The Value of a Beverage DirectorDecember 13, 2009 By: David Commer
One of the strategies smart chain operations employ is to have a person who is in charge of the beverage business full time. This often-misunderstood role is quickly targeted in an effort to cut costs and reduce headcount when times are tough. This is a mistake — in the words of Julia Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman,” it’s “HUGE.”
The beverage business for an on-premise operator is complicated. It involves multiple disciplines to perform effectively and profitably. The four main disciplines and perspectives involved are research and development, operations, purchasing and marketing. Each of these perspectives plays an important role in an effective beverage operation. However, any one of the perspectives without the others is ineffective and mediocre at best, and doomed for failure at worst.
R&D is an essential part of every effective beverage program. Developing and creating beverage recipes and offerings that inspire purchase intent, and possibly increase traffic, is vital to the success of a beverage program. R&D must consider operations and whether or not the products they produce can be accurately replicated in the operations. R&D also must consider purchasing and whether or not the products they purchase can be produced at the appropriate profitability to the concept.
The operations perspective is a critical component, as creating and maintaining systems that work in your specific operations is vital to your success. Considering the capabilities of the staff and the operation is required if you hope to be successful. Drink recipe ingredients, procedures and offerings should be aligned with operational capabilities. Operations must understand that there is a fine line between considering operational capabilities and limiting program opportunities. If only operational issues are considered, beverage programs can become marginal, as they are reduced to the lowest common denominator.
Purchasing plays an important role in a beverage program. Each state has the responsibility to maintain and enforce its own laws with regards to adult beverage sales. As a result, the common tools most purchasing professionals employ are ineffective, and possibly illegal, when it comes to purchases of liquor, beer and wine across the country. The selection and purchase of beverage alcohol also differs from some commodity purchasing in that many brands have value far beyond the liquid in the bottle. Purchasing professionals must consider the brand image of your concept and select brands that reinforce and support this image.
Marketing, in its truest sense, is central to an effective beverage program. You can have the best stuff in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you are unlikely to sell it. Marketing should work hand in hand with the beverage department and provide counsel in regards to staying on brand with the beverage offerings. Also, marketing must be careful not to over-promise the guest in terms of the realities of what can be delivered, while striving to generate interest and excitement about the beverage program.
The best solution for an effective beverage program is to have a dedicated beverage person at the helm who takes a methodical and balanced approach, working in concert with operations, purchasing, R&D and marketing, as well as training.