Trends to Tap in 2012

The recent good news that unemployment is at the lowest level since March 2009, consumer confidence is at its highest level since July and restaurant operators’ outlook is positive means the 2011 holidays may be a bit merrier than previously expected. Of course, no one is belting out “Happy days are here again,” but the mood is definitely lightening. To ensure your drink sales and profits also trend along positively as the nation’s mood (hopefully) continues to improve, consider tapping into these drink trends:

Less pretention, more hospitality at the bar. Seasoned bar pros from Dale DeGroff to gaz regan lately have been heard bemoaning the glorification of barkeeps with database-level memory banks of cocktail recipes and the chops to mix them, but little in the way of actual hospitality skills. Hire for the smile, train them to mix drinks and watch sales grow. Today’s bar patron, while more drink-savvy than ever, still desires service that makes them feel welcome and wanting to return.

Drinks for normal people. From shot cocktails to well-done frozen concoctions, drinks should be familiar and accessible next year, but still interesting. Some even may involve vodka (wink, wink). Bartenders should be able to take things to the next level for guests who are ready — signature Sangrias, barrel-aged cocktails and house-made bitters are all on the spectrum — but also deliver the tried-and-true favorites with equal care and respect.

Skinny. Face it, skinny drinks will sell. Whether high-end concoctions or ready-to-drink renditions, low-cal cocktails will appeal to the ladies. And that always is good for business.

Cocktails on tap. Portion, quality and cost control equals profits, and innovative service equals fun.

Imports on draft. Look for a draft duke-out among major imports, and tap into their educational and promotional power.

Rye, moonshine and pisco. Use one or all to differentiate your drink selection.

All-American. Craft or major brand brews, wines, boutique spirits, juices, mixers and garnishes from the good old U.S. of A. will resonate, and many also tie into the ongoing “drink local” trend. 

Live music and entertainment. Not always something found in a chain setting, but worth exploring. From comedians to emerging bands, live acts are hot. Prompt unit management to check out performers’ fans on Facebook and view YouTube videos when booking to see the size of their followings and how they’re marketing their appearances and leverage that reach to drive traffic into the bar.

And on the technology front, don’t miss out on these emerging trends:

E-cigs. For the lounge-style concept, electronic cigarettes may be the perfect solution to smoking bans while creating a new revenue stream.

E-tablet ordering. Electronic menus are in their infancy but are streamlining efficiency and raising check averages in test venues. Most e-tablet devices integrate with point-of-sale (POS) systems and allow promotion of specials, as well as patron connection to social-networking sites. 

Smart jukeboxes. Jukeboxes are now interactive and intelligent; some resemble giant iPods with sophisticated search and even social-media capabilities.

Mobile gaming devices. Playing trivia games on smartphones is revolutionizing interactive game play at the bar.

Next-level pour systems. Accounting for every drop of alcohol poured is going high-tech, giving operators crucial controls and savings; the next wave is wireless systems where spouts send dispensing info to the central computer and POS system and can receive information, such as recipe pour amounts and scheduled turnoff at closing time. 

What big trends do you see percolating? Email me here.

Best wishes for safe, healthy and happy holidays, and here’s to a great 2012!!


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