Business Owner’s Guide
to Increasing Alcoholic Beverage Sales
to Increasing Alcoholic Beverage Sales
50-70% of people in the U.S. report regular consumption of alcohol. That’s a big opportunity if you’re a bar or restaurant owner that sells alcoholic beverages.
Oftentimes, restaurants 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 reward programs and social media promotions, which have both become such a common tool for bars and restaurants to increase their sales, we decided to bring you some fresh tips on what you can do to bring more $ to your business to increase your bottom line.
What You Need to Know to Increase Beverage Sales
Know your customers and 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 for increasing drink sales in your restaurant. Knowing your customers habits allow 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 really 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 consumer group as you are.
Therefore, you should know what is happening in your area to offer something unique that will make your business stand out in a crowded market space.
20 Tips to Sell More Drinks
- Have a Bar in the Waiting Area
- Reduce Customers’ Wait
- Add descriptions to drinks
- Suggestive Selling
- Spruce up your cocktails
- Offer Beverages Beyond Beer and Cocktails
- Build Your Menu Around Small, Shareable Plates
- Put an End to “Surprise Me!” Inefficiency
- Offer Drink Promotions
- Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
- Add Outdoor Seating
- Carry Local Brews & Spirits
- Promote your drinks on social
- Focus on Seasonal Offerings
- Improve Online Visibility for Tourists
- Offer Tastings for Indecisive Consumers
- Increase Usable Space (to fit in more customers)
- Eliminate Pour Waste
- Invite Social Bloggers or Influencers
- Decrease Alcohol Buying Cost
1. Have a Bar in the Waiting Area
If your establishment’s layout allows it, 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 abandonment rate post checks-in is at its peak due to customers getting discouraged by hearing the estimated wait time.
If there is a bar in the waiting area, where your friendly staff member can suggest customers grab a drink while they are waiting for the table, you’ve got yourself a win-win.
2. Reduce Customers’ Wait for Servers or at the Bar
How many times have you decided not to order because the bar was too crowded, the line was too long, or your server was too busy that you weren’t able to get their attention?
These are the biggest beverage sale-killers.
Don’t let this happen to your business!
Don’t kill your beverage sales
Schedule more staff at the busiest peak
Although this might appear to cost more up front… better service can lead to more sales, more satisfied customers, and more return visits
Let customers to get their own drinks.
New technology such as self-pour drink walls can have a huge impact on customer experience.
Besides reducing the wait time for drinks, it will also add a unique twist to your restaurant, driving more foot traffic and differentiating you from competitors.
Self-serve walls also allow customers to sample drinks (which they pay for by the ounce), which can higher consumption.
The beverage wall does particularly well due to the rise of craft beer consumption. Craft beer fans love having the ability to try all beers in smaller quantity before committing to a full glass of something.
3. Provide Detailed information on ALL drink options
It can be very frustrating when a customer is looking at a drink menu or draft list, and all they see is the drink’s title with no description.
Educate your customers on the beverages you are offering. Transparency is something today’s consumers expect from businesses.
In the craft beer world, there is a platform that makes transparency extremely easy for restaurant & bar owners – Untappd.
Untappd is an application that allows users to rate specific beers that they’ve tried and leave personal testimonials & 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, many people still don’t like to make decisions.
Making decisions makes people feel uneasy- especially when there are a great number of options that the menu presents them with. When presented with something specific, the decision is much easier for them.
Suggestive Selling for Drinks:
- Server’s Influence: Your servers should notice if a customer is looking at a drink menu. If they are, have the server walk over and recommend popular drinks, brews or their favorites to help the customer narrow down the search.
- Add “suggested drink pairings” to your food dishes directly on your menu
- Suggest a refill: Train your staff suggest a refill, making sure to mention the specific drink that was ordered previously rather than “another drink”. Guests will be impressed, and much more likely to say “yes”
- Have your staff offer premium liquors by default: “Great choice! I’d recommend _[premium liquor brand]_, does that sound good?”
TIP: Have each of your bartenders create their signature cocktail. It will make them more likely to suggest their own creating to the guests when they are hesitant of what to order. It also makes the bartenders more excited about those drinks, adding an extra spark of enthusiasm, which results in an easier sale.
It also brings a bit of competitiveness to your business and helps with supporting drinks being rang in to your till properly (rather than “accidentally” forgetting doing so). Besides, creating one’s own drink is so much fun!
5. Spruce up your cocktails – or at least their names!
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the store and, as a big fan of Game of Thrones, I found myself buying a bottle of Whiskey simply because it was GOT themed. To put this in perspective, I am not a whiskey drinker.
It is simple. People like things that they can relate to.
Spend some time researching what your target market’s favorite TV shows and movies are and create a few drinks inspired by the main characters.
Besides seeing happy and entertained customers’ faces, this can be helpful in spreading the valuable word of mouth reviews & recommendations. People also love to share entertaining things like this on social media; which can lead to great & free exposure for your business.
Get creative with drink names in order to get people to talk, laugh and share.
6. Offer Beverages Beyond Beer and Cocktails
We’re not talking about some random weird beer that one in 100 people will want. We’re talking about things like Kombucha, Matcha lattes or cold brew.
Just because they don’t have alcohol, doesn’t mean they won’t turn a profit! There’s still an entire half of the population that does not actively drink. Offering unique drink choices can increase the average order value of these customer’s meals.
TIP: To make it more fun and further boost sales, we recommend tweaking these misters popular into cocktails!
