What percent of general dine-in sales should be generated by alcohol?

Q: In a single-unit Italian restaurant in a college town with 15,000 students and 15,000 locals, what percent of general dine-in sales should be generated by alcohol?

A: It depends on several factors. Which crowd are you targeting, the college students or non-college students? Is it a big menu or small menu? Do you offer wine only or a full bar with a lot of signature drinks and the ability to make almost anything? Or, is your bar limited in its spirits offerings?

Assuming a fairly robust menu, a good wine list and a full bar, with reasonable profitability, 20 percent to 25 percent adult beverage mix should be achievable.

– David Commer, president, Commer Beverage Consulting

A: There are a few factors to take into account when evaluating food to alcohol mix of sales. The ratio of lunch to dinner sales is important because most times lunch sales have a very low alcohol mix and dinner sales have a much higher mix. Another factor to investigate is the ratio of bar sales to dining room sales. If the restaurant has no bar or a very small one, the alcohol mix is probably going to be lower. It’s common for Italian restaurants to have a higher alcohol mix because they normally serve more wine, which has a higher check average then beer. I would estimate that the alcohol mix for the restaurant you've described is 12 percent to 15 percent of total dine-in sales.

– Dave Pennachatti, founder and president, Wine Guru Services LLC