A profitable beverage program is only as good as the drinks on the menu and the promotions surrounding this libations. In fact, it takes more than just offering beer, wine and cocktails. Guests expect an experience when they go out, and if they don’t get that, you’ll likely never see them again. But it’s not easy. A smart beverage program is one thing that can put your business on the map.
Jeff Grindrod, managing partner for Brand Action Team, a marketing and brand development company, maintains that a beverage strategy relies on a few simple facts: educating your team, getting them on board and offering up specialty items for which your bar or club will become known. Here’s his five tips on how to create a beverage program that will mean higher profits and create a ubiquitous feeling of satisfaction at your bar.
1. Educate your staff. One of the things most owners or operators gets wrong is not maintaining a knowledgeable staff. “The biggest thing is (owners) don’t educate their staff,” Grindrod says. “They spend so much time on the food menu, but they don’t do the same education on the drink side. You have to be educated of what it is and why it’s different.” Part of educating staff means defining a specific program to get them on board. This includes staff incentives. For example, Gridrod says owners/operators can create a grid board that has a prize in each square, such as a free appetizer, free dinners or a choice wait station. Tying in these types of items will create more profit and value in your product. Gridrod also advises managers to describe drinks in an appetizing way that servers can relay to consumers. “Bars don’t take the time to do that,” he says.
2. How are you marketing your beverages? It’s a simple enough question, but many times bar owners and operators are not doing enough to make their establishment a go-to destination. From making sure signature drinks fit the theme of your establishment to creating table tents that highlight your merchandise, there is no such thing as too much marketing. “About 60% of the people that walk through the door don’t know what they’re going to drink,” Gridrod says.
A good marketing plan and a smart, savvy, strategic menu can make all the difference. “Twenty percent of consumers will order a drink based on a description. A picture can increase the appeal to sell,” he says. Grindrod also offers that if you’re using high-end brands, market it, becase it shows you’re using better quality product. “Each of these steps increases the likelihood of selling the drink.
3. Understand your customer. Before you can delve into branding your bar or club, you have to understand your quintessential customer. Grindrod, in fact, says that’s the first thing you have to do. “The first thing is understanding your customer and what types of drinks — cocktails, beers, wines — they’re interested in.” You have to line up the right beverages and then work with your supplier/distributor, Grindrod explains, to maximize what you have to offer.
4. Short-term or long-term programs work, as long as they create value. “You can have a short-term holiday specific program that generates traffic. Grindrod said he worked with a bar in promoting the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. The games were on a Sunday, a typically slower night for the bar, and by advertising that the bar was playing the games was a promotion enough to drive traffic to the bar.
For long-term profitability, Grindrod says you have to make sure the cocktails you’re promoting are profitable for you. “$1 or $2 shots won’t drive a profit for you,” he warns. One example is Outback Steakhouse, Grindrod says. When they were still up-and-coming, they created the Gold Coast-rita. They created it in such a way, promoted it with a well-trained staff and with bar merchandising the drink became so popular the company had to create a drink machine for the signature margarita.
This follows Grindrod’s advice of offering one, two or three signature drinks for your menu. “Signature drinks take a step up from (specialty) drinks. Signature drinks take a step up from that, and it’s the go-to drink.”
5. Have fun. “To me, merchandising and education are key. And making sure it’s fun. It’s about socializing and having a good time. Don’t take it too seriously,” he adds.