BeverageF&B Insightsfood and beverage

Optimizing Your Restaurant’s Beverage Menu

In these uncertain times, it’s important to take a good look at the numbers. Actually, in the restaurant industry, any time is a good time to look at the numbers. Restaurant benchmarks, in particular, can allow you to compare your measurements and results with others in the restaurant industry. They point out areas you can improve and where you’re knocking it out of the park. 

A good example is your beverage program. 

The Average Cost and Profit

The average pour cost ranges between 18-24%. This translates to an average bar profit margin between about 78-80%, clearly one of your best money makers. So, how do you increase alcohol sales and take advantage of this profitable venture? 

Let’s explore the possibilities. 

Check Out Your Competition

A successful beverage program requires knowing your customers and your competitors. What do your customers want, how can you make these drinks stand out, and what are your competitors serving? For those interested in seeing the world’s largest restaurant menu database, check out F&B Insights. You can also look at the menu prices closer to home and receive real-time pricing alerts when changes occur. Being able to see thousands of menus immediately enables you to make very informed pricing decisions.

The Restaurant Industry Experience

Over 20 years ago, professors at the Columbia University Business School and Stanford University set out to determine the downside of excessive choices. They found that consumers were 10 times more likely to make a purchase if they were choosing from six items instead of an overwhelming 24. Since then, our lives have only gotten more complicated and our choices greater. 

So, do your customers a favor and, in addition to your standard, popular beverages, offer them six incredible options they’ll remember long after taking the last sip. The trick is to give your guests something they can’t get anywhere else or produce for themselves. Today’s customers are, after all, looking for an experience

For example, the Old Fashioned has made a comeback. Of course, many people can make these popular drinks. Yours, however, needs to stand out. Consider the bitters, the ice, the sugar cube, and the glass, and look for ingredients and craft products that aren’t found on grocery store shelves. For instance, at the well-known Reviver cocktail bar in Chicago, their Walnut Old Fashioned consists of Bulleit Bourbon, walnut and orange bitters, and simple syrup. They also offer five classic cocktails, two seasonal cocktails, and a substantial beer and wine selection. Don’t hesitate to ask your sales rep for suggestions—they’re out on the street and in your competitors’ establishments every day. 

Put On a Show

The New York Times recently reported on several restaurants throwing cocktails. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s definitely good for headlines. “Throwing” a drink refers to drinks repeatedly streaming from one vessel to another, with several feet between the two. It’s said to aerate the drink, resulting in a lighter texture and a more aromatic drink. It also looks quite impressive. For those looking to live on the edge, some establishments are choosing to throw flaming hot toddies. Check your insurance coverage before embarking on this strategy. 

The Zero-Proof Cocktail

Zero-proof cocktails, also known as mocktails, are still growing in demand. These non-alcoholic drinks have come a long way since cranberry juice and sparkling water. They use quality ingredients and premium products, and including these drinks in your beverage program can definitely boost sales and profits. Like other items on your menu, it’s important to list the ingredients, give them unique names, and create a guest experience.

Generally speaking, spirits offer a higher profit margin than beers, and beers come in with higher profit margins than wines. However, like everything else on your menu, you’ll need to calculate the pour costs, mixers, ingredients, and garnishes. You can reduce costs by going local and checking with your distributor regarding new wines or spirits that may offer promotional prices. 


Is a restaurant’s beverage program important?

Restaurants that prioritize their beverage program can turn beverages from 25-30% of their overall sales to 40-50%. That’s fairly significant. When you also consider that food costs are generally much higher than liquor costs, the scale tips in strong favor of developing a solid beverage program.

What are the keys to a successful beverage program?

While almost every beverage consultant will highlight different aspects of your menu, aesthetics, and general ambiance, most will agree that it comes down to knowing your customers and giving them an experience. On your end, cost thoroughly and price reasonably to ensure you’re making a profit and your clients trust your good judgment. One of the most essential tools in your beverage bag is your sales rep, who is an invaluable resource. 


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