Best Chain Signature Drink Program
Sometimes all it takes to get customers excited is just one drink. And at Tavistock Restaurants, that drink is sangria.
Sangria might seem like a no-brainer at a Spanish or Mexican restaurant. But San Francisco-based Tavistock owns and manages a diverse portfolio of 32 restaurants across the U.S. Concepts include Abe & Louie’s, Alcatraz Brewing Company, Atlantic Fish, Blackhawk Grille, Cafe del Rey, Joe’s American Bar & Grill, Napa Valley Grille, Timpano Italian Chophouse, and Zed451–very few of those with Spanish or Mexican cuisines.
Yet thanks to an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and customized recipes to fit the individual concepts and markets, Signature Sangrias represent nearly 21% of all liquor sales at Tavistock’s 12 Joe’s American outlets; 19% of wine sales at Zed451 in Chicago; and nearly 21% of all cocktails sold at Cafe del Rey in Los Angeles.
“Sangria is the most profitable item we have,” says Mike Hanley, Tavistock’s beverage operations and training director. With an estimated 8.5% to 11% cost per item, sangria “brings affordability to our entire drink line,” he says. “It allows us to charge $8-$9 for other drinks instead of $15-$16.”
While consistency is prized and core ingredients remain the same across the various outlets, Tavistock rotates regional and seasonal ingredients in each season. That might mean that sangrias with apples and spice in the northern states, and drinks featuring peaches in while southern regional restaurants–but only while those fruits are in season.
Indeed, the biggest challenge has been resistance to rotating successful sangrias off the menu when peak season for certain ingredients concludes. “When you’re selling 500 a week, and it’s the best selling item in the whole restaurant–when you take that recipe off the menu, of course there’s some grumbling that first week,” from both staff as well as customers seeking a seasonal favorite, Hanley admits.
The company’s training–for both core drink offerings and seasonal additions–includes laminated recipe cards, which include a photo to show how the finished drink should appear. To supplement in-person training, Tavistock tapes brief online videos, which Hanley emails to bar managers. Training materials also include details on seasonal ingredients, such as how to source them, specific size and quality of the fruit, and parameters for seasonality.
CREATING AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
But developing new drinks is a two-way street, Hanley says: Staffers are encouraged to collect intel from guests about what they would like to see in their glass. “We have 1,000 people on the front lines that listen to 10,000 people every month on what their desires and tastes are,” he notes. “Every one of my bar managers and bartenders have my cell phone number, and the text me pictures, send me recipes on a daily basis.” As a result many new recipes and ideas for flavors are inspired by guests.
To help extend the connection beyond the restaurant itself, at Café del Rey in Los Angeles, the marketing outreach includes a Sangria Kit ($750), which includes a recipe, step-by-step instructions and a bottle of house-made white-peach simple syrup for those who want to whip up a pitcher at home.
“One of our core concepts is emotional connection,” Hanley says. “When the emotional connection happens outside of our four walls, that’s great.” When customers make Tavistock sangrias and spread the gospel when they entertain at home, “it’s almost like grass-roots marketing.”
How do these sangrias help make the restaurants a destination? “When people think of returning to our restaurant,” Hanley notes, “they’re already enjoying the thought of sitting down and receiving their sangria–before they even get into their car. That’s a testament that we’re doing okay.”
Based: Emeryville, CA
Number of units: 16 upscale and fast casual restaurant concepts with more than 100 locations
Concepts include: Abe & Louie’s, Alcatraz Brewing Company, Atlantic Fish, Blackhawk Grille, Cafe del Rey, Joe’s American Bar & Grill, Napa Valley Grille, Timpano Italian Chophouse, and Zed451
Parent company: Tavistock Group