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, or wine.

Restaurants often treat alcoholic beverages as an accessory to meals, when in reality, bar drinks offer their very own opportunity for increased sales –  at a much higher ROI than food.

Aside from rewards programs and social media promotions, which have both become a common tool for bars and restaurants to increase their sales, we decided to bring you some fresh tips on advertising drinks to bring in more money to your business and increase your bottom line.

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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

It’s important to 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 trying to attract 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 space.

Interested in learning more about executing various beverages on tap? Check out our webinar on Executing Different Drinks on Tap, where we speak with two industry experts who share how to profitably and efficiently serve kegged cocktails, wine, cold brew, and more on tap.

Fill out this form to watch the webinar recording later!

20 Tips to Sell more Drinks

1. 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 off with a drink makes the wait more pleasant.

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.

2. Reduce Customers’ Wait for Servers/at the Bar

How often have you decided not to order due to 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!

self-pour beverage smiles

Don't Kill Your Beverage Sales!

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 have a large impact on the customer’s experience. Besides reducing the wait time for drinks, it will also add a unique twist to your restaurant, drive more foot traffic, and differentiate 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 glass of something.

3. 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 that they’ve tried and leave personal testimonials and reviews for each brew. 

Leveraging this big user data is a great way to increase your beer sales.

4. Encourage (Helpful) Suggestive Selling

In a world that revolves around decision-making, interestingly enough, many people still don’t like to make decisions. 

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.

Suggestive Selling For Drinks

  1. 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 down their search.
  2. “Suggested drink pairings”: Add a section under each of your food dishes to steer the customer in the right direction. 
  3. Suggest a refill: Train your staff to suggest a refill once the guest finishes their beverage, making sure to mention the specific drink that was ordered previously, rather than just “another drink.” This will impress guests, and they’re much more likely to say yes.
  4. 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?”
Hoppy PourMyBeer mascot

PourMyBeer Tip: Have each of your bartenders create a signature cocktail. This will make them more likely to suggest their creations to the guests.

Everything on Self-Pour Taps Image

5. 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.

Stanley Beer Hall Self-Pour Cocktails from their PourMyBeer beverage wall

6. Offer Beverages Beyond Beer and Cocktails

We’re not talking about offering a random, weird beer that 1 in 100 people will want. We’re talking about things like kombucha, matcha lattes, or cold brew.

Just because these drinks don’t have alcohol doesn’t mean they won’t turn a profit! There’s an entire half of the population that does not actively drink. Offering unique drink choices can increase the average order value of these customers’ meals.

Hoppy PourMyBeer mascot

PourMyBeer TIP: To make it more fun and further boost sales, we recommend tweaking these mixers and drinks into popular cocktails!

7.​ Build Your Menu Around Small, Shareable Plates​

Typically, groups split multiple 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.

8. 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!

9. 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, becomes 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!

Hoppy PourMyBeer mascot

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 amount of business they bring in.

10. 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 like 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 to make sure that the customers 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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11. 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!

12. 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!

Oz Tap House Beverage Wall

13. Promote your drinks on social

Choose platforms that make the most sense for your establishment (we recommend Instagram as it is not only an extremely popular and growing platform, but it is also highly visual), and start sharing exciting new drinks. Post your drink menu on Facebook so that users always have the most up-to-date information.

Even better, make it fun and visually appealing. Experiment with videos in slow or fast motion, GIFs, stories, etc. Create niche hashtags that allow your customers to easily find you online.

14. 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.”

alcohol that can be used in self pour taps

15. 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 these days rely solely on online reviews when looking for a place to eat or drink, especially when they’re in a new city.

Partner up with local hotels and AirBnBs. 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.

16. Offer Tastings for Indecisive Consumers

It’s better to have the customer order something they love, rather than having the customer drink something they don’t like, or worse, having them not order anything because they can’t commit. Who knows  if they like it enough, they may order a second one!

Hoppy PourMyBeer mascot

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%.)

17. 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 some of 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 for increasing the number of tables and chairs for customers to use.

18.  Eliminate Pour waste

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.

There are many reasons why alcohol waste happens in bars and restaurants, from bartenders offering a little extra to their friend and receiving a higher tip to a bartender not being willing to wait for the beer head to decrease.

Check out this post to learn more about the average pour costs of beer, wine, and liquor

19. 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, but rather, 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.

20. Decrease Alcohol Buying Cost

Money saved on purchase helps to make a higher profit from your beverage sales. Therefore, make sure to 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.

Ready to Drive 30% or Higher in Drink Sales?

We’ve been studying how self-serve technology increases sales in many establishments. Self-pour tap walls reduce customer wait times, create a fun atmosphere, and increase beverage sales!

Malcolm Yards Market offers two different beverage dispense 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 on which of these tips worked well for you! If you have any additional suggestions to increase beverage sales, please share those with us at cheers@pourmybeer.com!


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