Hotel bars must address unique challenges, not the least of which being the incredible range of creative drink competitors now found in nearly every city. To highlight their new and more current drink program and to insure that guests understood that change, Interstate Hotels & Resorts developed their VIBE Vista Award winning “Pick Your Poison” beverage menu.
The objectives including providing individual hotels with a powerful cocktail menu that engage guests who dined in the hotel lobby bars and restaurants; increasing beverage sales with the captive lounge and restaurant audience through the use of upscale custom menus and beverage programming; and increasing overall guest check averages by marketing premium branded beverages.
To achieve these goals, the hotel chain needed to create an exciting and innovative menu that bartenders and servers were excited to share with guests. Inspired by the speakeasy bar trend, as well as the dive bar, the “Pick Your Poison” menu features original cocktails, many with a twist on traditional recipes, while at the same time new and familiar ones as well.
The menu itself is organized by spirit type, denoted with a tab system. In each spirit section a variety of cocktails are featured. In an unusual move, each section lists a cocktail with a “Quick Response” tag which allows guests to access more information about that cocktail and how to make it at home. When guests click the QR tag on the bourbon page they are taken, by their smart phone, to www.qrcocktail.com where they can view the drink photo, recipe and suggestions on making / serving this cocktail.
In addition, the menu takes a step toward “do it yourself” cocktails created for each guest’s taste profile, and lists bar etiquette suggestions, tongue in cheek hints at proper bar behavior, like “Please do not annoy, torment, pester, plague, badger, heckle, irk tease, ruffle the patron next to you.” The branded drinks use super-premium spirits in most cases – the Brown Derby (Woodford Reserve Bourbon, grapefruit juice, agave nectar), Sour Mash Smash (Jack Daniel’s, Finest Call bar syrup, lemon juice and mint), and others.
Beverage programs like this are highly dependent on training and its execution, so Interstate backstopped the program’s new developments with a range of beverage specifications for spirits, beer, wine, non-alcohol, catering, pricing strategy, wine notes, garnish, bar layout and promotional calendar. The guide is updated and distributed to each hotel through Interstate’s intranet site. The proof, as usual, is in the cocktail and the program’s success at unit level, but keeping guests in the house has become harder as cocktail tourism has become a larger part of the American business person’s travel goals. But with this new effort, Interstate has stepped up the competition and given guests the confidence to order something a bit more complicated than a vodka and soda when under their roof.