Increasing Bar Revenues

Increasing Bar Revenues

Increasing Bar Revenues One Step at a Time

By Robert Plotkin

It’s hard to imagine there’s a restaurant or bar owner who would suggest his or her business wouldn’t greatly benefit from increasing revenues. The adage, “food covers overhead, but the bar is all profit,” actually has its basis in fact.

It would seem since no restaurant operates under the burden of too much profit, finding ways to increase bar revenues is a nearly universal imperative.

While you may perceive the need, exactly how to go about increasing beverage sales might not be so clear. There are essentially only three ways to go about it. First, you can look to increase your customer count. The more people you serve will likely augment your beverage sales. It is, however, an “iffy” proposition, one that entails hiking your advertising and promotion budget.

The second way to augment beverage sales is to increase how many drinks your clientele purchase. Again, this is not a practical strategy. Accelerating service and encouraging the over-consumption of alcohol is a practice fraught with liability.

The only viable, long-term approach is increasing customer ticket average. Enticing your clientele to spend more dollars per drink is the surest avenue to success. Any strategy to increase ticket average must include developing a plan for boosting premium liquor sales.

Bolstering call brand sales makes good sense. Premium liquors carry a bigger price tag, so your gross sales will increase. Also, your staff will likely appreciate pouring the good stuff, since the higher the tab, the larger the tip.


The necessary first step is to educate your employees. Product knowledge is essential to selling premium spirits. Ensure your bartenders and servers are well informed about the top-shelf products, what makes them exceptional and why they’re worth their higher price. Customers often inquire what makes one brand better than another. A concise, informative answer is usually all that’s needed to close the sale.

Is your staff familiar with suggestive sales techniques? They should be trained to consider every sale an opportunity to up-sell. For instance, if a customer orders a rum and Coke, the server could respond, “Would you like Bacardi or Captain Morgan’s in that?” For gin and tonics they could inquire, “Would you prefer Beefeater or Tanqueray?” The key is to suggest two specific call brand choices.

The impact of suggestive sales can be dramatic. The same is true for offering servers sales incentives. Set weekly goals, and see who can sell the most signature margaritas, or specialty martinis. Tell your staff what you expect. Then reward their success.

Make sure you provide support for your staff’s marketing efforts. The only marketing some operators do is to slash prices during happy hour. Strive instead to promote your business from the inside out. Promote your specialty drink of the day, shooter of the day, and any food specials on large wipe-off boards or chalk boards.


The era of specialization has struck the bar end of the food and beverage business. After all, who said you have to do what everyone else does? To start the process, here are seven quick ways to jump-start sales.

SHOOTERS: Ask your bartenders to pick a “shooter of the day,” and promote it on table tents and a wipe off board at the bar. Create a menu listing of all your house specialty shooters. While acrylic test tubes, or Tooters, are the most popular method of presenting specialty shooters, there is still room for creativity. One club features shooters for two in sugar dispensers. Others present shooters in pill bottles.

SWIRL DRINKS: Double the popularity of your frozen drinks by swirling complementary recipes together in the same glass. One such recipe is called the Pain in the Butt, a swirled blend of a Piña Colada and a Rum Runner. Try swirling a Midori Sour and a raspberry Daiquiri or a frozen lemonade and a Frosted Coke. Great taste and captivating looks make for increased sales.

SUPER-PREMIUMS: Don’t your guests who appreciate fine tequila deserve a 100 percent blue agave tequila like El Tesoro de Don Felipe? For your bourbon drinkers, whiskey doesn’t get any better than a single-cask like Booker Noe or Kentucky Spirit. There is now at least one super-premium brand name in every major category of spirits.

FLOAT PROGRAMS: A Piña Colada may be a good drink, but a float on top of Kahlua, Chambord or Midori nudges it into the great range. The same is true about a Margarita with a shot of Grand Marnier served on the side, or a Daiquiri with an optional float of Myers’s or Bacardi Select rum. The program is classic suggestive sales — your guests receive better tasting drinks and you bank higher sales.

CHAMPAGNE: A split of Champagne and two glasses is perfect for a couple out on the town celebrating a special occasion. Champagne also has applications behind the bar. A splash of bubbly in an Amaretto Sour, Tom Collins or Screwdriver adds pizzazz.

INFUSION COCKTAILS: Steeping spirits in large containers at the bar is a great way to create a unique product your guests can only get at your establishment. The key to marketing infused spirits is to feature them in such a manner that they’re easy to drink and their unique flavors can be fully appreciated.

NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: Since you’re marketing to a growing population already predisposed to buying these high-profit items, offer your guests a wider selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Start with lemonade and iced tea. They’re thirst-quenching and make excellent mixers. Consider also offering more than one sparkling water. There are vast differences between these products, mostly in the amount of natural carbonation they contain. Likewise, carry at least one still water, such as Evian or Ty Nant.

Robert Plotkin is the founder, publisher and an author of BarMedia, which specializes in the development and marketing of materials, as well as books on drink and spirit trends.

Rev. 12/13/14


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO