Raising the Bar for the Holiday Season

group of friends at bar during the holidays‘Tis the season, as they say… to raise the bar! Did you know that alcohol consumption goes up 12% over the holidays? As a bar owner or restaurant owner, this is not news. Though it comes with increased liabilities, it can also come with margin-rich sales. Responsible service of alcohol during the holiday season is a real profit center. How can you make it more profitable? Well, here are some ideas:

Charge more:

Did you know that increasing your sale price yields far more profit than cutting your costs an equal amount? Seems like it doesn’t make sense? Think again. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Google to test my statement. Consider raising your prices slightly over the holiday season. If demand increases by 12%, you can assume that there is less overall price sensitivity during the holiday season. ‘Tis the season!

 

Offer diversity:

If you are a micro-brewery, consider offering name-brands during the holiday season. Why? It pleases more people. You may have great beer, but micro-breweries appeal to a smaller market. Increase your appeal and increase your sales. I like Coors Light. Don’t judge me. When I go to a brew pub, I ask for whatever tastes most like Coors Light. I admit, I hate a beating. But, I also don’t choose to go to micro-breweries because it never tastes like Coors Light. If you offer both, you increase your appeal. And if you beer is soooo much better, then prove it by selling them side-by-side. At the end of the day, the thing that matters is profitability and appeal.

Visual appeal:

I am passionate about this. I have been in the restaurant business for near 20 years (Eeesh, facepalm!). In that time I have designed between 800 and 1000 restaurants. In many cases, the bar component was an integral part of the overall design. Creating a place where people forgo the lobby wait to wait with a drink in hand can produce a lot of increased sales and at higher margins. If you have a full lobby and an empty bar, you’re missing out on sales. Ask your customers why they do or do not like your bar. You might find out some new things.

Service design:

Again, I have been doing this for along time. Much to my family’s chagrin, I can’t stop watching when I go out to dinner. I am constantly looking at the flow of servers and products. I look at the eddies, where things just tend to go in circles for too long. This loss of momentum is usually attributed to the service design. Given the close confines of the bar, design flows can be magnified. Look at your back bar. I love the idea of shooting video of the action. Take that video and play it at 4x speed. You might be amazed in what you see. Make sure you have the right equipment in the right place.

  • Ice: Every bar needs it. Some ice may be fancier than other (think of the round scotch cubes), but it’s needed. Having the right ice production for the bar can be a challenge. Stocking ice needs to be quick and painless to the bar tenders.
  • Bottle storage – Cocktail units can save the day. Look at your drink menu and focus on the bottle layout of the cocktail units. Set-up multiple stations in the exact same order. Allow no changes in botle layout. Staff will become proficient no matter where they are behind the bar.
  • Ice trough or glass door reach-in? Look at your volume for bottle beer sales. Reach-ins can intrude on production’s (bar tender) flow. Consider putting high-volume sellers on ice. Not only is it easier to stock, there is something about an ice-cold bottle with ice stuck to the label that creates some eye appeal. However, make sure you’re not taking a true German beer and soaking it on ice. Some beers are meant to be served at 50 degrees. Ice might end up being a sales deterrent.
  • Mobile bottle storage – Consider if you have space for mobile security cages for your hard liquor bottles. I have seen lots of operations where the hard liquor is stored in the back office under lock and key. I like the security, but your customers don’t. They want quick service and the old, “We’re out of that, I have to go to the back and get more”. A mobile bottle card used on peak times are help close the time gap. Wheel it out and keep it closer to the bar. Manage the key access, but close the physical gap.
  • Warewashing – If consumption increases 12%, make sure you’re stocked. No one wants to hear you’re out of glasses. Another negative is the glass washing show we’re all seen. A server, bar tender or bar back is dunking glasses at the rate of 1,000 a minute to keep from running out. So many times, that process is done right in front of the customer. You might not run out of glasses with that strategy, but people notice and get turned off by questionable washing practices. If you allow that to happen in the front, what are they doing in the back? Consider bar warewashing equipment and remove the show. Or, make sure you’re going doing it right with the proper sinks and drainboards.
  • Glass Door reach-ins: Though I like ice troughs, glass door storage is important. When a customer asks what you do have, there is a 50/50 chance all the selection will be remembered. Glass doors storage is the way to go. Let the product sell itself. Not only does it increase visibility, it also increases the ambient lighting.
  • Bar back storage – Mark sure you have the right amount and the right presentation. No one likes looking through glass doors at back-ups. Fruit juice speed bottles and half used jars of olives are not what you want your customer to see. Solid door refrigeration is the best way to serve that storage need. I have even designed some facilities with a large reach-in just outside and out of view of the bar. Instead of the servers crawling on the floor to find out which speed bottle is strawberry or lime juice, they can see it at eye level. And do you know what’s in the back of the bar back unit at your place? No one else does either. The back corner of bar units can be a place where things go to die. Replacing that with glass door bottle displays is the way to go.
  • Service – As operators, we have to remember this is a stressful time of year. People are stressed, employees are stressed and owers are stressed. Plan carefully to have the right staff member doing the right job at the right time. Though expensive, the cost of having them outweighs the loss of not having them when you need them. Remember, ‘tis the season!

Tags: bar equipment, holiday season, running a bar

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