Here’s a tall order: Update, differentiate and drive sales improvements at a bar, using as few dollars as possible. Oh, and the bar is in a casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Such was the challenge taken up by Eddie Perales soon after he joined Caesars Palace in Vegas as Assistant Director of Beverage 18 months ago. By reworking the menus at the various Caesars bars, he’s accomplished all three goals. “I was given the direction to make each venue stand out against the competition, but budgets are definitely streamlined, so we had to look to the basics,” he explains. “The strategy is to take elements of the concept and make them fresh and relevant without blowing up the concept or the décor. What you want to do is get people to talk about the venue without spending a huge budget, and the menu is a perfect vehicle for that.”
His most recent success is at the Seahorse Lounge, the sprawling bar just off one of the casino floors. The lounge features a nautical theme complete with a circular fish tank. Perales took a three-pronged approach to revamping the Seahorse menu, perhaps inspired by Neptune’s scepter.
“The idea was to do something trendy, but also classic. Champagne — that’s classic, and who doesn’t love it? But cocktail culture is the trend today. So, we put together a program of cocktails showcasing Champagne,” he says. “Then the third piece was determining how to promote the drinks. We needed something that wasn’t cookie cutter but wouldn’t break the bank.”
The answer lay in one of the biggest trends in entertainment today — 3-D. Perales had success introducing a 3-D drink menu at the Caesars pool and decided to take his chances with it in the Seahorse Lounge. Working with MarkeTeam, the Mission Viejo, Calif.-based food and beverage promotion firm, he spearheaded a 3-D menu that doesn’t require glasses.
“Caesars 3-D menu is all about innovation and taking chances,” says Jeff Wetzel, manager of premier accounts at MarkeTeam Inc. “We wanted to design something that would fit the glitz and glamour of Vegas and also make a really big impression. We began experimenting with 3-D concepts and decided to put a fresh spin on the idea by not requiring glasses.”
The menu is constructed in three layers of acrylic, each with its own graphics, attached at the corners via pegs. The bottom layer showcases an image of the popular Pink Coral cocktails (Belvedere Pink Grapefruit Vodka, Monin Ruby Red Grapefruit syrup, muddled strawberries, topped with Mote & Chandon Imperial Champagne); the middle layer displays a stylized, etched image of a seahorse; the top layer includes the cocktail list. Overlaid, the menu delivers a 3-D effect without the need for glasses.
“The 3-D menu is designed with three pieces of durable plastic,” Wetzel says. “The pieces stack in front of each other and have spacers in between each piece of plastic to create depth. The background piece serves as a sort of ‘canvas’ that the rest of the menu is displayed over. The middle piece contains the artwork and photography that casts a shadow onto the background, giving it a suspended look. The copy is listed on the front piece and the 3-D affect makes the copy really ‘pop’ to guests.”
Among the popular sparkling quaffs is the Elderflower Spritzer, featuring Monin Watermelon syrup, muddled mint and grapes and Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne garnished with a fresh strawberry, which now represents 20% of specialty cocktail sales.
The glasses-free 3-D menu of Champagne cocktails debuted 3 months ago and immediately became a conversation piece among patrons. The drinks also took off, as Perales, an award-winning cocktail pro and former owner of a bartending school, trained bar staff to mix precisely and converse with the guests about the cocktails. The unique menu replaces a traditional book-style menu and is the only drink list presented at the Seahorse. “Our bartenders are well-versed in cocktails, however, and can create any drink that’s requested, but we’re seeing a lot of orders coming in for these Champagne cocktails.”
Sales at the Seahorse increased 5% since the new menu’s introduction. “We are moving product,” Perales says. “The Seahorse is becoming known as a destination for Champagne cocktails and the 3-D menu gives it a ‘cool’ factor, helping create a new buzz about the bar.”
With any unique menu design, the downside is often that patrons will pilfer the menus. “Do patrons steal them? Well, we’ve lost a few,” Perales muses. “They’re really beautiful and unique, so from time to time, one is going to go out the door. But it just becomes mobile marketing, right?!”