In this blog, we'll walk you through some of the first steps you need to consider when researching and building your first, or even next, cocktail menu. Many bars simply start with their favourite, or well-known cocktails and that’s not necessarily the right path to take. Yes, some cocktails will always be what Steve refers to as “cash converters”, but your menu shouldn’t simply consist of 10 of the most famous cocktails ever created. There needs to be some thought around the drinks and a level of wow and excitement for the customers.
The very first step is to identify your current customer demographic, and a potential demographic you want to attract in the future. What is the age group, is it split? Is it firmly in one age range? What is the percentage of male to female customers? What is the average spend per person? What is the average length of time they spend in your venue?
All these factors will influence if Cocktails are a great idea. Or if Hiballs are more suited instead.
A younger audience will potentially mean you need Cocktails with a sweeter profile. An older demographic will edge towards playing more with flavours and different spirits like Rum, Whiskey and Tequila. The older demographic tends to have more disposable income too. Generalisations we know, but factors you have to consider nonetheless.
A big mistake some bars make with the introduction of a new Cocktail menu, is they’ll try to introduce new brands that current customers may never have heard of and simply don’t trust. Let’s take Gin for example. In the UK, whatever your thoughts on the brand, Whitley Neill is a tried and tested “premium” brand that customers trust, but not only that, get excited about. However, if you try to bring in an even more premium brand for a few cocktails, it doesn’t matter what you think about that brand, if customers haven’t heard of it, they won’t buy into it. Or at the very least, it’ll be a harder initial sell. So we would always encourage Bars to so start by using Spirits and Brands that are already big sellers. It just makes your life easier.
Again this can be overlooked too. Steve says; “Throughout my whole career, I’ve supported and sold brands that were around to support us as the venue”. Whatever volumes you sell, brand owners have marketing budgets to help venues. Whether that’s in the form of brand training. Point of Sale. Glassware. Some Brands will even stump up the money to pay for menus to be designed and printed. Some brands even have their own in-house Teams specifically dedicated to doing all this for you. It can take all the hassle out of it for you and make the process quicker!
So instead of shopping around for the cheapest buying deals and using Spirits that may save you £1-£2 on a bottle. Actually, look at brands that have a presence around you. Brands you can talk to and work with. They’re not always the big brands either. Many smaller local brands would love the exposure and are up for supporting you.
This is the biggest factor when it comes to serving Cocktails. Granted, your Team can always be trained and they can learn new skills. But ultimately, it’ll come down to confidence and their ability to put a Cocktail menu into practice. As a general rule, always gear up a menu to the weakest member of your team. That’s no reflection of their ability. But, if the least confident staff member can easily knock up the drinks on the menu, you’ll be making a great profit in no time. And as we’ve mentioned before, with the syrups and purees available these days. It really is easy to make great drinks, with minimal effort.
As a venue, you are nothing without your Team. So if you are thinking about implementing a Cocktail Menu, you need to have them on board. They need to be excited and have passion about what they’re selling. Quite simply, they are your sales team and can influence the customer very easily. If a member of the team has never made Cocktails before, then even the word can be daunting for them. So don’t just spring it on them. Get their feedback. If they’re on board with the whole process, the end result will be a lot smoother and sales down the road will benefit.
If you don’t already serve up Cocktails, think about your busiest days of the week. If that’s a Saturday for example, how is implementing a Cocktail Menu going to affect that? Will it slow down service and annoy existing customers. Will it detract from the service you already offer, or will it actually enhance it? Quiet days shouldn’t even come into your thinking here, because anything you can do to build business on a quiet day is always a benefit. But if you change something that will drastically affect the level of service you offer on your busiest day, then you need to be wary.
Practicality is sometimes massively overlooked too. Making Cocktails and Spirit related drinks involves more Ice, more ingredients, and products to be kept in fridges. We’ve seen Bars that haven’t had room for a decent sized Ice Bucket within easy reach. Some Bars don’t even have an accessible sink or water behind the bar to wash up and rinse tools. And let’s not forget the different glasses you may need. These will need shelf space too. Jiggers and Measures, Bar spoons, cocktail shakers. Now for more modern bars, this simply won’t be an issue. Bars are built with all this in mind these days. But some older Pubs and Bars will need to factor this in.
If you’re new to Cocktails, or simply upping the volume of Spirit related drinks you sell, however much you think you’ll need, it’s safe to say double it at the very least. Ice can be the most overlooked factor for Cocktails. Cocktails are a premium product. They need to be served up Ice Cold and with plenty of Ice. Using 2-3 cubes in a Hiball glass will devalue that drink massively. Appearance is everything. And that even comes down to the quality of ice used. Okay, you don’t need to be using crystal clear ice in a mid-level Bar. But Tubed Ice that melts within minutes is also a no no. If you’re charging £10 for a Drink. It simply must be the best Drink you can serve. Always think, is this drink Instagram worthy! That’s the benchmark these days. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend £5 on a Garnish. Simple tricks go a long way!
Read our Next Blog in the Series;
HOW TO CREATE YOUR FIRST COCKTAIL MENU
Read the Previous Blog;
DO YOU NEED A COCKTAIL MENU