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Whether you are running a restaurant or standalone cocktail bar, your goal as the owner should be creating a cocktail list that sells. As detailed below, there are several practical steps that you can take to boost the overall sales and profitability of your cocktail list.
When it comes to creating a new exotic cocktail, you have two basic choices. On one hand, you could use a base alcohol like vodka or tequila that everyone is familiar with, and then add in exotic or seasonal ingredients to help you stand out. On the other hand, you could opt for an exotic alcohol that may not be as familiar, but complement it with popular and well-known ingredients, such as cucumber, vanilla or lemon. Any guesses which approach is more effective at creating a cocktail list that sells?
In most cases, customers will be more willing to try the exotic alcohol if they recognize all the other ingredients in the cocktail. That’s especially true if they already trust the reputation of your bar or restaurant to come up with creative cocktails. This has a lot to do with human nature. People are just more inclined to trust what they know. If they only recognize one or two ingredients out of many, they just aren’t going to order as often.
If you decide to opt for a more exotic (and hence, pricier) spirit, that’s when you can start to get some serious brand support behind your new cocktail menu item. There’s nothing more appealing to a brand than providing PR and advertising support for a product that is already moving.
The great thing about this approach is that you can often get support from brands in the form of special bulk discounts. This is a win-win for both you and the spirits manufacturer. They know that they are moving product (and creating a lot of word-of-mouth buzz in the process), while you know that you are boosting your bottom line with special discounted pricing on your most expensive ingredient – the alcohol.
Getting feedback from your bartenders is about more than just making them feel special, it’s also about establishing a direct line between you and your customers. If bartenders are constantly getting requests for “spicy tequila” drinks, for example, you can bet that those bartenders will soon suggest that you add a spicy tequila drink to your cocktail list.
This is especially true if you are trying to capture a new consumer trend. By the time you read about this trend in the mainstream media, it’s already too late – your competitors are probably ahead of you in the race to appeal to consumer tastes. It can seem risky, but you need to be ahead of the trend when adding drinks to your cocktail list, and that’s why you need the support and feedback of your bartenders. They can be your guides.
In the best of all possible worlds, your most popular drink would also be your most profitable drink. That makes sense, right? Every time a customer orders that drink, you should know that you are guaranteed a profit. That’s why bars and restaurants put so much time and effort into creating a winning cocktail list. It’s not just about creating cocktails that taste good – it’s also about creating cocktails with high-margin ingredients that are relatively easy and affordable to make. The last thing that you want to happen is to have a lot of unused inventory build-up and realize that a few sales here and there of a cocktail simply are not enough to make a profit over the long run.
Of course, in creating a cocktail list that sells, you also need to understand the skill set and experience of your staff, as well as the physical limitations of your restaurant. If you don’t have room to store certain types of glassware, for example, then you shouldn’t be creating a cocktail that requires an exotic form of glassware. And if your bartenders are all relatively new to the game, you might want to limit your creative cocktails to those that can be prepared in 5 minutes or less. In the restaurant industry, that’s the average amount of time that a customer expects to wait for a cocktail to arrive at a table. If you keep all of these above tips in mind, you will be well on your way to creating a cocktail list that sells – and also one that is good for your bottom line.