Like most establishments when Autumn rolls around the corner, you're probably looking to revise your beverage program. Bars and restaurants have to get extra creative to rise above the torrent of pumpkin-spice-themed libations. And there is no time like the present to capitalize on all of the unique flavors of the season! While building a successful fall drink menu isn’t always as easy as it seems, with these tips, any bar can crush their seasonal sales.
A Fall Drink Menu Should Focus on Seasonal Flavors
What makes a fall drink menu unique and capable of driving sales? It’s a creative, autumnal mix of flavors in all the spirits, wine and beer categories. Keep the flavors of the season at the core of your menu, and try not to deviate too far from tradition.
Some of the fall flavors that should be included are apple, nut, maple and all things earthy (yes, that includes pumpkin spice). The good news is these flavors can appear in a variety of forms including apple beers, seasonal ciders, mulled wines and fall-spiced cocktails. Feel free to get creative when working with fall flavors, but remember— keep it cohesive!
Know Thy Customer
It’s not enough to simply offer a variety of Fall flavors; they have to be presented in the proper way. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to seasonal menus. If you have the ‘beer and football’ crowd, perhaps skew more towards beers and darker spirits for your fall menu. On the other hand, if you have a popular date-night dinner spot, look for autumn-friendly wines.
It’s important to do a thorough inventory of your consumer base — are they older or younger? Are they women, men, or a mix? Do you have a sports bar? These are all questions that should determine the sorts of drinks that you offer.
Broadly speaking, female customer bases drink more wine than male customer bases. On the other hand, men in their mid-twenties and above appreciate the availability of craft beers, and many of them are brewed with fall flavors in mind.
Obtaining customer metrics can be difficult, but it’s the key to creating a location-specific drink program that appeals to customers and brings them through the door.
Trust Your Bartenders to Make Unique Beverages
Your bartenders have a lot of time to think about the way that flavors in drinks interact with each other, and they know how their regular customers respond to certain drinks. As a result, one of the best ideas for a seasonal drink program is to put that knowledge to use and have your bartenders create bar-specific fall cocktails.
There are several benefits to having your bartenders create drinks. First, they will typically use the tools and items that they have available to them. That means you don’t have to order more ingredients to make the drinks in most cases. Letting your bartenders indulge their creative side will provide your bar with signature drinks that could become destination items. These items bring people through the door on their own power and create a positive buzz about the establishment. Add in some unique garnishes and special glassware, and you could have a one-of-a-kind drink on your hands.
Increase Customer Engagement with Value Perception
A major point that many bar managers miss out on is the customers’ “perception of value.” As the title suggests, this is when a person’s belief about an item’s worth is different from the actual value. By creating higher perceived value, you can create menu items with very high profit margins.
There are many ways to present and sell drinks that provide a better-than-usual return on investment. For example, if your bar stocks a lot of fall craft beers, you can offer them as part of a flight. Not only can your bar list that on the menu as a season-specific item with a variety of different beers, but your bar can also get a lot of money in return for a relatively small amount of beer and labor. The same can be said of a wine sampling or specialty cocktails.
Using value perception in this way can help engage your customers in your brand, and that will lead to more sales and wider recognition.
Establish a Stock Ahead of Time
It’s important to consider the costs of bringing in new products for the season as well as potential labor costs for preparing new drinks. But, you should also remember to stock up early. It will be difficult to establish the bar’s exact inventory needs from day one of a new menu; however, you should ensure a stock of potential bestsellers before they are consumed elsewhere.
A great way to do this is by working with local companies. Craft breweries, small wineries, and companies that focus on small batches are typically interested in getting guaranteed business. They are more likely to go out of their way to help keep you well-stocked when things really ramp up.
Don’t Be Shy!
Before making the menu itself, creating the right vibe in your restaurant and informing the customers of your seasonal offerings is very important. After all, priming and engaging your customers is crucial to getting them to buy the products you want them to. There are several ways to get customers in the proper mindset to focus on fall drinks.
For example, decorate the bar to reflect the season — this can help your customers get into the fall mood. It’s also a great idea to use advertisements. Even something as simple as a chalkboard outside or inside can help inform customers what sorts of seasonal items are for sale inside.
Finding Your Menu
All in all, establishing a seasonal drink menu is something that most bars should try. It’s not too difficult to examine your customer base and determine how you can optimize sales. By offering a fall-inspired atmosphere, introducing new flavors, and allowing your bartenders to have some freedom, a bar could increase it’s standing in a community while also creating more sales. By discovering the drinks that work best for your customers or figuring out different ways of increasing your brand’s value perception, you will be preparing yourself for full-on autumnal success.
Why not take this opportunity to go a little deeper on your menu building? Check out our full guide on crafting the ideal cocktail menu.