Tips to Sell More Drinks
A Business Owner’s Guide to Increasing Alcoholic Beverage & Beer Sales
In the U.S., 50 -70% of people report regular alcohol consumption. That’s a big opportunity if you’re a bar or restaurant owner selling alcoholic beverages. Even during economic trouble, there are ways to bring in business by selling more beer, cocktails, wine, and even non-alcoholic beverages!
Restaurants often treat alcoholic beverages as an accessory to meals, when in reality, bar drinks offer an opportunity for increased sales – at a much higher ROI than food.
Aside from rewards programs and social media promotions, which have become common tools for bars and restaurants to increase sales, we wanted to bring you new, fresh tips on how to advertise drinks and bring in more money to your business and increase your bottom line!
What you need to know to Increase Beverage Sales
Know your customers & target market
According to recent studies, young adults drink more often than older adults. Additionally, males tend to drink more than females.
Knowing who you’re attracting and serving in your establishment can help you create a strategy to increase drink sales in your restaurant. Understanding your customers’ habits allows you to train your staff on the best strategies for selling more drinks.
Know your competition
Keep in mind who your competition is. You’re not competing with every business that sells alcohol. You’re competing with businesses in your area that are attracting the same demographic.
You should know what is happening in your area to offer something unique. Your competitive advantage will make your business stand out in a crowded market.
webinar | how to Increase beverage sales
Do you want solutions and strategies to increase beverage sales in your establishment? Watch our webinar with three industry operators who share ways you can optimize your beverage program to maximize profitability!
27 Tips to Sell more Drinks
- Put an End to the “Surprise Me!” Inefficiency
- Dive Into the Non-Alcoholic Beverage Market
- Build Your Menu Around Small, Shareable Plates
- Have a Bar in the Waiting Area
- Reduce Customers’ Wait
- Add Descriptions to Drinks
- Suggestive Selling
- Increase Revenue With Kegged Cocktails
- Spruce Up Your Cocktails
- Experiment with “Sip of the Week” Beverages
- Offer Drink Promotions
- Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
- Add Outdoor Seating
- Carry Local Brews and Spirits
- Brew Your Own Beer
- Promote Your Drinks on Social
- Focus on Seasonal Offerings
- Improve Online Visibility for Tourists
- Offer Tastings for Indecisive Consumers
- Increase Usable Space (to fit more customers)
- Eliminate Pour Waste
- Invite Social Bloggers or Influencers
- Decrease Alcohol Buying Cost
- Have a Beverage Wall Ambassador (*For Your Self-Pour Wall)
- Partner with Local Businesses in Your Area
- Host Events for a Cause
- Promote Drink and Food Pairings on the Menu
1. Put an End to the “Surprise Me!” Inefficiency
We all know the consumers who come in, and when asked what drink they’d like, say, “surprise me!” This leads to inefficiency from the bartender or server because they need to think of a drink and how to charge them for that drink. Not to mention, sometimes the customers end up not liking what they get!
Stay ahead of this. Address those people who want a surprise. Add a drink to the menu called “Surprise.” Have it change on a weekly or monthly basis depending on current seasonal flavors and ingredients.
Even better, you can use this as an opportunity to test out new cocktail creations to see if they could be successful among your target market!
2. Offer Beverages Beyond Beer and Cocktails
During the pandemic, the non-alcoholic beverage market boomed. In 2021, non-alcoholic beverage sales totaled $331 million (a 33.2% increase). Studies have shown that 78% of consumers drinking these non-alcoholic beverages still drink alcohol, but they’re looking to moderate their intake.
Offering cold brew, kombucha, and soda on tap is a great place to start to meet these demands. However, you should also offer non-alcoholic beer and spirits to satisfy your sober customers. Brands like Athletic Brewing and Ghia are taking over the market. Add these to your beverage menu to meet the needs of all your customers.
3. Build Your Menu Around Small, Shareable Plates
Typically, groups split multiple smaller plates rather than just one or two entrees. Aside from leading to a higher average order value, this will encourage a “hangout” ambiance. People will stay longer, drinking more the longer they do.
4. Have a Bar in the Waiting Area
If your establishment’s layout allows, have a bar in the waiting area. This can completely change your guest’s experience; starting the night with a drink makes the wait more pleasant for your guests.
This is especially helpful during busy times when the abandonment rate of guests (post-check-in) is at its peak due to customers getting discouraged after hearing the estimated wait time.
If there’s a bar in the waiting area where staff members suggest customers grab a drink while they wait, you’ve got yourself a win-win.
