple and worthwhile, like two-for-one or $10 off.”

POS can help your business grow, but you have to stay on top of marketing trends, offer valid and valuable deals and create vibrant signage that invites customers to try new things. Table tents, posters, banners, buttons and other POS materials are the perfect places to showcase your best, most profit-laden items — and the perfect way to get your guests coming back again and again. NCB

O'Charley's menu inserts everyday valuesPro Tips on POS

The team at Patrick Henry Creative Promotions has been helping bar owners see a bigger bottom line for years. Annie Akin, executive vice president of the Stafford, Texas-based company, chimes in with three simple yet crucial tips to keep top-of-mind for conducting successful point-of-sale campaigns.

1. POS should be engaging. The material should prompt a guest to want to pick it up and look at it. For example, [offer] a football-shaped menu made of leather sitting on a tee on a table. This is something a guest will pick up and then they’ll read the features.

2. Great photography sells. Guests are visual and many times they will simply look at a POS item, point to it and say, “I want that.”

3. POS should exemplify the brand, not confuse the guests. POS is an opportunity to strengthen your bar’s brand and should tie into the concept’s core values and mission statement.


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