These days pubs are becoming less of a local boozer and more of a place to enjoy a fine meal. And with diners across the hospitality sector looking to cut back on the price of their meal wherever possible, the majority of drinks sales are taking a hit.
Money made from drinks in food-led operations, be it a restaurant, hotel or pub, should account for 30-50 per cent of your total revenue, but even though consumers are now seeking cheaper options, there are a few tricks you can use to help your drinks offering fight back.
Mark it up
To start with, the pricing of your drinks offer will no doubt be more profitable than that of food, but operators need to be smart when marking up their offer.
The secret to doing this is to not be greedy. The consumer is more value-savvy than ever and can tell when he is being charged too much. A recent poll of 1,000 over-16s by Mintel for its on-trade Soft Drinks Report showed that 63 per cent resented paying so much for drinks when they are so much cheaper in the shops.
Operators are also advised to consider what product they are pricing and who their clientele base is before deciding on a margin.
“Just marking up wine by a certain percentage will give you all sorts of silly results – you’ll end up with some really expensive wines and others that are too cheap,” says Nick Scade, chairman of the Academy of Food and Wine.
“I used to look at every wine individually using a minimum margin, because unless you get a decent gross profit margin you don’t make any money. But I used to take a cash margin view on expensive wines rather than a percentage – there’s a case for cash margins but you may sometimes unnecessarily undersell the wine. You have to understand the business thought process as well as the products.”
Scade also advises operators to steer clear of following the example of London restaurants and bars that often mark their wines up by 100-200 per cent.
“You might get away with it in London but certainly not in the provenances,” he says.
Of course, you may have priced your drinks perfectly but without a team of knowledgeable staff that know your products inside and out your sales will never reach their full potential.
Train to gain
Those restaurants, pubs and hotels whose drinks sales are flourishing will most likely have trained their staff to understand each beverage, be it a bottle of their finest wine, or a simple pint of beer.
“Your floor staff are your sales team,” says Scade, “but if they don’t know what they’re selling, how do you expect them to do a good job? They need to know where the drink comes from, how it’s made and how it works with food.”
Scade suggests that while operators don’t necessarily need to have a sommelier, they do need to have someone that knows more about drinks than the customer. Their knowledge can then be filtered down through the rest of the team.
Alternatively, Hotel du Vin, which operates 15 hotels across the country, attempts to send all front-of-house staff in its restaurants through a WSET foundation certificate, so everyone in the hotel’s bistro is educated to a similar level.
“It’s a ridiculous situation when you get a diner who just wants a glass of house wine, and the waiter has to go get the sommelier for them. But often they don’t really want to speak to the sommelier, so we train all our staff to be knowledgeable about all the wines we do by the glass so they can make suggestions for themselves,” says HdV’s director of Wine and Spirit Ronan Sayburn MS.
Lastly, waiters should also be trained to understand the art of the upsell, which Scade describes as knowing ‘how to extract as much profit out of a customer as you can without ripping them off.’
But there are also some simple touches you can make to your individual beer, wine and spirits, soft and hot drinks offering to improve revenue overall.
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