5. Reduce Customers’ Wait for Servers/at the Bar
How often have you decided not to order a beverage after seeing crowded bars, long lines, or busy servers? As an experienced operator, you know this is the biggest killer of beverage sales. Don’t let this happen to your business!
Schedule more staff at the busiest peak. Although this might appear to cost more upfront, better service can lead to more sales, more satisfied customers, and more return visits.
Let customers pour their drinks. New technology, such as self-pour walls, can largely impact the customer experience. Besides reducing the wait time for drinks, it also adds a unique twist to your restaurant, drives more foot traffic, and differentiates you from competitors. Self-serve walls also allow customers to sample drinks (paid for by the ounce), which leads to higher consumption levels.
The beverage wall does particularly well due to the rise of craft beer. Craft beer fans love having the ability to try all beers in smaller quantities before committing to a full pour!
6. Provide Detailed information on ALL drink options
It can be very frustrating when a customer looks at a drink menu or draft list, and all they see is the drink’s title and no description. Educate your customers on the beverages you offer. Transparency is something today’s consumers expect from businesses.
Within the craft beer world, Untappd is a platform that makes transparency easy for restaurant and bar owners. Untappd is an application that allows users to rate specific beers they’ve tried and leave personal testimonials and reviews for each brew. Leveraging this user data is a smart way to increase your beer sales.
7. Encourage (Helpful) Suggestive Selling
Interestingly enough, many people still don’t like to make decisions in a world that revolves around decision-making. Making decisions causes people to feel uneasy – especially when there are many options on the menu. When presented with something specific, the decision is easier for consumers.
One way to upsell is to offer products that guests can take home, like growlers. A growler is a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel jug used to transport beer. They are commonly sold at breweries to sell take-out craft beer. The growler jug is a novelty piece and can be sent home with a customer. Even better, growlers are reusable, so they reduce bottle and can production.
Suggestive Selling For Drinks
- Server’s influence: Your servers should notice if a customer looks at a drink menu. If they do, have the server walk over and recommend popular drinks, brews, or their personal favorites to help the customer narrow their search.
- “Suggested drink pairings”: Add a section under each food dish to steer the customer in the right direction.
- Suggest a refill: Train your staff to suggest a refill once the guest finishes their beverage and mention the specific drink they ordered previously rather than just “another drink.” This will impress guests and make them much more likely to say yes.
- Have your staff offer premium liquors by default: Train your staff members to say, “Great choice! I’d recommend the [premium liquor brand]. Does that sound good to you?
PourMyBeer Tip: Have each of your bartenders create a signature cocktail. This will make them more likely to suggest their creations to the guests.
8. Increase Revenue With Kegged Cocktails
Draft cocktails will benefit your business in many ways. First, bartenders will save time as they no longer need to spend several minutes creating an elaborate cocktail. There is no shortage of cocktails that you can make in a keg, so get creative! We’ve seen everything from Espresso Martinis, Mojitos, and Margaritas to Mai Tais and more on tap! Second, you will provide a consistent product to customers. The first cocktail (will taste) tastes the same as the fourth or tenth cocktail poured.
When it comes to kegged cocktails, you have two options: you can make the cocktails in-house or purchase them from a distributor. Making cocktails in-house provides more leeway to use fresh ingredients and tweak the recipes to your needs while allowing you to control costs. If purchasing from a distributor, make sure they will adjust the recipe as needed so you don’t offer the same drink as several other bars in your area.
9. Spruce up your cocktails – or at least their names!
People like things that they can relate to. Spend time researching your target market’s favorite TV shows and movies and create a few drinks inspired by the main characters. Seeing customers’ happy faces can help spread positive word of mouth. People also love to share things like this on social media, which leads to free exposure for your business. Get creative with drink names to get people to talk, laugh and share.
10. Experiment with “Staff Pick” or “Sip of the Week” Beverages
Create weekly cocktails or drinks for guests to try. Since these will only be on the menu for a week, you can play around with more unique ingredients and get guests to try things they may never have tried before!
You can promote these on social media with graphics and get your customer base excited to come in and try these! Craft Food Hall, a PourMyBeer location in Massachusetts, has seen a rise in social media engagement since implementing its “Sip of the Week” offering!
PourMyBeer TIP: Create a fun visual element at your location that tells your customers what the “Sip of the Week” is. This will further drive customer interest and help increase sales!
11. Offer Drink Promotions
Yes, Happy Hours can drive higher drink sales. If your establishment is located in a busy commercial area where people tend to go after work, you should become the go-to spot. Offer an experience and ambiance that consumers want to experience. Offer prices that entice even those “ah- I would, but I’m broke” friends.
