Jul 9, 2007

What Sells Drinks?

What influences a drinker more than any advertising or promotion when it comes to buying drinks in bars? Their bartender, of course! This earth-shattering revelation comes from a recent survey by the Adult Beverage Insights Group. And although it may seem screamingly obvious to many of us, the fact is that too many bar owners overlook the selling power of their own human capital.

So how can an owner help his or her bartender sell more? Stop stocking crap, for one thing. Quality tools allow the bartender to do a quality job; and when a bartender is proud of the drinks s/he's mixing, s/he'll be more likely to get the customer excited about it, too.

The other—and most important—way to help your bartender sell more and up is to give them the information they need to sell product. The survey's respondents support this idea that "familiarity and product knowledge are key influencers in what they sell at the bar." That means training them on proper mixing techniques, setting up regular tastings, and getting them involved in menu creation.

Sadly, there was one thing this study revealed that sent a chill down my spine: it turns out that a lot of bartenders actually prefer working with "fewer ingredients and convenient mixers." But perhaps this is less of an indication of laziness, and more of a cry for help. Maybe with a little extra training and exposure to higher standards, these bartenders will learn to appreciate the joy of freshly squeezed juices and carefully prepped garnishes.


Bailey said...

I agree. I love being in a pub where the bar staff are friendly and interested in what they're selling. I usually end up staying in those kind of places much longer than I'd planned, and spending a lot more, too.

camper said...

There are a couple of neighborhood bars where I hang out that don't have much of any cocktail programs. In one, they have a drink menu that must have been put in place by a manager, because the bartenders make it clear they would prefer not to spend the effort making anything on it. In the other, the bar manager told me that it would be "too much work" to have a cocktail program or even a drink special, in a bar that has plenty of space for fresh ingredients. Neither of these venues I'd call a dive, but both are definitely very casual drinking venues. I guess some bars want to remain just regular bars- but I always make sure never to order anything in them more complicated than a vodka soda.

Jessie Jane said...

I guess my biggest beef with bars that don't put any effort into their drink menu is not that they're failing to "shoot for the stars" (I love me a good old dive, after all), but that it shows a lack of care for the work one is doing and the product one is pushing.

There's nothing wrong with cultivating a no-frills ambiance but employee training goes a LONG way to delivering a quality experience. And by quality, I don't necessarily mean blue-cheese stuffed martini olives and crazy cocktail concoctions, but I mean employees who CARE. Who know their product, can answer questions about, can make appropriate suggestions, and who look out for the good of their customers.

You don't need to be fancy to offer that kind of service.

Jessie Jane said...

Just an example—at the bar I worked at for years, we were encouraged to taste new stock and create drink specials for our shifts. The owners knew that because they weren't sinking a big budget into decor and ultra premium spirits etc. (we were once touted as the "dive bar extraordinaire"), that the bartenders were the ones who kept bodies on the stools.

I just can't abide owners/managers who don't invest in their staff via education and empowerment. It results in staff who don't give a shit—and no one likes dealing with those people unless you're just out to get drunk.