Keeping the Crap Out of the Craft: Investigating an Untapped Source of Revenue the Right Way by Nicole Valentin
“We are our choices.” ―Jean-Paul Sartre
The hospitality industry is about choices. Your choices for your business define who you are and where you hold your values. If you offer your patrons something better than what they’ve had before; an experience they can only have at your establishment, they will thank you, over and over again, with their repeat business.
Like any good business owner, I’m sure that you’re always looking for ways to stay current, please your customers, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
The craft cocktail market is a booming industry and could have the ability to be a game changer for your business if executed correctly. Craft is everywhere, even finding a home with large corporations like Starbucks, advertising craft sodas branded as Fizzio’s, with ingredients like fresh cinnamon and star anise. YUM!
Because the current market is voting “yes” for craft cocktails, there is an untapped source of income and notoriety gain for you to explore if you’re not yet already involved.
Don’t think your patrons would appreciate or pay for a crafted cocktail?
If you are on the middle to high end of the restaurant/bar spectrum, a craft program is a strong advantage over other restaurants in your league that specialize in beer and wine and maybe has the ability to make a basic Cosmopolitan or Gin Martini. People like having choices. And people are constantly comparing establishments, weighing the pros and cons of each place they visit. I can’t tell you how many times patrons at my bar compare my drink menu to another establishment’s. And if mine aren’t the best, they will tell me. If you’re questioning whether or not to instate a craft program at your bar, ask your patrons what they think of the idea. And, follow that up with a taste test.
“Would you like more options?”
“Would you like fresh citrus over canned citrus with preservatives?”
“Would you like to taste something unlike you have ever tasted before and can only have here?”
“Would you pay more for this experience?”
“Would you come back again for it?”
Look to the culinary world for inspiration! The trend is moving in the same direction behind the bar as we’ve seen back in the kitchen for years. People are looking to be impressed, wowed with a unique experience they can only have at your business. They care about quality and they will pay more for it! Farm to table is a great example of this. The conscious diner is now weighing in factors such as where the meat comes from, where the produce was grown, and if the restaurant gives back to the community. The conscious drinker is concerned with the same criteria because they are usually one and the same. It’s a fusion of the artistry in the kitchen with the perfect complimentary cocktail at the bar (plus great service) that creates the unique experience you are seeking to give your patrons at your venue that’ll keep them coming back for more.
Okay, so now you know you want to pursue an upgraded craft cocktail program. But where do you start?
First, you must understand fully what craft entails. It essentially means that your menu program is carefully thought out, pairing interesting liquors with unique, fresh, and usually seasonal ingredients. The syrups, shrubs, sweetening agents are usually made in house or at the very least, fresh and most likely local. And if you use an outside company for these, it is probably a small batch supplier. At the basic level, you must use fresh squeezed citrus. Nothing out of a mix, a box, or even a gun will do in replacement of something fresh and artisan if you want to hold your program to the highest standards. Everything from the recipe to the glass to the garnish is carefully thought out and uniquely in line with your restaurant’s thematic integrity.
Here’s an example of a craft recipe for a Margarita:
- .5oz Weber Blue Agave Syrup
- 1oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
- .5oz Clement Creole Shrub
- 2oz 100% Agave Tequila*
- Glassware: Rocks Glass, ½ Sea Salt Rim
- Garnish: Lime Wheel
*Not Jose Cuervo, which is a mixto, meaning that it’s mixed with different types of sugar from several sources, instead of 100% blue agave from one source. Mexico does not recognize mixtos as tequila)
You could put your signature stamp on the drink by adding a unique ingredient like Thai chili peppers for spice or fresh grated cacao for a bittersweet finish.
Take care in preparing each cocktail properly right down to the science behind the size of the ice cubes you’re using to shake with the drink. A cocktail shaken with too small of ice over dilutes the drink before it even goes into a glass. Larger draft ice chills a drink when shaken or stirred without watering it down.
My advice: Hire a craft cocktail professional to help you create your cocktail menu and help train your bar staff properly so you can affordably execute your craft program successfully.
A craft cocktail professional’s expertise will have long lasting positive revenue generating effects on your bar for years to come. Plus, they will save you lots of time and research, ensuring you get it right the first time so you can see the return on investment from a successful craft cocktail program right away.
If you have any questions or experiences you’d like to share in response to this article from either side of the bar, please do! I’m looking forward to reading it and responding.