Keeping on top of spirit trends and matching them to a large consumer base takes focus. Hard Rock Cafe, the international chain taking home the VIBE Vista Award this year for best spirits program, last year amped up spirit sales by streamlining their menu to a select list of offerings, rolling out the new menu in a targeted and strategic way, creating excitement through limited time features and staying true to the brand by offering “Premium Beverage Experiences that Rock.”
As a result, 2014 was a banner year and Hard Rock met their one percent growth goal and as of Nov 2014, their spirit, beer and wines sales were on pace to be up approximately 11 percent, close to $10 million.
Spirits alone were up 14 percent, and to get there, Hard Rock managers teamed up with their internal Bar Counsel, comprised of key bar managers and bartenders as well as with key spirit partners, to create and launch the new, streamlined beverage menu, then displayed in a custom designed menu holder, which lives at the bar and on table tops.
Reengineered sections included: “Get Your Fruit On,” fruity vacation cocktails; “Comfortable Rum,” a collection of old standbys and new creations centered around rum and fresh ingredients; rum is a major sales driver for Hard Rock.; and “Margarita Madness,” streamlined from six to four versions made with Hard Rock’s housemade fresh lemon and lime mix, with the newest addition, the Air Mexico Flight – a box served with the guests choice of three flavored Avion Tequila mini margaritas and a personal size portion of chips & salsa.
Execs also learned that Hard Rock guests love multi-spirit cocktails, so a section includes several Long Island Iced Tea-inspired concoctions. Other drink groupings included “Luscious Lemonades and Sassy Sours,” “Mojito Mojo,” and “Twisted Shakes.”
To train the changes, Hard Rock set up regional and corporate training at each location, accompanied by step-by-step instructions and detailed drink recipes. An annual Beverage Specifications Guide has been created to provide managers, servers and bartenders with information about Hard Rock Cafe’s beer, wine and spirits offerings. In addition, each location’s bar is equipped with a comprehensive full-color drink rolodex that is updated regularly. The rolodex is available behind the bar as well as within the point-of-sale system for quick reference. Additionally, staff members are equipped with step-by- step bar training videos designed to teach and reinforce Hard Rock’s proper drink making techniques and steps of service.
Bolstered by seasonal promotions, including June’s “Flavors of Summer,” autumn’s “PINKTOBER: Hard Rock’s Annual Breast Cancer promotion, and “Winter Winders,” the holiday feature for 2014 that focuses on capitalizing on the popularity of all things pumpkin and the unique press vessel drinks, the changeover yielded big results.
Editor’s Note: Think your beverage program is top-notch? Enter the 2016 VIBE Vista Awards today! http://www.vibeconference.com/awards