Best Chain Overall Beverage Program
What makes Hard Rock’s beverage program so great? It boasts an exciting, ever-evolving offering that reinforces its global brand and incorporates products, promotions and tie-ins supporting the music industry. The Orlando, FL-based chain promises to give guests “premium beverage experiences that rock!”, a mission that Hard Rock definitely accomplishes.
“Every Hard Rock Cafe offers a unique experience, from specific memorabilia that pays tribute to emerging and legendary musicians rooted within the geographic region, to authentic, collectible merchandise that reflects the spirit of the city,” says Cindy Busi, director of beverage for the 179 worldwide locations of the music-influenced chain. Because of the concept’s steadfast loyalty to its brand, and its popular, innovative promotions, overall beverage sales continue to increase year after year.
The company’s newly designed, category-driven drinks menu help drive beverage sales. “Keepers” include Hard Rock Cafe’s line of signature drinks sold in souvenir, take-home glassware; “Classics & Favorites” is a collection of the chain’s handcrafted, ever-popular cocktails and new concoctions; “Margaritas” offer guests six twists on the ubiquitous Mexican sipper, all mixed with house-made, lemon-and-lime Margarita mix; and “Alternative Rock” provides alcohol-free choices also served in souvenir take-home glasses.
Beer lovers can peruse brews listed both by style and country of origin. Busi notes that Hard Rock Cafe has never forgotten its roots as a burgers-and-beer place, and it takes both a global and local approach to selections. “From Belgium to Australia and from the U.S.A. to Asia, we make sure there are popular brands for loyal local beer drinkers, as well as selections for beer adventurists looking for something new and different,” she says.
Hard Rock keeps its wine program exciting by aligning itself with music-inspired (and musician-produced) wines, Busi says. Labels such as Dreaming Tree from Dave Matthews, Drops of Jupiter and Calling All Angels from Train, and Wines That Rock—which includes offerings like The Police Synchronicity and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon—are worthy, crowd-pleasing options that resonate with music-loving patrons.
KEEPING IT FRESH AND CURRENT
Hard Rock Cafe evaluates and reviews its beverage program yearly to determine which products to add and which trends to incorporate. “Our drink trends vary by country; we give them a Hard Rock twist to transcend them globally,” notes Busi. The chain this year will focus on timeless libations such as the Aviation, Hemingway Daiquiri and Sazerac, tweaking the recipes slightly to be more in line with Hard Rock’s global interpretation of how they should taste.
Seasonality also comes in to play with drink promotions. During its “Chart Toppers and Show Stoppers” program last spring, Hard Rock featured Corona, Corona Light and the My-My Corona, a new Coronita-topped Margarita with a fiery rim. Other featured beverages were promoted on menu inserts and posters, including the Mosh Pit, with Bombay Sapphire, Absolut Citron, strawberries, basil and lime; the signature Hurricane, with Bacardi Select and Bacardi Superior, Disaronno Amaretto, grenadine, orange, mango and pineapple; and the Groupie Grind, an alcohol-free mango colada riff with a fresh strawberry swirl.
“Our drink promotions focus on multiple styles of cocktails using fresh ingredients, made-from-scratch mixes and a variety of premium spirits to appeal to a wide variety of guests,” says Busi. “We always feature drinks that fall into the sweet flavor profile as well as the savory profile.”
For its annual summer concert series, which celebrates the brand and the culture that spreads the universal language of rock, the restaurant chain aligned itself with high-profile artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Lady Antebellum, Soundgarden and Black Stone Cherry, and brands such as Anheuser-Busch, Bacardi and Red Bull.
The annual Summer Hits series also serves to increase beverage and glassware sales throughout the summer and into the fall. To that end, management created a staff program in which the servers, bartenders and general managers with the highest percentage of featured items sold won an all-expense paid trip for themselves and a guest to visit the newest Hard Rock resort and spa in Cancun, Mexico. Thanks to the incentive and the new 20-oz. logoed pint glass, Hard Rock experienced its most successful glassware launch ever.
The “Summer Sippers and Summer Suds” offered featured cocktails and beers in the souvenir glassware. Tipples included Tiki Tai, with Bacardi Oak Heart, Cointreau and fresh juice; Jade and Ginger, with Bacardi Limon, Midori, juice and ginger beer; and the Poolside Sipper, with Bacardi Rock Coconut, DeKuyper Blue Curaçao, Coco Real and juice.
Hard Rock Cafe’s beverage program also has a philanthropic focus, such as the “Pinktober” program. During this annual event, Hard Rock features pink drinks, pink guitar pins, pink clothing–even pink sheets in its hotel rooms–to raise money to fight and find a cure for breast cancer, Busi says.
“Just as music is our root, philanthropy is the soul of our brand, so we take every opportunity to give back,” she says. The collectible guitar pins created for the program were available in all “Rock” shops, and 100% of the proceeds from their sales was donated to breast cancer research.
Featured beverages for this annual promotion–all served in signature glassware–were highlighted on menu inserts and posters. Drinks included the Herbal Remedy, with Smirnoff vodka, Red Stag Bourbon by Jim Beam, lime, basil and signature pink cherries; the Raspberry Beret, with Skyy Infusions Raspberry, Finest Call Sweet and Sour Lite and Crème de Cassis; and the alcohol-free Strawberry Basil Lemonade.
KICK-ASS SERVICE CULTURE
To assure team members provide a consistently excellent experience to all guests, Hard Rock International trains employees to understand the overall brand culture. The company supplements corporate training and bar training videos with detailed instructions and drink recipes.
An annual Beverage Specifications Guide provides managers, servers and bartenders with information about beer, wine and spirits offerings. And each bar and point of sale system has a comprehensive, frequently updated full-color drink Rolodex with bottle photos, winemaker notes, food-pairing recommendations, recipes and proper garnish techniques.
Above all, staff strives to give all guests what Busi calls “Kick-Ass-Service,” which she describes as “a Hard Rocker consciously reading the guest, searching for an unexpected opportunity to seize the moment and to ultimately personalize the experience.” The global, unparalleled success of the Hard Rock Cafe brand, she says, “is tied closely to our servers’ ability to engage guests, and pair a quality libation that mirrors the moment.”
Hard Rock Cafe
Based: Orlando, FL
Number of units: 175, which include restaurants, hotels, casinos