Leveraging Relationships to Build a Better Bar Program

With an estimated $100 billion in annual sales, alcohol is a staple of the hospitality industry. Almost every restaurant with liquor on the menu has their share of creatively named house cocktails and luring drink specials, but is your restaurant making the most of its beverage program? Are you utilizing every perk your distributors and suppliers can bring to the table? More importantly, would you know if you were leaving bonus incentives on the table?

Every bar/beverage manager can tell you about their distributors purchase incentives. “Buy two bottles, get one free.” “Order a case of this liquor and get six bottles of their newest flavor added on.” These are the specials that your sales rep will inform you of as the incentives arise and work mutually to the restaurant and distributor’s advantages. Your bar gets free product to try out different flavors or drop the price on name brand spirits, the distributor keeps their inventory fluid and product shipping. Did you know many brands/distributors will offer special pricing if their spirit is featured in a specialty cocktail? Some brands will even reduce their price for allowing their logos to be printed on cocktail and food menus!

Already have set spirits and menus printed? Try an onsite promotion. Most brands have on-premise advertising budgets to alert the public of their brand or new products set for release. To capitalize on these options, restaurants typically need to meet directly with the brand supplier. You have no doubt met some of these reps as they tail a distributor from account to account sampling their newest product or attempting to convince you of their IPA’s superiority to one currently gathering dust in your beer cooler. These brand ambassadors are a bar manager’s gateway to endless promotions that rouse excitement from guests and reduce the ordering cost and inventory of brands.

Suppliers generally have a large amount of discretion when it comes to their marketing budget and tend to favor cultivating long-term relationships. Once you have their ear, most will help you develop innovative marketing events. These range from the traditional promotional models handing out merchandise and samples to more personalized events. Goliath Consulting Group has leveraged suppliers to sponsor weekly trivia events, donate beer barrels and tents for outdoor events; even month-long basketball tournament promotions including DJ’s and raffle promotions. Only looking to try out a new spirit instead of building a large promotional event around it? Some suppliers can even run their credit card for a case of product at your cost to allow you to promote it in the way you see fit.

What would a frozen drink machine add to your bottom line during the summer? How can a wine preservation system expand your ‘by the glass’ offerings? Distributors can work with you to procure beverage equipment at little or no cost to the restaurant. When negotiating these items, be aware that they are not free and require a commitment from the restaurant to the distribution company. This could range from allowing one company to monopolize your well-liquor program or a high percentage of your wine offerings. Often the distributor will mandate that certain brands are consistently used alongside the equipment. Make sure you calculate the cost of the equipment, projected additional revenue from the equipment, and the cost of the product you are agreeing to incorporate into your inventory before finalizing the deal. In our experience, these arrangements are both mutually beneficial and prosperous.

Are you ready to view your bar as more than a combination of liquor, beer, and wine? Is it time you elevate your beverage program into a marketing cornerstone of your restaurant? Emailing GetResults@GoliathConsulting.com is your first step to learning liquor industry perks and promotions to take your restaurant to the next level. Not only will our consultants work with your distributors and suppliers to arrange their perks, we will train your management team to continuously cultivate these relationships and capitalize on events in the future.

Want to stay on top of what’s new in the bar business? We go to: http://www.sevenfifty.com and http://www.punchdrink.com

Published by Jay Bandy

Restaurant and Franchising Professional. President of Goliath Consulting Group. A restaurant consultancy based in Atlanta, GA

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