Every bar or restaurant operator wants to increase profits, but it’s always a balancing act in terms of doing what’s right for your concept and your customer. During a panel discussion titled “Profits, Promotions and Pizzazz” at the Cheers Beverage Conference in Dallas Feb. 13, several industry experts offered up some tips. Here are five of them.
Concentrate on what’s right for your concept.
Operators need to focus on making their restaurant a place that people want to go to, says Randy DeWitt, CEO of multi-unit Twin Peaks. But that doesn’t mean hopping on to every trend bandwagon.
For instance, the chain’s audience is 90% men, he said, so a lot of the trendy, fruity drinks that are popular now wouldn’t be a fit for Twin Peaks. When you’re out with your buddies, he added, “You don’t want to be the one holding a frozen drink when everyone else is having man-size beers.”
Twin Peaks sells primarily domestic light beer and serves it in ice cold in a frozen mug. “That’s all horrifying to craft beer drinkers,” DeWitt admits. “But that’s who our customer is, and we’re not going to try to fight that.”
Beware “SKU-mageddon”: Less is more.
With all of the options in spirits, wines and crafts beer today, it’s tempting to load up the bar with plenty of brands. But keeping it simple with fewer SKUs to manage saves time and money.
Tavistock Restaurants recently reduced its brand SKUs by 27%, says beverage director Mike Hanley. This has saved considerable time in inventory and ordering, he said. And the less time managers have to spend in the back room, the more time they can spend in the front.
Hold your people accountable.
“You need a bar manager with accountability,” said George Barton, a beverage industry consultant who spent 35 years as an executive with the chain TGI Friday’s. That means bar mangers should be able to clarify how they order, who their vendors are and what’s in their beverage book at any time.
It’s not just bar managers who need to be held accountable, however. Kip Snider, director of beverage for Yard House Restaurants, said that the chain does reviews for all workers and holds them accountable for their work. For instance, you need to be sure bartenders are using standard pours, not only for profitability but also for drink quality and consistency, he said.
Keep your happy hour promotions simple.
“Customers today don’t need a lot of clutter at happy hour,” Barton said. Make sure the theme and offering expresses your concept, then have “a few great items priced properly—a beer or two, a wine or two, and a few spirits.”
Streamline processes and embrace shortcuts.
Some Tavistock concepts offered a Clementini cocktail made with fresh clementines, Hanely said. But working with the seasonal fruit could be expensive and time-consuming. Switching to a puree brand proved to be more efficient without hurting the drink quality, he said.
Tavistock also provides detailed training so that bartenders know how to mix each drink properly and quickly, which can increase drink sales and profits. Now it’s to the point where “if it takes you 10 seconds to make a drink, you’re doing it wrong,” Hanley said.
Hanley admits that Tavistock is a year or two behind where mixology is today, but he also thinks his company is a year or two ahead of where some of the national chains are with it. An ongoing quest, Hanely says, is “how to bring my guys a few steps closer to what the guys in berets are doing” behind the bar.