7. Build Your Menu Around Small, Shareable Plates
Snacks and small plates are shareable. Groups will split multiple plates, rather than one or two entrees. Aside from leading to a higher average order value, this will encourage more of a “hangout” ambience. People will stay longer— drinking more the longer they stay.
8. Put an End to “Surprise Me!” Inefficiency
We all know the consumers that come in and when asked what drink they’d like, they say “surprise me!” This leads to inefficiency from the bartender or server needing to think of a drink, to know how to charge them for that drink, not to mention sometimes the customers end up not liking what they get!
Get in front of this. Address those people that want a surprise.
Add a drink to the menu called “Surprise.” Have it change on a weekly or monthly basis based on what combinations make sense for the price.
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 more drink sales.
If your establishment is located in the busy commercial area where people tend to go after work, be the go-to spot. Offer an experience and ambiance that consumers love. Offer prices that entice even those “ah- I would, but I’m broke” friends.
If all the bars around you are closing relatively early, make your place known as the spot that stays open late and offers late night promotions to bring additional profits!
TIP: Upgrade your Happy Hour (make it special, different, unique)
Tweak your Happy Hour into happy week/happy month or promote your customers bringing friends and make it Happy IT hour/Happy teamwork hour – incorporate social to it and create a happy hour hashtag, contest or something similar.
10. Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
Another way to increase sales is by keeping your guests around longer after they are done dining. This can be accomplished by creating a cozy and relaxing atmosphere which does not feel like you have to leave right when you’re done eating.
If your establishment’s layout allows, try to add a lounge with lower light and comfortable armchairs around the bar area that encourages people to just hang out and socialize, this can have an enormous impact on increasing beverage sales.
You want to make sure that the customers feel relaxed and the environment encourages the shift from dining to drinking. (Your staff suggestions can certainly help with that, too!)
11. Add Outdoor Seating
As a big outdoor fan myself, visiting a bar/restaurant that has outdoor seating is always my preference.
Outdoor seating can accommodate large groups, as well as unique consumer groups such as dog owners or (in some states) smokers.
12. Carry Local Brews & Spirits
If you have been paying attention, you know the demand for local [everything] is growing.
Bring local brews and spirits to your menu. Have your staff recommend them to really appeal to the local market.
Learn more about creating a kick a** restaurant beer list.
13. Promote your drinks on social
Choose whichever platform makes the most sense (we recommend Instagram as it is not only the 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 can always have the most up to date information.
Even better, make it fun & visually appealing. Experiment with videos in slow or fast motions, GIFs, stories etc. Create your own niche hashtags that allows your customers easily find you.
14. Focus on Seasonal Offerings
Aside from the local food trend, consumers are also drawn to menus that focus on seasonal ingredients because it comes across as more “fresh.”
In the summer, you may push citrusy beverages while in the fall/winter, you may focus on cozier ingredients such as cinnamon or cider.
The fact that these drinks are temporary encourage consumers to “try it before it’s gone.”
15. Improve Online Visibility for Tourists
Make sure that tourists can find you easily 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.
Partner up with local hotels and Air BnBs. Give them your printed menu and specials that they can share with their guests. You could even include promo cards for guests to redeem in the restaurant.
16. Offer Tastings for Indecisive Consumers
It is better to have the customer order something they really like, rather than having the customer drinking something they don’t like; or worse, having them not order anything because they couldn’t commit. Who knows – if they like it enough, they may order a second one!
TIP: This is where self-pour technology works particularly well and significantly helps decrease waste of kegs (compared to average traditional bar’s waste of 23%, self-pour can get the number down to as little as 1%).
17. Increase usable space (to fit in more customers)
More seats/space means more guests can fit in, which means more drinks can be ordered and consumed. Obviously, due to your business space limitation, it is 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 space.
a. 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.
b. Bar area – your bar area is the space that usually takes up lots of space inside and if replaced by self-serve beverage wall, as much as 10% of usable space can be saved and utilized for increasing number of tables and chairs for customers to use.
18. Eliminate Pour waste
Hold your staff accountable
Traditional bars deal with beverage waste around 20 – 25 % due to spillage, free samples and theft.
In other words, you’re paying for every fourth keg of beer without bringing any profits back.
There are many reasons that alcohol waste happens in bars and restaurants, from bartenders offering a little extra for their friend or for a higher tip, to a bartender not being willing to wait for the beer head to decrease.
According to bevspot.com The average bar runs a pour cost of 25–30% .
19. Invite Social Bloggers or Influencers
Research bloggers and influencers that have influence over your target market.
Invite the influencers to dine at your restaurant- no strings attached.
Don’t hound them for a review, but give them a great experience and they will likely post about your business on their channel- 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 significantly higher profit from your beverages sales, so make sure to always research the most economical options and shop in bulk.
Ideally, you want to work with more than just one vendor, so you can negotiate with them about the price
Ready to Drive 30% More Drink Sales?
We hope that these tips can drive value for your business!
We’ve been studying how our self-serve technology can increase drink sales in many different kinds of establishments. Self-pour tap walls reduce customer wait times, create a fun atmosphere, and of course- increase beverage sales!
Check out a case study on Fatty’s Taphouse to see how their beverage sales skyrocketed after switching from the traditional restaurant model to self-pour.
When you’re ready, request a free quote for your business!
We would love to hear back from you on which one of these tips worked well for you and know more details! Also, if you have any additional suggestions to increase beverage sales, please share those with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!