How to Develop a Beverage Program

Beverage Program

You’ve put a ton of effort into your food menu, but how is your drink selection?

Providing your customers with an array of premium wines, craft cocktails, and local beers can be the way to both their hearts and increased profits.

What is a beverage program?

A beverage program is the curated drinks you serve at your restaurant. Thought, planning, and some marketing goes into the creation of the program to help your business be more successful. This is more than just serving a rum and Coke, or pouring a glass of chardonnay.

Your beverage program should be targeted at your ideal customer, have variety, and also fit your restaurant’s concept. It doesn’t need to be 100 percent alcohol based, either.

For many restaurants, beverage sales represent 25 to 30 percent of all sales, making it a worthwhile investment to focus on and even employ someone full-time to oversee.

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How can it make your restaurant stand out?

Depending on your budget and your target customer, there are many things you can do to help your restaurant’s beverage program stand out.

Some restaurants offer customizable drinks. Coca-Cola released a fountain dispenser called Coca-Cola Freestyle that allows patrons to interact with a touchscreen and choose from a variety of flavor options for their soft beverage.

Other restaurants, such as Duke’s bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, offer a Beer Wall for customers. The self-pour Beer Wall has an offering of 20 rotating craft, domestic, and international beers. Customers ask the bartender for a “Beer Card” that scans at the wall, and then they become their own bartender. Patrons can sample beers before committing or even create their own flights.

If these types of machines are not in your budget, you can make your beverage program stand out by offering a selection of local beers and highlighting them on your menu.

Aunt Jake’s, Another New York City restaurant, offers a bespoke cocktail program. Customers start by choosing between sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter. Then they pick the spirit of their choice, followed by an ingredient. The ingredients range from produce to juices and syrups. Then patrons just need to trust the bartender. The restaurant promises “trust us, or we will try again.”

When it comes to wine, consider offering half bottles so patrons have more options for how they want to consume. Or consider only purchasing wine from family-owned wineries.

What are some things you should consider when developing a beverage program?

If you are going to have a beverage program, you need to put some thought into it to make it successful.

First, you want to consider your hours of operation. Are you open during brunch hours? Consider offering a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Only open during twilight hours? Maybe stick to craft cocktails.

For any drinks you create, think about whether they’re “Instagram worthy.” A beautiful-looking cocktail will likely end up on social media, which, in turn, can create more business.

While intricate cocktails look cool, you also want to consider the price and speed of your beverage program. In general, if a cocktail takes more than 60 to 90 seconds to create, it could back up the bar and cause a problem for your restaurant. This affects your customers’ perception of the service they receive at your establishment.

In regards to price, make sure you are offering a range of drinks at a range of price points, so you don’t discourage customers from coming.

Finally, you want to make sure your beverage program relates to your restaurant’s concept and enhances your brand.

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