For most in the restaurant business, the bar plays a disproportionately large role in overall profitability. Beverage sales in casual and tablecloth restaurants nationally average about 25% of gross revenue and account for more than 50% of average net profits. While developing a beverage program that consistently operates at that profitability level is challenging, it becomes much less daunting when you have a better idea of what makes your clientele order certain products and pass on others. Get a handle on that and you’re well on your way to success.
With that in mind, Nightclub & Bar magazine and the VIBE Conference earlier this year commissioned Mike Ginley, co-founder of Connecticut-based Next Level Marketing, to conduct a consumer-research project. Ginley interviewed more than 500 people who frequent casual restaurants and had ordered beverage alcohol on-premise within the past 30 days. What he uncovered in the study about drinking preferences has direct bearing on this subject.
It may come as a surprise, but only 29 percent of the consumers surveyed said they typically know what they’re going to drink before arriving at a bar or restaurant. That means 71 percent of consumers make up their minds after they arrive at a venue. For consumer over 40 years old, 85% reported deciding what to drink just prior to placing their order.
According to Ginley’s research, 90 percent of consumers read drink menus in a bar or restaurant and, 28 percent of them — including a third of survey participants under the age of 40 — use drink menus to decide what to order. More than 80 percent of consumers said drink prices should be listed on menus, followed closely by descriptions (68%), pictures (50%) and listings of the brand-name products used in making the drinks (40%).
On average, 27 percent of consumers said they typically order whatever drink is being featured with special promotions, while 21 percent said they’re influenced by what other people in their group are drinking.
Another significant order influencer is drink promotion within a restaurant’s food menu. Roughly 25% of consumers reported they decided to purchase a specialty drink they saw while pursuing a food menu, which dovetails perfectly with the growing trend of pairing food items with cocktails, wines and beer.
The research also looked at attitudes toward premium brands. Just less than 90 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that cocktails made with premium brands taste better than those prepared with house brands. When asked how much more they expected to pay for premium products, the consumers said on average $2.42 more for premium beer, $3.19 more for premium wine and an additional $3.20 for a branded cocktail.
Finally, according to the research, the best way to prompt guests to order new drinks is by offering small samples of them. More than half of the respondents said sampling a drink beforehand was most persuasive.
Dynamic in-house marketing is a proven means of driving incremental beverage sales. Why leave money on the table? Promote what you want guests to order and reap the rewards.