How to maximise your drink sales: alcohol

Service, value and 'easy wins' are the secret to boosting alcohol sales

More and more alcohol is being consumed at home, so whether you run a hotel, restaurant or bar you need to make sure you maximise your wine, beer and spirit sales to boost profit.

With beer, the bedrock of the pub and bar industry, in decline it’s never been more important to have a wide range of alcoholic drinks catering to a wide range of patrons.

The 'easy win'

From whisky to rum, spirits represent a significant profit opportunity and can even reinforce the image of your bar or restaurant.

Alex Turner, head of training and mixology at Bacardi Brown-Forman, says that operators should always attempt to serve cocktails, even if they are only ever simple spirit-mixer combinations.

“We like to call them easy wins,” he says. “You can charge £3.50 for a rum and cola with a lime wedge, but call it a Cuba Libre and you can essentially double that price. Simple cocktails are a sure-fire way to increase your margin without increasing costs much. By giving a simple drink a name you can immediately add more money.”

Mark Collins, senior brand manager of Disaronno, agrees, claiming that operators need to keep up to speed with changing consumer tastes.

“With the rise of cocktail culture in the UK in the past decade all pubs and bars should offer a range that they are comfortable making.”

Collins suggests operators make sure they use point of sale and menu queues to make incremental profit, highlighting in the consumer’s mind the option for a pre-dinner drink or after meal digestif.

“There’s also a lot of evidence suggesting consumers don’t always know what they are going to order when they approach the bar, so as well as point of sale such as a chalk board displaying cocktail options for example, it’s extremely powerful to have staff make recommendations once you’ve given them the required training,” he adds.

Making sure your staff are trained to know what drinks are on offer and what they taste like, will put them in a position where they can upsell more effectively.

Sommelier not included

Nick Scade, chairman of the Academy of Food and Wine says it’s vital that waiting and bar staff not only know what wines you sell, but which ones compliment which dishes.

This is especially important if you are not able to employ a sommelier.

“If the staff don’t know what they’re talking about it’s quite obvious to customers who are more clued up these days,” he says. “Knowledgeable staff sell more wine; they are the sales team and if they don’t know what they’re selling they wont sell much.”

As more consumers are increasingly concerned about their budget, Scade suggests operators also train their staff to upsell wines by the glass pre and post-meal. This way, he says, staff can still serve diners a bottle of wine from within their budget, but make a better profit from serving a pre-dinner Champagne or dessert wine as well.

“Customers will still be happy because they feel they’ve received value for money.”

Value, value, value

Value is what every consumer is seeking these days, but with cut-price alcohol so readily available from supermarkets, a consumer’s perception of value when it comes to the pub is marred immediately.

According to a recent OnTrack survey, 50 per cent of pub-goers think on-trade drinks are too expensive.

Batemans’ joint managing director Jaclyn Bateman said she took inspiration from a trip to Sainsbury’s for her beer pricing.

“They had a lot of things marked on the shelves for £1 or £2,” she says. “Rounding up prices like that is an extremely interesting idea for pubs, especially if you’re selling bottles from an ice bucket in busy periods. It’s a good initiative.”

Value is also judged by the quality of the product being served, and the manner in which it is presented.

It’s vital then that operators ensure their beer is of the best possible quality when it reaches the consumers’ pint glass.

Gavin Carlo, customer services delivery manager for dispense experts Innserve says pub licensees should actively clean and maintain their cellar equipment on a regular basis, not only to ensure quality, but to avoid lost dispense time at the bar.

“The most common mistakes we see are around glass management, line cleaning, topping up remote coolers and maintaining cellar temperature by checking cellar temperature controls,” he says.

“If licensees could be more proactive about checking some of this small stuff they would avoid the danger of losing business on a busy Saturday night through malfunctioning equipment.”

Read more articles in this series here.

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