Do's and Don'ts for the New Year

Mon Komo Hotel 

January provides a breather for most bar and restaurant operators to take a look at how things are going. Here are 3 do's and 3 don'ts on approaching your beverage programs. 


1. Out with the old. Take an honest look at your year-end data. This time of year business tends slow, and with fresh information on how things have gone, now’s the time to make some changes. Check to see what beverages are popular and what is lingering on your back bar - if you only sell two bottles of pineapple flavored vodka a year and you’ve got a case in your store room, create a drink and discount it like crazy. Dollars trapped in inventory are always bad - move them as rapidly as you can.

2. In with the new. Was 2014 the year you finally started moving more American whiskey, not only Jack and Jim but some of the other brands on your back bar? Has the cider you added taken off? Are sparkling wines from Spain and Italy getting ordered more often during brunch? These are signs that your customers are voting for new items with their wallets, and it may be time to expand what you stock in those newly popular categories.

3. Hold on to what you’ve got. Change is good but not for change’s sake. But you must be able to justify every item you carry, even the few you stock just for show or for that favorite customer who returns time after time with the same order. An open-minded analysis of your beverage business may tell you all is well; if you, stay the course.


1. Don’t fall for deals. The explosion of new beer, wine and spirit brands has made deciding what you need to stock a constant process, but before you add a single new product to the mix, the most important question to ask yourself is, “Why would my customers order this?”. It’s called a selling proposition, meaning if a new item doesn’t offer something consumers already want, you won’t likely be able to sell it to them, and you’ll be left with a storage room filled with dead inventory. Discounts, deals and bargains from suppliers make sense as a reward for the good work you’ve done selling their products, but unproven products are risky, and will put some of your capital on the sidelines.

2. Don’t follow novelty. Two or three years ago, white whiskey was all the rage, in cocktail bars and among whiskey lovers. But now that the novelty has worn off, it turns out that the appeal is quite limited to the average customer. This is an often told story about trends, and how they can fall flat very quickly. If you’re known for your often-changing wine menu, then rotating unusual varietals and regions in and out makes perfect sense, but for a whiskey bar with only 10 or so percent of beverage sales coming from wine, sticking with the most popular styles is probably smarter.

3. If it’s not broke, break it. Albert Einstein said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of crazy. If that’s the case, then there are a lot of insane bar and restaurant operators. At some operations, a pour cost well above 20 percent (the general industry standard) would be acceptable - for instance, at a fine dining, wine-focused restaurant. But if your pour cost is higher, or if the amount beverages contribute to the bottom line is less than average for your format, then it’s time to do something different, no matter how well you think things are working now.