A Successful Beverage Program for Your Restaurant and Technology?

Happy Summer everyone. Summer brings a lot of opportunities to many restaurant locations. One of the benefits of heat is the opportunity to liven up a beverage program with seasonal, sensational and profitable refreshing adult beverages. Ice is easily the lowest food cost item you sell! Combining it with a bit of juice, rum and a slice of lime and orange, properly promoted and presented can help your beverage program be successful and put some shekels in your pocket to boot. So, what constitutes a beverage “Program” and how can you institute it, what should you be mindful of, and (OF COURSE) how can technology make it simple to administer and facilitate?

To back up just a bit, I participated in a webinar last week (OK, I had nothing to do with it, other than I listened and learned) about this very topic. A company who works with restaurants A LOT, and one you will likely hear about more and more, provides four of these restaurant centric webinars a year and through the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) provides think tank type roundtables, as well. This one was presented by CR’s restaurant guru, Nick Matone. Not much of a resume this guy, just started the world famous Gramercy Tavern in NY is all. When Nick talks, people listen, learn and hopefully thrive. So I listened, and it was on point. Point after point. Be on the lookout, and now to my point. I come from a similar, but far less famed background. And, as all of you know, I understand that technology interplaying with traditional and out of the box promotions, and help a restaurant increase their presence, their customer base and their profits.

So what is the best beverage program, you may ask. The first and most important program is the same one as for anything on the menu: Control! Control! Control! No matter what the program, if the opportunity exists to pour Patron instead of rail, over pour, give it away is allowed to flourish, then you will be ordering lots of product, and you may lose money on every sale, but you will make it up in volume, right? NOT. Nick effectively points out that there are inventory packages for your PC that are effective, and nothing beats the reports and analysis your POS and cloud analytics tool provides, but putting your hands on the bottles and counting, then comparing will minimize those possibilities, and with the proper guidance and diligence, make that program, any program successful. Make no mistake, without this program of controlling your inventories, nothing else matters. NOTHING.

You do a physical inventory every week, you look at your sales every day, you compare the two, and it is time to make some customers happy and you, some money, honey.

Something Nick pointed out, and I have found to be tried, true and cost effective, is to work with your liquor distributors. They are more than happy to provide ideas, table tents, etc. and of course, sell you product. The most important thing you can and should do, is do customize the programs to suit your style and your brand. For example, having great margaritas in your Italian restaurant, may be profitable, but pulling it off will be confusing, right? Make sure it fits. Then, drumroll, please:

  1. Make sure your staff knows how to properly make those drinks. The right amount of liquor, the right amount of juice, the right amount of ice, the right presentation and garnish. Consistent. Period. No doing it my way is better. Your way or the highway, and by all means do a regular test of each and every person who makes that drink.
  2. Promote the hell out of it. Window signs and table tents, if appropriate. Staff training on how and when to best sell those drinks. What they pair best with. Who are the best customers to approach. Some drinks may be suite more to females, men, etc. No need for contests, just let the staff know you are keeping an eye on per head and per check averages, and that shifts will be determined by those criteria.
  3. Get on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc. with pictures, descriptions, customer comments and promotions. Put the promotions on your website with beautiful pictures. USE SOCIAL MEDIA or your promotions will never be as successful they could and should be.

OK, so I am running out of the number of words I am allowed to write, but you get the idea. If you do not get the idea, please let me know that too, and I will always be happy to help. Let me know, and go sell some slushies!

About the Author

Henry Pertman is Director, Hospitality Consulting at CohnReznick LLP, located in the firm’s Baltimore, Md. office. He can be contacted at 410-783-4900 or

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