In many restaurants, the bar area is often treated as a way station for guests, a temporary stop en route to their destination: the dining area. But some patrons prefer to hang out and eat at the bar—the lively, informal atmosphere creates a more convivial experience, particularly for singles or a group of friends looking to meet up with other friends. Are you taking advantage of this opportunity by making your bar a guest-friendly hangout and profit zone? If not, here are some tips to consider:
1) Create a draft beer program. Draft beer offers high profit margins, and many customers prefer it over beer from a bottle. Draft beer is also great for informal gatherings of friends or co-workers. Whenever possible, offer local or regional draft beer selections—today’s customers increasingly prefer handcrafted brews to the major national brands.
2) Offer pizza-and-beer pairing suggestions. At the very least, train your bartenders and wait staff to recommend the right craft brews for the right pizza. An alternative approach would be to list pairing suggestions on your menu.
3) Offer wines from emerging regions. Today’s wine drinkers know that wines don’t have to come from Bordeaux or Napa Valley to be good. Look for less expensive but high-quality varietals from Brazil, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa.
4) Use suggestive selling. If a guest asks for a vodka and tonic, train your staff to immediately offer a suggestion for a specific premium or super-premium vodka brand, such as Grey Goose or Ketel One. If he asks about your beers on tap, steer him toward one of your higher-quality brands and emphasize the local or regional angle.
5) Develop signature infusions. You can transform any spirit into a sensational signature drink by infusing it with fresh fruit, such as strawberries, watermelon, kiwis or sundried tomatoes, to name a few. Create your infusions in a decorative jar and place it in a prominent spot on the bar to draw attention while the fruit marinates. Within a few days, you’ll have a signature drink that’s colorful, flavorful and, best of all, unique to your restaurant. And customers will naturally notice the jar and want to try it out!