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Bar Management

Sales/Revenue — Increasing Sales Without Raising Prices

June 2, 2010 By: Donna Hood Crecca, Robert Plotkin


Leverage Bar Real Estate – Drive Revenue With In-House Advertising
Do you have a TV screen (or maybe two or three or 12)? Got space for a jukebox? Then you have a new revenue stream. Systems that allow for advertising on television monitors or gaming systems and digital jukeboxes that feature ads can bring significant dollars into your venue. Look around your place and see what revenue can come from unexpected places.

Get Social – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Internet
Social media is not just for kids, nor is it child’s play! If you’re going to do it, do it right: Create a dialogue with your fans and friends, and give them a reason to act. Tweet a secret code word with an offer of free chicken wings to the first 25 people in the door who know the word. Announce on Facebook a hot band coming to your place, and then post photos from the event, which will invite comments and feedback on the night. This will engage your patrons in dialogue, plus they’ll share the excitement with their “friends” and expand your customer base! To really do it right, you must dedicate the staff and be strategic.

Suggestive Selling – Increase Sales, Guest Satisfaction in a Moment
When the guest asks for a Gin & Tonic, immediately make a premium or super-premium brand suggestion. If they ask what’s on tap, inquire what style they prefer and give quick but complete descriptions of similar or next-level draft brews you offer. Don’t miss that moment to change the entire course of the evening and the amount on the check.

Infusions – Create Spirits and Cocktails the Competition Can’t Duplicate
Take a nice-looking container, fill it with something special – berries, citrus fruits, herbs, bacon, whatever –add a spirit, let it stand and you’ve got something unique. Take that infused spirit and create a one-of-a-kind cocktail and you’ve got a conversation starter, a signature drink and something the bar down the street doesn’t have. Note: Check local regulations to determine if infusing spirits is permitted in your operating area.

Promote, Promote and Then Promote Some More
Research shows that promotions drive sales (see any of our Tracking Drink Trends reports based on GuestMetrics data), but be careful not to give everything away! Be strategic – promote what makes you different and what makes you money. Discounting to the point of a zero profit margin might put butts in seats, but it does nothing for your bottom line. Create “value” through strategic pricing and a value-add, like a collectible glass, great garnish or paired appetizer for a few dollars more. Be creative in how you market the promotion (social media, anyone?) and then deliver on the promise.

Do Two-fers and BOGO Right – But Lose the Back Up!
If you are going the two-for-one or buy-one-get-one drink route, don’t serve both drinks at once. That second beer will be flat and warm, and the backed-up cocktail will be diluted and dull by the time the customer is ready to move on to it. Plus, you’re encouraging quick consumption – never good in a .08 world! Instead, deliver the first drink with a smile, and then the second when requested, perhaps suggesting some food along with it.

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.

Cross-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.

Wines from Emerging Regions – Juice With Huge Value
Today’s wine drinker knows it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good, and they also know it doesn’t have to be from Napa or Bordeaux to be fantastic! Look to South America — Malbec from Argentina, Carmenere from Chile and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are just a few gems awaiting discovery. Also South Africa, Greece and, here at home, Virginia and New York have great varietals. With a little sleuthing and sipping, you might surprise yourself, your guest and your bottom line with quality, cost-efficient finds.

Drink Menus – What Works, What Doesn’t and What Consumers Want 
In the on-premise arena, we know people are going out less frequently and spending less money when they do. However, getting a glimpse into what consumers are thinking would certainly help matters.

To find out, Nightclub & Bar Magazine commissioned Mike Ginley and Next Level Marketing to conduct a consumer research study into how the recession is affecting on-premise beverage trends. They interviewed more than 1,000 people who frequent nightclubs and restaurants and who had ordered alcohol on-premise within the past 30 days. What consumers told them may affect how you manage your business.

What motivates people to order a particular cocktail or drink is of particular interest. Ninety percent of consumers read drink menus in a bar or restaurant, and for a quarter of them it’s how they decide what to order. More than half of the consumers said they prefer a standalone drink menu compared to 17 percent who rely on drink listings on tabletop cards and 11 percent who rather the drinks be promoted within the food menu. Nearly six out of 10 surveyed said they want the drink menu to be left on the table at all times, while about 15 percent would rather the hostess or server hand it to them.

The research also looked at attitudes toward ordering premium brands. More than 80 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that cocktails made with premium brands taste better than those prepared with house brands. When asked how much more they expected to pay for premium products, the consumers said they expected to pay, on average, $1.50 more for premium beer, $2.21 more for premium wine and an additional $2.80 for a branded cocktail. 

More than 80 percent of the consumers said it was important that drink prices be listed on menus, followed closely by beverage descriptions (68 percent), pictures of the drinks (50 percent) and listing of the brand name products used in making the drink (40 percent). According to the research, it’s clear that if your marketing strategy doesn’t include a well-conceived drink menu, you might be spinning your wheels.

Photos on Drink Menus – People Drink With Their Eyes
Studies show pictures of drinks on menus sell more drinks! What if you can’t show every drink? No worries — in fact, that’s better. Show the drinks you want to sell — the ones that make you a stand out or that make you lots of dollars. People see, people drink (although a little creative description doesn’t hurt, either).


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