Early January is traditionally a slow period for bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The holiday parties end, the New Year’s resolutions call for less drinking and partying, and customers look to pay off all the presents they bought.
Now is a good time for operators to assess what they are doing, enhance what’s working, and change what isn’t.
Double Down on What’s Working
And stop stockpiling what isn’t selling. Your year-end inventory should tell you what sells and what doesn’t. If you are a good record keeper, you can look at the end of 2015 to see how things have changed. If vodka has slowed, consider reducing the SKUs you carry. Domestic premium beer continues to take a hit? Drop one of those cooler spots or draft lines for something else. Should you see that your wine sales are getting bigger, consider adding another of the popular type of varietal or region at a slightly higher price point.
Forget about the deals that make buying cases of product attractive: if you can’t sell it through, it’s a loss no matter how little you paid.
Freshen Your Menu
Whether through a physical redesign, a rethink of beverages featured, or a wholesale renovation, assessing the impact of your physical menu is important. After all, it’s the one sales tool that’s always on the floor. Lead with the new, follow with your strengths, and spend the time needed to enhance the special qualities of every beverage listed. With cocktails, share a brief story; with wines, what’s interesting about them; with beer, create food pairings that can increase check averages. Any new product should get a highlight via insert or table cards; any new drink should be featured and perhaps discounted as a way to create awareness.
There are endless ways to use menus to guide customers where you want them to go. With staffs so tight these days, not using your menu as a sales tool is more than a mistake, it’s a guaranteed money loser.
Enhance Your Staff
Your servers are your surrogates on the floor. If they don’t sell, you don’t succeed. It’s an operator’s responsibility to provide them with the maximum number of tools possible so that both you and they can make money. Suppliers are always willing to provide training sessions, but servers are often not able to come in on off days or off hours for them. Bearing that in mind, come up with your own staff training program if necessary. Pre-shift sessions have long been relied upon to highlight new dishes and beverages, so expanding from once or twice a week to daily can give inexperienced young servers the confidence and motivation they need. Consider sales competitions; the prizes needn’t be major, but everyone likes the chance for their hard work to be noticed and rewarded.
Train your employees, reward them, support them, and it’s likely your income will grow.