Making decisions on your beverage menu as a bar owner or beverage manager/director can be extremely trivial. The market has endless amounts of products for you to choose from and understanding the direction you will go in is important to your image and consumer experience. So the first question you have to ask yourself when creating a menu is what do I want the consumer to experience when they are at my establishment?
Due diligence in my opinion is the first step to creating a beverage program. I recommend you scour the internet for what trending and established. Second is doing market research (my favorite part). You should start your search for all things menu by going to national chains like, Chilis, Applebee’s, and Outback. While you might want to be more “crafty” I promise you they are using taste profiles that are selling well in today’s market place. I would also stop by your local mom and pop restaurant and end your search in an arts or hipster neighborhood with mixology bars. Having a good grasp of what’s out there and what consumers are drinking elsewhere is very important to your success.
Finally, let’s construct a menu. While you can go in a million different directions, I suggest you offer your customers defined categories from them to choose from. For example, cocktails should always come first (highest profit item on menu) then beers, wine, after dinner drinks if you have a restaurant and non-alcoholic. From here the beverage world is your oyster. Have fun and make it easy for your consumer to enjoy their experience with your menu. There is nothing worse than going to a bar that you can understand the menu and can barely read it.
So you want to open a bar, or start a new beverage company but don’t know how to market to your audience. In this blog I will discuss the basics of understanding your target demographic and how to gather Intel and ultimately create more buzz around your product. While I’m not a “marketing guru”, I have been in the beverage industry long enough to walk you through how to create perceived value for your new brand.
First things first, what the heck are you selling? Is it a spirit, beer, wine, non-alcoholic, sports bar concept, mixology driven bar and so on. If you do not create a clear and understandable message for your consumer they will never be able to figure out what they can gain from your product. An important aspect of your brand, is knowing who is going to be your customer or in fancy terms who is your target market. Understanding who you are marketing to is vital to success.
To gather data you can buy very expensive reports like IRI and consumer metrics online but for a small startup that is unreasonable. I think the best way to gather Intel is to talk to your consumers first hand. While this seems elementary, I have witnessed other brands turn a blind eye when it comes to hand selling and customer interaction. The best rule of thumb of inspect what you expect from your brand and don’t always follow what the reports tell you because creating the next best beverage is a lot of luck, a little bit of good timing and a great tasting product.
A recent consumer poll compiled by Outco and Monocle Research found that many twenty something, post-legalization are switching from beer to marijuana. The company interviewed 2,000 consumers in seven California cities to build their conclusion and approximately one out of every three people are preferring marijuana over beer. While this number is only segmented to the residents in the ever progressive state of California, one has to ponder as a beverage professional, will this affect alcoholic beverage revenue in the foreseeable future nationwide?
Well many professionals I have spoken with are optimistic that marijuana will not affect our bottom line but studies like the one from Moncle Research prove otherwise. Furthermore surveys conducted by states where medical marijuana is legal reported declines in alcoholic consumption. And the poll question of whether marijuana is safer than alcohol has become controversial, what do you think is safer while of course many argue that neither are safe. Polling data finds that most Americans believe that marijuana is far less harmful to your health than alcohol.
So while the numbers are staggering and the alcoholic industry is taking notice, I do not see the marijuana industry capsizing the American spirit that inherently enjoys their cold beer, wine or spirit anytime in the near future. So no matter what your preferences are, or if you do not have a preference at all, remember to enjoy your recreational time responsibly!
Ponder this, is the quality of local beverages (i.e, breweries and distilleries) suffering from the rapid expansion of the segment? While I sit in my hotel room on Hawaii, I ponder that question because it seems every menu I’ve come across during my travels gives some mention to local vendors. So should we as consumers give the “local guy” a pass jail free card because it’s good for the community even if there product is not as good in relation to a national brand?
The facts are the fact and I’m going to break them down in layman’s terms for you. There are currently 5,301 breweries in the United States which is up from 2,898 just four years ago. Similarly there are 1,280 active distilleries in the United States up from a reported 700 four years ago. While I hate to generalize, I have to go on a limb and say that not all new 3,000 or so new producers of beer and spirits are going to be, well tasty. But why is the craze for local ignoring this? You feel good or at least like you’re helping a cause when you buy something that is perceived local or it’s interesting to try something that’s dubbed local when you are traveling.
