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Engage Guests With Craft Cocktails Program

You have a great new lobby attracting more people than ever. Here is how to take drink sales and turn them into a major profit center.

Thursday, March 13, 2014
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The resurgence of cocktail culture has been a part of big city life for a while now but it’s finally making its way to smaller cities and the outer burbs too. Folks are realizing you don’t have to be in New York, Los Angeles of Las Vegas to enjoy fresh, handcrafted cocktails and are searching out places that are elevating the experience. Especially when staying in a hotel for business.

Sure people still like regular old mixed drinks, but they’re looking for a reason to enhance the bar experience with cocktails they can talk about and tweet about. The best part of this trend is that you can raise your F&B profits with cocktails and all it takes is a little preparation and training and you’ll be differentiating your hotel bar all while creating happier guests who love tasting those higher quality, higher margin cocktails.

According to Gaston Martinez, Milagro Brand Ambassador West and Portfolio Ambassador, William Grant & Sons, larger venues such as resorts have traditionally had more difficulty creating a winning cocktail program.

“Resorts are behind because it cocktails take longer to make, they’re harder to master and takes more of an investment in training. You also have to have the consistency. It’s easier at smaller venues because the people behind the bar talk all day long and self-check each other,” said Martinez.

With many midscale hotels focusing on enhancing the lobby experience with the end game of selling food and drinks outside of breakfast, this sounds like the perfect smaller venue environment to make a splash. So training and trusting bartenders will help you reinvent how you appeal to thirsty guests.

First it’s a good idea to stake a claim on a specific spirit or two to help define your bar’s point of view. These days, tequila and mezcal are soaring in popularity which Martinez attributes to not just taste, but our proximity to Mexico, which is of course where these spirits are derived. Currently, tequila accounted for eight percent of total spirits sales in bars and restaurants in 2011 and 2012 and Super Premium tequilas have increased sales by more than 430% since 2002 according to The Distilled Spirits Council.

“Tequila has been strong during the last five years and the hottest thing right now is mezcal, which has its roots in tequila. They go hand in hand now and people have become educated enough and realize these spirits are not just about margaritas and shots,” said Martinez.

Martinez said opening a tequila bar plays to current trends and also prompts people to talk more about your venue. It’s also something that helps appeal to locals, a must if a hotel bar wants to really add to the bottom line and create an energetic lobby.

We like this idea too and have seen tequila bars sprouting at hotels already. Our suggestion is to mix in some Mexican style tapas and then it’s a winning combination.

But pulling it off takes more than a good idea. Other elements to success are critical and Martinez was nice enough to share his expertise.

First and foremost the most important ingredient in a cocktail is a smile, says Martinez. It’s important that the person behind the bar sparks conversation and engages people in discussions about cocktails obviously, but also other topics too. Martinez said this is a craft that has been lost in the past 10-15 years as POS systems came into vogue and made it so cocktails had to be pushed out faster. POS systems and conversation can exist in the same world. Also don’t rely on a menu, but use it as a conversation starter to engage the customer.

“If your bartender is a fiend you will drink more because the customer feels like he or she is not drinking alone,” said Martinez. And in a hotel with many solo business travelers that is a paramount goal.

Also, cocktails must be consistent no matter who is behind the bar. You have to un-train bad habits and replace them with good ones.

“It is not just what to make but how and why. Creating this idea of doing it the right way because it is the right thing to do, not because the boss said so. Employees will take more pride and ownership in what they do and that creates a troop of people that will care and keep customer’s happy,” said Martinez.
Other tips:
  • Invest in people dedicated to the ideal of making cocktails the right way every time.
  • Use fresh ingredients all the time but don’t go overboard. Too many ingredients complicate things and costs you more money. So cross utilize product with your food menu.
  • Make sure everything your bartender needs is within arm’s reach and only arm’s reach. If the bartender is off grabbing ingredients they are not interacting with customers. That means lost sales.
  • Educate the bartenders as to what is behind the bar so they can learn about products they didn’t realize you offered and then sell it for you.
  • Make bartenders research stuff on their own and they will remember it better. It’s more effective than handing them a pamphlet about a spirit and the act is more interactive and therefore memorable.
  • Chances are you do not have the skill set to train people the right way to sell the new cocktails. So hire someone to do it. The investment will reap you much better rewards.

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