Since the economy took a nose dive, I’ve heard many times that the one industry that’s totally recession proof is the alcohol industry. I would imagine that, depending on their line of work, some people have actually even increased their intake. Have you experienced this in your place of business? How’s your bar doing? If you’ve seen a downturn in your sales, then you probably know that you can lead a horse to the tap, but you can’t always make him buy beer.
As with any type of business, it’s easy to get complacent and lazy with how you’re running things in your bar, so even if this industry IS recession proof, you may not be doing everything you can to keep your sales up.
But I’ve got five things you can do — right this very minute — to improve sales at your bar.
They fall under three categories:
The first category is common sense.
First, make sure you’re actually ringing up everything you serve. Yes, a glass of soda water or some other soft drink maybe represent only pocket change on a per-transaction basis — but in the grand scheme of things, that pocket change can really add up! One exception is in the case of a designated driver; if a patron walks up to the bar and orders a Coke while surrounded by a pack of drunken fools he doesn’t seem to completely hate, it never hurts to pay it forward with a sympathy soft drink. Empower your bartenders to do that much, and enforce the rule strictly the rest of the time.
The second category is value added.
Here’s the No. 2 thing you can do: Consider encouraging upsells by broadening your patrons’ horizons with flights. No, I’m not suggesting you offer rides in a biplane; a flight is a series of small samples of different drinks. For example: If a customer typically orders a Blue Moon — a Belgian-style white ale made by Coors — offer him a flight of four different beers to try instead.
The flight itself will be a bit pricier, maybe $6 to a single pint’s $4, and include a few tastes of higher-end, potentially tastier beers that will tempt him to try something a bit more luxurious next time he orders a pint separately! Flights expand your customers’ palates without forcing them to leave their comfort zone entirely. You can do the same with wines, whiskeys, martinis, and even flavored sodas. (How about a Coke flight with handmade syrups like vanilla, cherry and lavender?)
And the final category: Customer service.
I suppose this could be seen as common sense, too, but don’t overlook customer service! If your bar is located within a restaurant, customer service especially tends to get the short shrift when chairs are replaced with barstools. Don’t let your bartenders get away with simply flinging a cheap cardboard coaster from four feet down the bar and waiting to take an order.
No. 3: Train them — yes, TRAIN THEM — to smile at every patron. Offer water when someone sits down. Bring a little bowl of snacks, even if it’s just Goldfish or cocktail peanuts, after someone orders a drink.
No. 4: Come by and ask if customers would like a refill before their glasses are empty.
And No. 5: Clean up after every patron: wipe down the bar area, bus the glasses, keep the chairs pushed in. The more welcoming you make your bar to customers, the more customers you’ll have — and the more they’ll spend, which will only improve sales at your bar.