Three Alcohol-Free Profit Boosters

Though many bar owners are focused on selling alcohol, the fact remains that there are other ways to make money in your venue — and a lot of times, all it takes is thinking outside the bottle (or keg). Based on the standing-room-only “50 Ideas in 50 Minutes” session presented by author and beverage management guru Robert Plotkin and NCB Publisher and Editorial Director Donna Hood Crecca during the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas in March, here are three tips for building profits — and entertaining guests.

Alcohol-Free Programs – Zero-Proof Delivers Risk-Free Profits
Socializing without alcohol is more than a passing fad, it is now part of the dynamics of our industry. Among the reasons for this are stricter DWI laws, health concerns, caloric content and personal preference.

Fortunately for those of us in the on-premise industry, we’re in the entertainment business, not the alcohol business. In addition to increased consumer demand, another reason to market alcohol-free products is that they command profit margins equal to or greater than their alcohol counterparts. Another incentive is that their sale incurs no third-party liability and precipitates no service-related problems. The trick is to elevate the alcohol-free experience with enticing flavors, quality products and thoughtful presentation that delivers, well, an experience.

Long gone are the old stigmas and stereotypes surrounding alcohol-free beverages and the people who order them. From a management standpoint alcohol-free marketing makes great sense.

Trader Vic's Bar FoodCross-Promoting Bar Cuisine – Let the Downtrodden Masses Eat
It’s more fun to eat at the bar than it is to drink in the dining room. And a lot of consumers agree, as operators are now serving legions of guests who prefer to eat not in the formal setting of the dining room, but at the informal and lively atmosphere of the bar. The trend has prompted designers of food and beverage operations to blur the distinction between a restaurant and bar. Today there are a growing number of eateries that have fused the attributes of both concepts. They possess the casual ambience and fluidity of motion of a bar, and the spacious capacity and expanded menus normally attributed to a restaurant.

Operationally, the pairing of food and beverages has yielded substantial benefits. Cross-promoting generates increased revenues and significantly higher profit margins than when the components are marketed individually. In addition, the food moderates the impact of the alcohol on the consumer’s physiology.

Every bar needs to become known for its specialties of the house, otherwise it will no longer be seen as a destination venue. Pairing food and beverages is a highly promotable concept. Staying ahead of the curve is always good business advice.

Keep the Glass Programs – Instant Souvenirs that Boost Margins
The most successful promotions are those in which both the guests and the operator walk away pleased. Such is the case with “Keep the Glass” programs. The promotion involves silk-screening a particular specialty glass with the name of the establishment and accompanying artwork. The glass can then be sold at retail, or when guests purchase a select house specialty drink, they’re offered the option of keeping the glass at an additional cost, usually in the $2-4 range. Not only does the promotion drive beverage sales, but it also creates an opportunity for guests to purchase a keepsake of the evening. You may be surprised how often your clientele will take you up on the deal.

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