As if anyone in the full-service restaurant business needed any convincing, we now have proof that bartenders are opinionated.
The recently released Yankelovich Partners study, “Bartender Viewpoint,” says, among other things, that bartenders not only have strong opinions but are more than willing to express them to customers without solicitation. That particular outspokenness positions them uniquely as a marketing channel that can help create beverage alcohol brand popularity, especially when combined with the general freedom they say they have to select the brands they serve in their restaurants, bars and taverns. The study shows that once bartenders form opinions about products, they tend to be free with those opinions.
“Bartender viewpoint”, a study conducted in conjunction with Cheers® magazine, interviewed more than 800 bartenders nationwide to get their opinions about brands, advertising, promotions, consumer trends and selling techniques.
Among other findings: Bartenders trust customers, other bartenders, general word of mouth, friends and family, on-site promotions and advertising as the best sources for information on brands. Third most read publicatrions? A tie between Cheers® and Sports Illlustrated.
The study, a portion of which was first presented at the Cheers Beverage Conference in Chicago last June, is based on more than 800 telephone interviews with fulltime bartenders who have tended bar for at least one year and currently work in bar or restaurant locations where customers can interact with bartenders and order directly from them.
Researchers discovered that male bartenders are more likely to recommend a beverage alcohol brand to their customers than their female counterparts, an average of about 19 times weekly compared to about 12 times a week. In each case, the recommendations bartenders make are almost as likely to be unsought as sought by customers.
When bartenders do make brand suggestions, about 30% have suggested a more expensive brand, especially younger bartenders and those who work in busy non-tavern locations. (The bartenders were grouped by Yankelovich in what are called Standard Industrial Classification categories: restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, hotels/motels, vacation/ski lodges and membership bars.)
Nearly half say they suggest a more expensive brand because they think a customer will prefer the brand once they’ve tried it, with only about 25% saying they up-sell in order to angle for a better tip. Less than 10% say they recommend higher priced brands in order to receive tips or other incentives. And the study found few bartenders willing to recommend brands they haven’t tried.
Who They TRUST
Bartenders told Yankelovich that the most highly regarded sources of information about beverage alcohol brands are customers, general word of mouth and other bartenders, with friends and family, advertising, on-site promotions and visits from distillers and brewers the next most influential.
Bartenders also told Yankelovich researchers that, when considering a product recommendation, they are most influeneced by a product’s taste. After that, brand reputation is the most influential factor, followed by the reputation of the beverage’s manufacturer, specific bar policies and personal experience. While the report found significant opportunity for bartenders to influence customer decisions about beer and spirits, they found far less potential impact on wine sales
Blood alcohol levels have begun to play an increasingly larger role in a bartender’s awareness, the study found: more than 9 out of 10 bartenders agree that as a result of blood alcohol level concerns, they have become more aware of their customers’ alcohol consumption, and most believe concerns about blood alcohol levels among consumers have had an effect on their business. But urban bartenders report increasing levels of consumer consumption, while those in rural areas say they see declining consumption, perhaps reflecting the disparity in reliance on automobiles. Still, more than half the bartenders believe most of their customers are consuming alcohol beverages when they visit their operations.
The brands the bartenders consider the most popular are in line with the information gathered by Adams Business Media researchers: Budweiser, Heineken and Corona beers, Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s whiskies, Bacardi rum, Dewars Scotch, Cuervo and Cuervo Gold tequilas and Absolut vodkas are all ranked tops by bartenders, proving they’re at least in touch with sales trends.
Budweiser promos were rated tops by bartenders, and the most successful promotional materials were judged to be neon signs, hanging signs, table tents, banners and posters. Bartenders say they believe that manufacturer giveaways–t-shirts, ties, and other paraphernalia–seemed to work best with customers.
Bartenders say that on-premise promotions positively influence both server and customer opinions about brands. Those on-site promos are most well liked by female bartenders, those under 35 and those that work in urban operations. Female bartenders also like to host drop-in visits from brewery or distillery reps and found more use from printed info than males bartenders.
What They READ
While bartenders tend to read major newspapers and magazines less frequently than the general population, they do read local newspapers.Tied for the third largest readership among bartenders are Cheers® and Sports Illustrated and more bartenders reported reading Cheers® than such publications as People, Cosmopolitan, Time, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Nightclub and Bar and Playboy.
Yankelovich also found that bartenders on the whole tend to be more involved in the Internet than the general population; 26% say they use the Internet and online commercial services, about the same as the general population, but they tend to spend more time there, about 31 hours per month compared to about 20 hours for the general population. The younger the bartender, the more the Internet use, no real surprise; about 40% of the bartenders surveyed under 35 use the Internet.
The demographic information gathered by Yankelovich Partners, which conducted the study in conjunction with Cheers, found the average age of bartenders surveyed to be about 41. Yankelovich found many more female than male bartenders; about 60% female, 40% male, although the break down at larger operations and those not defined as taverns tends to be about equally male and female.
The bartenders surveyed tend to be veterans, tending bar about 12 years on average. Almost half the bartenders surveyed attended no college, but 20% have college degrees.
And who are the best tippers, according to the surveyed bartenders? Men tip better than women, they say, as do those who pay with cash. People in their thirties are rated higher than any other age group where tipping is concerned.