So let’s cut to the chase, as a consumer or if you’re retailer of beverage I urge everyone to try to support their local businesses. It is inherently moral to help thy neighbor, but only if they are producing a product that is to par with what the regional or national competition is producing. Making a decision on a beverage simply because it is local is not the approach you should have when considering a drink at the bar or when creating a cocktail menu as a beverage director or manager. Please people, let’s keep drinking local but also listen to our taste buds and shoot it straight with your local vendor or retailer.
The beverage industry is one of the fastest moving and exciting industries (in my opinion). New trends, fads and simply outrageous ideas are constantly manifesting and disappearing on a day to day basis. I.e The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. As a student of the industry, I enjoy watching and of course tasting the new and upcoming ideas that the next generation of beverage snobs create. But is it good for the industry? Or are we racing each other to see who can fill the most bellies at the cost of the consumer?
At the end of the day, consumer demand and pull through will determine what is a fad and what will stay. Let’s take a look at a few trends that most certainly can have a long lasting impact on the beverage industry.
Cold Brew coffee: Coffee is king and this new brewing process has gained a lot of attention for its delicate taste.
Sparkling water (Hard and regular): Easy to drink and it’s healthy, sold.
Tiki Cocktails: Simply put, their fun to look at and usually delicious!
Mules: It’s the vodka, Soda, lime 2.0 craze.
Craft Spirits: Spirits producer, Tito’s Vodka has created a huge demand for up and coming distillers to play ball in the national arena.
While time will only tell if these trends will stay, creating new and exciting beverages offers consumers the ability to evolve and continuously try new flavors and experiences. For retailers, offering new beverage styles can be a big gamble that can impact your revenue and image immensely. Understanding how to diligently launch new products is as a retailer and supplier is an extremely important aspect of staying viable in the beverage industry. What do you think the next beverage trends is?
In a world of so many options, choosing the right beverage for different occasions can be a daunting task. Words like mixology, artisanal, craft, organic, single batch, and so many more aren’t making it easier either. But the great thing about beverage is that there are no rules (If so break them). As long as it taste good to you, who am I or anyone else who calls themselves “beverage professionals” to tell you otherwise!
The truth is that deciding what to gulp, imbibe or sip has been a question that has rattled many to the core. We are inherently taught that red wine goes with steak and white wine goes with fish but what if I like an amber lager with my steak (one of my favorite pairings), does that make me an outcast? So while I do not encourage you to pair your favorite drink with everything you eat, having some basic knowledge of the world of consumable liquid can go along way.
Understanding the 5 commonly used taste profiles is the first step to digging into your beverage sommelier self that you might have never known existed. 1. Umami: Savory or meaty flavors that can cause watering of the mouth / 2. Sweetness: Sugar level / 3. Sour: Acidity or tartness / 4. Salty: Salt level / 5. Bitterness: Hoppy beer, olive juice. Once you’ve tried and narrowed down what taste profiles you like, the world of diligent consumption is right around the corner.
Before you begin to read this blog, I want you to think about the last ten beverages you have had to drink in the last week. While some people can without a hesitation of a doubt rattle off what they have consumed, many of us jump in and out of consumer beverages like a game of hopscotch. So it led me to that inevitable question, what do YOU drink?
As it stands today, the majority of the beverages consumed in the US are owned by big business. While i enjoy small and artisanal drinks, I also strongly believe in the the open market of allowing the consumer decide what they want to drink. But are they really choosing what they like, or is big business so good at marketing that they are somehow brain washed to like certain products? While this question is debatable, one thing I do know is that consumers are more and more influenced by media than ever before.
So next time you have a drink, ask yourself why you are drinking that beverage, you might just surprise yourself. Then reference this very brief list of top beverage producers as there is a good chance you are consuming one of their brands.
N/A Non Alcoholic: Coca-Cola, Pepsi
Beer : AB Inbev, Miller Coors, Constellation brands
Spirits: Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, Brown Forman, Bacardi USA, Beam Suntory