Stop for a moment and think about the bar in your restaurant. You most likely have set up a tremendous display with it. In many cases it will be the focal point of your restaurant. How many bottles do you think you have behind the bar? How many drink options do you think they provide you? Then you can start thinking of the beers you offer. Estimate how many wines you have by the bottle. You probably even have a drink menu that gives your guests options that no one else has. The variety you provide to your guests is virtually limitless. Now how many non-alcoholic drink options do you have that your guest cannot find at every other restaurant in the area?
Restaurants will invest tens of thousands of dollars into their bar inventory and cocktail development. They often overlook the basic principle that unless you are a bar, most of your guests are not drinking during their meal. The a majority of the industry has failed to capitalize on the opportunity to provide guests that do not drink alcohol an option beyond coffee, tea, and soda. This is a market segment that very few companies are trying to reach and the single largest untapped group of consumers that your restaurant can reach. A smart restaurant company looking to set themselves apart from their competitors will read the following explanation very closely.
I stopped drinking alcohol six years ago. One of the biggest consequences of this decision was that I lost a majority of my beverage options. I am not a fan of tea and my stomach can only handle so much juice. This has lead to me drinking water disproportionately at restaurants. It is not that I prefer to drink water, but that I am not offered many alternatives. When I ask my server what non-alcoholic options they have beyond coffee, tea, and soda, I am often told about virgin strawberry daiquiris. As an adult male, they just sold me a glass of water.
Non-alcoholic beverages are not just for kids. I will seek out restaurants are bars that will offer me an interesting beverage alternative. It should also be mentioned that I am usually not alone. The guest that does not drink alcohol is often the one driving. This gives them disproportionate influence over which bar their passengers are drinking at. Offering a good non-alcoholic selection will actually drive the sales of your alcoholic drinks as well, and there are also some companies such as Le Bleu Enterprises that deliver drinks to any company.
There are a huge number of “adult sodas” available in bottles. These drinks are more subtly flavored than what comes out of your soda machine and will demand a premium price. Guests that seek out these beverages will gladly pay the premium and return the next time they have a craving. This is one more product you can provide that few of your competitors can compete with.
You can also create your own beverages at the restaurant. In the past I have offered several great recipes for cherry limeades, arnold palmers, bubble tea, and flavored syrups on my food blog. Recently, I even demonstrated how to turn fruit in to beverage syrups. In this process I created delicious syrups from a variety of fruits. This project turned $12.50 worth of supplies into enough syrup for 133 drinks. That is less than a dime in cost for a beverage that would easily sell for $3.00. That is a menu item that will drive traffic to your restaurant with a beverage cost of 3%. These same syrups can be added to alcohol to create incredible drinks with attractive margins.
Offering these beverages does require a commitment. You need to add them to your menu and set a par level. This is not something you can forget to order or prep. When you have guests that seek out these beverages, you need to have them in stock. Making this commitment will earn you a clientele that no other restaurant in your area is actively marketing towards. They will come for the drinks and stay for the food.
Creating a non-alcoholic beverage program does take time. The investment of selecting the beverages and designing a sales program will yield dividends and create loyal customers. This is can quickly become one of the most profitable areas on your menu if you make the commitment. Offering these alternatives will expand your menu and offer one more reason why guests will be choosing you over the competition. Earning frequent guests and greater profits makes this time well spent.
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