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Bar IQ

A Six-pack of Money-making Ideas

March 29, 2011 By: Robert Plotkin


When it comes to business, even small ideas on how to make more money are invaluable commodities. It only takes 1 or 2 to make a big impact. Fortunes have turned on less. To that end, here’s a six-pack of potentially profitable ideas for your consideration. Take what you can use and discard the rest in an approved receptacle.

• SUDS WATCH — When a keg empties, foam begins to spray out of the spigot as the gas pressure drains the last of the beer out of the feed lines. The rush of gas causes “fobbing.” When a new keg is brought on-line, the beer displaces the volume of gas in the feed line wasting both time and beer. Installing fob detectors eliminates the problem.

These devices are mounted in the walk-in and connected to the draft feed lines. When a keg empties, a float in the fob detector cuts off the flow of beer and the gas is prevented from entering the line. Once the device is recharged with beer, pouring can continue with no waste or fobbing. Priced at between $64 and $136 per unit, fob detectors are highly cost-effective and have impressively short ROIs. For more information check out micromatic.com and kegman.net.

• BAR BACKS TO THE RESCUE—Bar backs are the bartenders’ best friends, and if they’re well-trained and engaged, they can be the owner’s best friend should a bartender call in sick or simply not show up. Bar backs effectively help lower labor costs and allow bartenders to be more efficient and productive at their jobs. What’s more, by investing time and money in training, a bar back eventually pays big dividends when an opening comes up on the staff. Soon you’ll be hiring bar backs and not bartenders, resulting in a bar team that delivers a great guest experience!

• BACKBAR MANAGEMENT—Regardless of the type of beverage operation you’re running, the backbar is your principal and most effective marketing device. Ensure it has the right product mix and that it best supports your beverage program. Especially important in these challenging economic times is taking steps to reduce your inventory levels, which will result in freeing working capital and lessen your exposure to loss. Distinguish between underperforming products — those that take four months or longer to deplete — and dead stock, which are products that remain on the shelf longer than nine months. Underperforming products have low returns on investment, while dead stock are financial lost causes.

• WHAT BARTENDERS SAY TO GUESTS MATTERS–What bartenders say often conveys subtle messages to guests about the level of hospitality at your venue. Addressing a group of men and women as “guys” doesn’t acknowledge everyone in the group. Saying “No problem” when asked for something by a guest indicates that it may have been a problem, but in this case it’s not, demonstrating that your hospitality may be conditional. How about taking a cue from the fine hotels and saying, “With pleasure” when responding? And saying, “Want another?” is far less professional than stating, “May I freshen your drink for you?” Use words and phrases that underscore the fact that you are glad they are in your place, and you’re happy to serve them. It will pay off in better guest satisfaction, which equals higher checks and tips. 



• GETTING MORE BANG FOR YOUR PROMO BUCK—Owners and managers may get an ego boost out of comping a round of drinks, but today’s guests are savvy enough to realize the tab doesn’t really come out of that person’s pocket, which diminishes the impact of the gesture. At the same time, the bartender will likely be gnashing his teeth at the prospect of not getting tipped for the comp’d drink order. Fortunately, there’s a more enlightened approach. What if the manager or owner withdrew $100 from petty cash at the beginning of a shift? Then when the occasion arises to comp a few drinks, he can reach into his pocket and actually drop cash on the bar to pay them. Imagine the lasting impression that makes on guests. The bartender keys the transaction in as a promo sale and is allowed to take a 20% tip. At the end of the shift the cash is returned to the back office and accounted for in the same manner as petty cash. Everyone wins, especially the house, which has earned big points with the guests and the bartender. 


• 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. Apparently a lot of consumers agree because 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 is 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 may lose its standing as a destination venue. Pairing food and beverages is a highly promotable concept. Staying ahead of the curve is always good business advice.


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