Balanced Cocktails, Balanced Menu, Balanced Bar  1/2/2018

Balanced Cocktails, Balanced Menu, Balanced Bar. That was the title of the presentation given at ECRM’s recent On-Premise Adult Beverage EPPS by bar expert Phil Wills, owner of The Spirits in Motion, and one of the mixologists from the Bar Rescue TV series, and it’s an apt description of how to maximize profits of any on-premise adult beverage establishment.

In other words, you want to provide offerings to satisfy those customers who come in knowing what they already want, yet have the flexibility to create innovative cocktails for those adventurous customers looking to explore. What's more, you need to have the drinks, garnishes and equipment set up in a way that enables the bartenders to quickly and effectively execute behind the bar.

According to Wills, one in three customers consult the menu to make their selection of cocktails, and once they select their drink, most stay with their first choice for the rest of the night. Since 30 percent to 40 percent of a restaurant’s sales come from the bar, it’s important to have the capability of serving both of these types of customers. Building a menu that leverages the kitchen’s ingredients helps to both reduce waste as well as create innovative cocktail offerings.

“When you are creating a cocktail menu for a bar, the first thing I love to do is go into the kitchen for inspiration,” says Wills. “There are so many great things inside that kitchen, different techniques that are being used, awesome herbs and flavors that you can pull out of the kitchen and into that cocktail menu. The kitchen and bar should work hand in hand.”

Wills demonstrated how some kitchen ingredients can be incorporated into cocktails with a live demo of how to make a whiskey sour (see video below)

Behind-the-Bar Ergonomics
Since speed-of-service is so critical for a satisfying customer service experience, the bar should be set up in a way that cocktails can be quickly created and delivered. “You really want to concentrate on the ergonomics behind the bar,” says Wills. “make sure that all the bottles you are using for your cocktail menu are within a one- or two-step radius so that the bartender doesn’t have to travel up and down the bar to create the drinks.

Bar Business magazine's Art Sutley also presented some new and emerging bar technology that can also help boost efficiency behind the bar.

Click here to download Phil Wills' slide presentation.

On-Premise Adult Beverage Trends
When it comes to trending alcoholic beverages, following are some key trending items noted by buyers and sellers interviewed by ECRM staff during the session,

Rose: As we saw from the presentation given by Nielsen’s Danny Brager at ECRM’s Global Wine, Beer & Spirits session, Rose is driving sales in the wine category for off-premise consumption, and this is also the case with on-premise, and while attendees saw a spike in the summer, Brager says there is an opportunity to extend this into the colder months over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Infused cocktails: As mentioned above, leveraging the kitchen ingredients enables the bar to offer infused cocktails featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients. Different kinds of blends are also gaining in popularity, such as crosses between spirits and wine, wine cocktails, etc.

Kegs: An increasing number of suppliers are now offering kegs of wine and sangria, with decorative tap handles and technology to maintain freshness.

Premiumization: Customers are looking for more top-shelf drinks across the wine, beer and spirits categories.

Healthier Beverages: Adult beverages made from natural and organic ingredients. This is particularly the case with Millennials. “They are looking for items with less sugar, less calories and made with natural ingreidents,” says Leah Caplanis, Founder & CEO of Social Sparkling Wine, one of the suppliers attending the session who launched her company to address this trend.

Many of these trends were reflected in the People's Choice Award winners -- selected by attendees of the session.


Sarah Davidson

SVP of Grocery

Sarah Davidson is ECRM's SVP of Grocery, and can be reached at 440-542-3033

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