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 who sells alcoholic beverages. Even in times of economic trouble, there are ways to bring in business by selling more beer, cocktails, or wine.
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 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 more money to your business to increase your bottom line.
What you need to know 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 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. Your competitive advantage 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 the “Surprise Me!” Inefficiency
- Offer Drink Promotions
- Create a Comfortable Atmosphere
- Add Outdoor Seating
- Carry Local Brews and 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 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, 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 is a bar in the waiting area where a friendly staff member can suggest customers go 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 and you weren’t able to get their attention?
As an experienced operator, you know this is the biggest beverage sale-killer.
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 upfront… better service can lead to more sales, more satisfied customers, and more return visits.
Let customers pour their own drinks. New technology such as self-pour drink walls can have a huge 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 can lead 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 is looking 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 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 and bar owners – Untappd. 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 makes people feel uneasy – especially when there are a great number of options presented on the menu. When presented with something specific, the decision is much easier for consumers.
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 personal favorites to help the customer narrow down their search.
- “Suggested drink pairings”: Add a section under each of your food dishes directly on your menu to steer the customer in the right direction as well as increase beverage sales.
- Suggest a refill: Train your staff to suggest a refill once the guest is done, making sure to mention the specific drink that was ordered previously rather than just “another drink.” Guests will be impressed, and 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 their own signature cocktail. This will make them more likely to suggest their own creations to the guests when they are unsure of what to order. Also, it 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 creating one’s own drink is so much fun!
5. Spruce up your cocktails – or at least their names!
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.
Seeing the customers’ happy and entertained faces can be helpful in spreading valuable word of mouth and recommendations.
People also love to share entertaining things like this on social media, which can lead to positive, 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 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 customer’s meals.
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 will split multiple plates, rather than just one or two entrees. Aside from leading to a higher average order value, this will encourage more of a “hangout” ambiance. People will stay longer — drinking more the longer they stay.
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, they say “surprise me!” This leads to inefficiency from the bartender or server, as they need to think of a drink and know how to charge them for that drink. Not to mention, sometimes the customers end up not liking what they get!
Get 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, 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 are closing 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 (make it special, different, and unique from your competitors). Tweak your Happy Hour into happy week/happy month. You can even ask your customers to bring in friends and give them a discount depending on the amount of business they bring in. Have fun with your Happy Hour ideas. Make it Happy Geeky Hour or a Happy Teamwork Hour — incorporate your social media with it and create a hashtag, contest, or something similar.
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. This can be accomplished by creating a cozy and relaxing atmosphere where the guests don’t feel like they need to leave right when they’re done 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. This can have an enormous impact on increasing beverage sales.
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!)
11. Add Outdoor Seating
It is common for guests to want to sit outside when it is available. This is especially true during the warmer months of the year.
Your outdoor seating area should accommodate large groups, as well as unique consumer groups such as dog owners or (in some states) smokers. And, 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 really appeal to the local market.
Learn more about creating a kick a** restaurant beer list here!
13. Promote your drinks on social
Choose whichever platform makes 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 can 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 your own 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 more “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.”
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 really like, rather than having the customer drink 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!
PourMyBeer TIP: This is where self-pour technology works particularly well and significantly helps decrease waste of kegs (compared to an average traditional bar that has 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 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 back any profits.
There are many reasons that alcohol waste happens in bars and restaurants, from bartenders offering a little extra to 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 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 significantly higher profit from your beverage sales. Therefore, 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 the price with them.
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Ready to Drive 30% More or Higher in Drink Sales?
We’ve been studying how self-serve technology increases 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 our 6 case studies to see how other businesses’ beverage sales skyrocketed after switching from the traditional restaurant model to self-pour as well as other success stories.
And 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 back from you on which of these tips worked well for you! Also, if you have any additional suggestions to increase beverage sales, please share those with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!