Top Ways to Increase Beverage Sales at Your Bar or Restaurant

Posted by Chris Hameetman on Nov 13, 2018
7 Minute Read

Your customers consider numerous factors when deciding on the drinks they order when visiting your restaurant or bar. And while your patrons have their favorites, there is no guarantee they will stick to these favorites and are often looking for something  new.

In this article, we explore the most effective approaches to increase beverage sales and profitability at your bar or restaurant. We will begin by detailing six (6) proven tactics to increase your customer base while simultaneously accelerating your beverage sales volume.

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1. Teach Your Team to Upsell

When patrons come into your bar, they invariably arrive with the intention of ordering at least a few drinks. This is your baseline. To achieve better-operating results than your baseline, your staff must become adept at upselling to these guests. Helping your team understand how to properly recommend drinks that are similar, yet more premium and expensive, will increase your beverage margins significantly. If your team is not properly educated on what or how to upsell, you must create and then implement consistent training policies and procedures to teach them exactly how to get your customer excited and interested in trying specials and other higher margin drinks.

 

2. Craft an Effective Social Media Promotion

Social media promotion for local patrons can be surprisingly effective and will boost your beverage sales on any given day. However, your promotion must be designed in a way that creates a sense of urgency and thus will draw a patron to your establishment right away. If your promotion does not have this sense of urgency, you are unlikely to get results nearly as impactful as those you desire, as people will forget about your promotion just as soon as another, more immediate, promotion grabs their attention.

 

3. Slow Down the Tempo on Slow Days

Everyone has busy days and slow days. On your slow days, you can create an atmosphere where people are more relaxed, and you can do so by playing slower tempo music at your restaurant or bar as well as training your waitstaff to embrace a more mellow service-style. When the environment is relaxing, people will take their time to recharge and become more mellow themselves, which will often contribute to longer stays and more beverage sales per ticket.

 

4. Limited-Time Offers Drive Sales

Limited-time offers are a great way to get people to pull out their wallets. If people already like, or have been wanting to try, a certain drink, but they know it is not going to be available in the future, they are far more likely to try or buy another of that drink during that visit.

 

5. Session Cocktails Increase Overall Sales

Many patrons visiting your bar or restaurant do not have the primary objective of getting as drunk as quickly and efficiently as possible. Moreover, some will come as a friend to another patron and will want to moderate their alcohol consumption, yet still desire the ability to enjoy a fun and delicious cocktail.  Session cocktails, which have become immensely popular from New York to San Francisco over the last few years, is a perfect method to increase drink sales to all categories of your patrons.  Session cocktails are most often defined as low proof cocktails, generally around 20% ABV (40 Proof), that allows for amazing mixology to be offered while providing more acceptable options to your more conservative guests.   

 

6. Seasonal Drinks are Always in Season

There are plenty of holidays and seasons throughout the year that provides the perfect excuse to offer seasonal drinks. Whether it is a festive Thanksgiving-themed cocktail or a romantic St. Valentine’s Day drink, you can craft some compelling offerings that will excite people into spending a few extra dollars to put them in the holiday mood. And seasonal drinks should not be limited to holiday selections. You may want to serve special drinks for each of summer, winter, spring, and fall, for example. Creativity is key to building excitement around your drink menu.

 

Making Sure Your Bar Is Turning a Profit Daily

Using some or all of the above techniques to increase your restaurant’s or bar’s beverage sales is a great way to increase overall profitability. Yet besides increasing beverage sales, there are other areas to consider when you are working towards optimizing your establishment’s fiscal health. Your sales are important, but if you are not making an above-average profit on the drinks you are selling, your numbers are not going to turn out as robust as they could have come year-end.

 

What Is Your Pour Cost?

Pour cost is calculated by adding up your total cost of inventory used and dividing it by the revenue generated by that same inventory sold.  So, for example, if you purchased $5,000 of inventory (liquor and ingredients) and after depleting all of such inventory (in the form of drinks and cocktails to your customers plus any waste, free drinks, theft, and breakage) for $20,000, your pour cost would be 25%.

Once you know your true cost of utilizing and converting your drink ingredients into sales, you can calculate and forecast how much money your operations and procedures are generating in profits. From this point on, your goal is to lower your pour cost so as to increase your profits on each beverage sale.

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How To Reduce Pour Cost?

Knowing you need to lower your pour cost is not enough. You must know the levers to pull to make these reductions occur while maintaining a top-notch establishment.

 

Going local with product inventory and selection is one of the easiest ways to reduce your liquor component cost. The good news is that your patrons also love small-batch, locally sourced products. Look for a local brewery or distiller that is seeking greater exposure, or source your own seasonal fruits for garnishes and mixers from local farmers, all of which can dramatically reduce pour cost with effective negotiation.  Moreover, although not always apparent, you can often avoid the shipping and delivery costs that are loaded into food and beverage sales prices when you purchase them from your distributors.

Conversely, you can also optimize your relationship with your distributors by leveraging any special information they may have. When you want to save money on such purchases, ask if your distributor has any new wines or spirits offering promotional prices or free cases to try. Most fledgling brands will gladly discount their pricing to get their product on your shelf and are willing to make any deal to prove themselves and obtain greater visibility to build brand recognition and demand.

Moreover, you must train your staff to strictly adhere to your cocktail recipes to ensure they are not overusing ingredients for your cocktails. Even small extras or overpours on drinks add up to significant loss of revenue and increased pour costs.

Finally, as we head into a new technological age, more and more bars and restaurants are adopting automation with the goal of dramatically lowering pour costs through accurate pour volumes, drink service accounting, and increase staff efficiency.  With automation provided by robotic bartending, you can achieve a significantly greater volume of drinks served in less time with minimal waste and lower overall labor costs.

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Work & Rework Your Menu

Beyond training your staff to be knowledgeable as to your drink menu, you must constantly review and analyze the selections offered so your patrons get exactly what they want, ensuring their return time and time again. And there are even technical details to understand, such as the fact that zeros and dollar signs on a menu cause people to spend less money. Zeros make your drinks appear more expensive, and the “$” reminds your customer that he or she is spending their hard-earned money. Making sure your menu is working for you - and not against you - is a key factor in making your establishment thrive.

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