Vodka’s VIP Treatment
Vodka always has been nightclubs' stock standard choice for bottle-service spirits. Although sales fell ever-so-slightly when the recession hit, the clear liquor is back with a vengeance, dominating club tabletops once again.
“Vodka isn’t going anywhere,” says Sebastien Lefavre, general manager of GoldBar in New York City. “Other liquors and Champagne are down, almost across the board, but vodka is easy to share, and it quickly ends the tableside debate about what everyone’s willing to drink for the duration of the night.”
Lefavre attributes 75 to 80% of all of GoldBar’s table-service sales to vodka, and he believes the rationale to be — ironically — partially based on the recession. “Even when people weren’t going out as much, or spending as hard, the sale of vodka didn’t dip as much because it’s always been an effective bottle to buy.”
The math shakes out so that clients are getting about 16 drinks per bottle, given a 2-ounce pour per drink. “With Champagne, you’re not getting the same bang for your buck. You’ll only get five glasses with a bottle of bubbly; everyone has fewer drinks.” (Of course, the upside of that problem is that clients sometimes end up buying more pricey bottles of Champagne.)
“But the profit margins are lower with Champagne than vodka, or even any other liquor. We’re buying that high-end Champagne at up to $100 per bottle before we sell it to you. The vodka costs us significantly less,” explains Lefavre.
With a lower expenditure to secure bottles of vodka and retail points for top-selling brands hovering around $350 for a bottle of Svedka or $425 for a bottle of Belvedere, clubs such as GoldBar stand to rake in the cash much quicker by pushing those.
Another part of vodka’s appeal lies in the mixability.
“You can pair vodka with nearly anything,” Lefavre says. “And to set up a mixer kit only costs us about $14, so it’s cheap on our end, even with an upscale presentation.”
This means unlimited carafes of orange juice and cranberry juice, bottles of tonic and soda water will keep coming to the client’s table so long as there’s vodka left in the bottle.
“Energy drinks are an upcharge, but we’ll include everything else you’ll need,” he says.
For nightclubs and lounges offering bottle service, the bottom line is, “Vodka isn’t ever going to be a hard sell. You never have to do any special pushes to get a client to agree to it,” Lefavre says. “With a two-bottle minimum spend, as we have in place, it’ll almost automatically come into play sometime during the night. One of those bottles will be vodka.”