If all the bars around you close relatively early, make your place known as the spot that stays open late and offers late-night promotions to bring in additional profits!
PourMyBeer TIP: Upgrade your Happy Hour. Tweak your Happy Hour into a Happy Week/Month. You can even ask your customers to bring in friends & give them a discount depending on the foot traffic they bring in.
12. Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
Another way to increase sales is by enticing your guests to stay at your establishment even after they’re done eating. Create a cozy and relaxing atmosphere where guests don’t feel they need to leave right when they finish eating.
If your establishment’s layout allows, try adding a lounge with lower light and comfortable armchairs around the bar area to encourage people to hang out and socialize.
You want customers to feel relaxed and that your bar or restaurant’s environment encourages the shift from dining to drinking. (Your staff’s suggestions can certainly help with this too!)
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13. Add Outdoor Seating
It’s common for guests to want to sit outside when possible. This is especially true during the warmer months of the year.
Your outdoor seating area should accommodate large groups and unique consumer groups such as dog owners or (in some states) smokers. Outdoor seating areas can even create more of a social scene for guests. This will encourage your guests to interact and stay longer, ultimately increasing sales!
14. Carry Local Brews & Spirits
If you’ve been paying attention, you know the demand for local everything (food, beverages, etc.) is growing. Bring local brews and spirits to your menu. Have your staff recommend them to guests to appeal to the local market. Learn more about creating a kick a** restaurant beer list here!
Also, consider hosting “Tap Takeovers” once every 1-2 months with local and national breweries in your area to host fun events where they take over your taps and space. You can generate buzz online by promoting the event on your social media and website. These events will develop your relationships with distributors, and you’ll make money while hosting them! Customers love these types of events because they get to socialize with each other, try new drinks, and even get some free merch!
15. Brew Your Own Beer
16. Promote your drinks on social media
Choose platforms that make the most sense for your establishment (we recommend Instagram as it is not only a popular and growing platform but also highly visual), and start sharing exciting new drinks. Post your drink menu on Facebook and Yelp so users always have the most up-to-date information.
Even better, make it fun and visually appealing. Experiment with slow or fast-motion videos, GIFs, reels, stories, etc. Create niche hashtags that allow your customers to find you online.
17. Focus on Seasonal Offerings
Aside from the local food trend, consumers are also drawn to beverage menus that focus on seasonal ingredients because they come across as “fresh.” In the summer, you may push citrusy beverages, while in the fall and winter, you may focus on cozier ingredients such as cinnamon or cider.
The fact that these drinks are temporary encourages consumers to “try it before it’s gone.”
18. Improve Online Visibility for Tourists
Make sure that tourists can easily find you as one of the top results on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Many tourists rely solely on online reviews when looking for a place to eat or drink, especially when in a new city.
Partner with local hotels and AirBnBs and give them your printed menu and specials to share with their guests. You could even include promotional cards for guests to redeem in the restaurant.
19. Offer Tastings for Indecisive Consumers
It’s better to have the customer order something they love rather than something they don’t like, or worse, not order anything because they can’t commit. Who knows – if they like it enough, they may order a second one!
PourMyBeer TIP: This is where self-pour tech works well & significantly helps decrease the waste of kegs. (Compared to an average traditional bar with 23% of waste, self-pour can get the number down to as little as 1%.)
20. Increase usable space (to fit in more customers)
More seats and space means more guests can fit in, which means more drinks can be ordered and consumed. Obviously, due to your business space limitation, it’s not always possible to add more space or more seats, but there are a couple of things that can help increase usable space within your establishment.
- Furniture – If your armchairs take up too much space on the side and are not easily movable, you might want to replace them with comfortable benches or sofas where more people can fit in.
- Bar Area – Your bar area is the space that usually takes up a lot of space inside. If replaced by a self-serve beverage wall, as much as 10% of usable space can be saved and utilized to increase the number of tables and chairs for customers.
21. Eliminate Pour waste
There are many reasons alcohol waste happens in bars and restaurants, from bartenders offering a little extra to their friends and receiving a higher tip to a bartender not being willing to wait for the beer head to decrease.
Hold your staff accountable. Traditional bars deal with a beverage waste of 20-25% due to spillage, free samples, and theft. In other words, you’re paying for every fourth keg of beer without bringing back any profits.
Check out this post to learn more about the average pour costs of beer, wine, and liquor.
22. Invite Social Bloggers or Influencers
Research bloggers and influencers who influence your target market. Then invite these influencers to dine at your restaurant – no strings attached. Don’t hound them for a review. Give them a great experience!
