Man cannot live on pizza alone. At the very least, your customers need a tasty, refreshing beverage to go with it. But too many pizzeria operators treat their beverage programs as afterthoughts—if they think about them at all. Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to increase your drink sales, particularly alcoholic beverages. Consider these seven tips for selling more suds, wines and cocktails at your pizzeria:
1. Work with your vendors. Many beer, wine and liquor vendors provide excellent resources to help restaurant operators drive beverage sales. Ask them to provide you with table tents, posters, coasters and other materials to promote their brands in-house. Focus on trendy brands that customers are looking for and take advantage of every opportunity vendors can provide to help build your sales.
2. Host VIP tastings. Again, your vendor may be able to help you out by providing experts to host VIP tasting events. Red Boy Pizza (redboypizza.com), with eight units in the San Francisco Bay area, recently introduced new managers at their locations by inviting local movers and shakers to attend special VIP tastings. “By partnering with our wine vendor, we were able to secure someone to pour and educate our guests about the brands we serve,” says Joseph Radwan, president of Red Boy Pizza. “They also provided some additional bottles—without charging us—to help promote their brands.”
3. Make a suggestion. Your servers or cashiers should make beverage suggestions early in the ordering process and guide customers to popular (or high-margin) brands. This approach can even boost ticket averages for carryout orders. “We keep half-bottles of wine by the cash register so our to-go customers see them while they are paying,” Radwan notes.
4. Celebrate the season. Summer is a great time to promote your beverage program on social media. In last year’s CiCi’s Drink Up Summer promotion, CiCi’s Pizza (cicispizza.com), headquartered in Coppell, Texas, encouraged customers to shoot photos or videos of themselves holding CiCi’s logoed 32-ounce cups and upload them to Instagram using tags such as @CiCisPizza or #cicisdrinkupsummer. Each week, a random winner was chosen to receive a $25 gift card from CiCi’s.
5. Encourage wine sales. With some guidance from experts, you can offer delicious wine-and-pizza pairings or wine dinners that highlight your specialty pizzas. Lala’s Wine Bar + Pizzeria (lalaswinebar.com) in Denver sends advance notice about its wine tastings to members of its Text Messaging Club and offers exclusive special deals to its VIP Email Club members.
6. Create seasonal themes. Make a summertime splash with a Strawberry Martini or a gin-based Cucumber-Honeydew Freeze. Source fresh ingredients whenever possible. The Lala’s weekly Girls Night Out promo, held every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight, features refreshing drinks such as Limoncello-tinis and Spring-tinis as well as the classic Cosmopolitan.
7. Offer happy hour combos. You can kick off a successful happy hour promotion simply by offering a slice and a brew for a special price. L’Asso (lassopizza.com), located in New York’s Little Italy district, offers $4 specials on beers and house wines plus a $7 beer-and-pie combo with two slices of Margherita pizza and any draft beer. Happy hour at Pizzeria Paradiso (eatyourpizza.com) in Washington, D.C., features half-price specials on draft beers, $5 appetizers and discounts on all pizzas—$12 for an 8” pie and $18 for a 12” pie.