There's gold in them thar bottles

I know a thing or two about bars, and not just because I was once a seedy and altogether disreputable character who drank more than I studied in college. A number of years ago, I was editor of a national magazine for the nightclub and bar industry. It would have been the perfect job for a bourbon-loving, single guy like myself if only I knew how to dance without causing physical harm to innocent bystanders. As it was, the dance floor usually cleared once I stepped onto it, and not because folks wanted to stop and admire my smooth boogie moves. Most people, in fact, covered their eyes and looked away. It must have been painful to watch. And it might explain why I’m still single.

I never did learn to look cool on the dance floor, but I learned a thing or two about bar management and profitability. A well-stocked, well-run bar can be a natural moneymaker. With the right systems in place, including controls for pour costs and consistency of product, bars and beverage programs generate much higher profit margins than restaurants and food programs. And just as many consumers are becoming more food-savvy, they’re also taking a closer look at the quality of the beer, wine and spirits that they put into their bodies. Overall, beer sales are declining in the U.S., particularly among the big brewers, but the more expensive craft beers—with their emphasis on quality ingredients and smaller batches—are enjoying a boom.

Meanwhile, according to Mintel and Gallup surveys, sales of liquor and wine rose significantly last year, and consumers are willing to pay more for high-quality, top-shelf products, such as super-premium vodkas. Hard cider is another up-and-coming beverage, according to Mintel, with 18% of consumers between the ages of 22 and 24 reporting that they drank more hard cider in the past six months.

In other words, there’s gold in them thar bottles, and this month’s cover story (“Raising the Bar,”), penned by Tracy Morin, delves into the details you need to consider if you want to add a bar component to your pizzeria. Granted, a bar won’t be a good fit for every pizzeria. If you run a family-themed operation that attracts kiddie birthday parties and Little League teams for post-game pies, many of your grown-up customers may not approve if you started peddling cosmos and Jägerbombs. But a bar can add an entirely new moneymaking element to pizza restaurants with the right clientele.

So check out Tracy’s story with an open mind and consider your options. Now may be the time to make that leap. And if you do, let us know about it! I promise not to drop in and embarrass you with my dance moves. You can’t do the Funky Chicken to Lady Gaga anyway. I know—I’ve tried.