They will be more likely to post about your business on their social channels, getting you in front of hundreds of relevant target consumers for just the cost of a meal.
23. Decrease Alcohol Buying Cost
Money saved on purchases helps to make a higher profit from your beverage sales. Therefore, research the most economical options and shop in bulk. Ideally, you want to work with more than just one vendor so you can negotiate the price with them.
Speaking of vendors, you can entice them with prime menu placements. One great way to get lower pricing for certain products is to list them in prominent places on your menu. For example, you could use your menu to leverage your wine-by-the-glass list. A place on this list is prime real estate for a brand. You could use this exposure to negotiate better case pricing.
Another way to lower alcohol buying costs is to get rid of extra invoice fees. Many costs are hidden in the added fees section of an invoice. One is a split case fee. This is an additional charge that distributors and vendors add when a retailer orders a partial case, and the vendor is required to “split” the full case into smaller allotments for the retailer. Combat these fees by identifying the par level for each item. A par level is the minimum quantity of an item on hand at a given time to satisfy the expected demand for that item.
Next, focus on creating low-cost cocktails that value high volume over complexity. How can you do this? Create a drink that might not be the most technical or creative cocktail ever shaken, but one that people will love and will keep ordering. The industry average for pour costs of cocktails is between 20-25%. If you can create a cocktail that hits an even lower cost (say 12-15%), then you will have an 85%-88% profit margin for that drink.
24. Have a Beverage Wall Ambassador (*For Your Self-Pour Wall)
It will be beneficial for some businesses to schedule a beverage wall ambassador to be positioned at the beverage wall during peak hours. For one, a beverage wall ambassador enhances the customer experience. They will share promotions and provide recommendations to guests. As a bonus, ambassadors can explain how self-pour technology works to self-pour first-timers. This can be a memorable and pleasant experience for guests.
25. Partner with Local Businesses in Your Area
One of the best ways to draw in new customers is by partnering with other business owners. Some partnerships may seem obvious from the beginning. For example, perhaps people often stop in to grab a beer after hitting up the pizzeria next door. You can capitalize on this by offering a discount or coupon for those who do so.
Others might take more creative consideration. If you have a nearby craft shop, see if you can schedule a wine and painting night with them. Or, the people who frequent the local gym may like to cool off after a workout with a cold beer, so you can create a partnership with the gym to draw these members to your business.
Partnerships with local businesses put both of your offerings in front of more potential customers, and the possibilities for pairing your drinks up with other sales are limitless. Also, these partnerships might translate into double the customers lining up to pour their own drinks.
26. Host Events for a Cause
Some people won’t go out just to drink — they want to have something to do while they enjoy a good beer or two. If you want to grow your patron demographics, it may be time to expand your event calendar. For example, trivia nights are a classic bar event. People love to show off their pop culture knowledge while unwinding with a few friends and competing for a good prize.
You can use this opportunity to host an event that raises awareness for conditions like Down Syndrome or certain cancers. Few people will turn down an invitation to have a drink for a good cause, especially if they can get a discount for participating! In the end, you have an opportunity to turn one-time patrons into regular customers while making a difference for others.
27. Promote Drink and Food Pairings on the Menu
If your business also serves food or you’re partnering with one that does, a beer and food pairing guide can tie everything together. Try to recommend specific drinks for as many menu items as possible, encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and order what may be their new favorite drink or meal.
People are more likely to invest in a drink and meal if they see they’re meant to go together. Plus, the more they eat and spend time at your location, the more drinks they’ll have to go with it!
Ready to Drive 30% or Higher in Drink Sales?
We’ve been studying how self-serve technology increases sales in many establishment types. Self-pour tap walls reduce customer wait times, create a fun atmosphere, and increase beverage sales!
Malcolm Yards Market offers two beverage dispensing methods – a traditional bar and a self-pour beverage wall. They’ve found that their self-serve beverage wall brings in 60% of their total alcohol revenue and 75% of total pours!
Check out our case studies to see how other businesses’ beverage sales skyrocketed after switching from a traditional restaurant model to self-pour and other success stories.
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, request a hassle-free quote for your establishment now!
We would love to hear from you about which tips worked well for you! If you have additional suggestions to increase beverage sales, please share those with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If brewing beer in-house is feasible for your business, feature a “house” beer on tap, as this may help to increase your sales. The ability for restaurants to brew what they want, when they want, and how they want gives them flexibility and control to offer customers a full spectrum of house-made brews.