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Tips For Designing a Profitable Bar Menu

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08/01/2019 A great bar menu will be easy to read, full of interesting new creations that help you stand out from the crowd.

A great bar menu does more than just inform customers about what they can drink. If designed right, it can also be used as a powerful tool for maximizing the revenue and profitability of your establishment, especially if it helps to upsell customers to more profitable drink offerings. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about designing a profitable bar menu.

Understand your customer base before designing the menu

The starting point for thinking about bar menu design is always your customer base. When you know about your customers’ preferences, likes and habits, then you can precisely the target the content and design of your menu to give them exactly what they are looking for.

One way of doing this is designing special promotions that are most suitable for them. Say, for example, that many of your customers are showing a preference for sweeter cocktails made with cream liqueurs – that might be the inspiration to highlight a special “cocktail of the month” made with Baileys. Or, say that your customers have been showing a preference for cocktails made with wine. That might lead to the creation of some special summertime cocktails using Chardonnay or other white wine such as Pinot Grigio as an ingredient.

Add a signature serve to your menu

One of the easiest ways of standing out from the competition is simply by offering something that they cannot, such as a signature cocktail. This cocktail creation should help to highlight what makes your brand or establishment special. For example, you might name the cocktail after someone in the local community, or after a local sports team, or after a famous historical figure who has meaning for your establishment. And, in terms of ingredients, you might choose to highlight locally sourced ingredients as a way of highlighting your own role in the local community.

Create seasonal and themed cocktail offerings

Here, the two most obvious examples of seasonal offerings are summer cocktails and winter hot toddies. But you can actually create new cocktails for just about any event or occasion. Oktoberfest, for example, might be a way to highlight special beers on your bar menu, such as the release of a new Oktoberfest beer. Halloween might be a time to design a “spooky” cocktail creation that’s orange or black. If your local sports team is playing in the championship game, it might be time to create a special themed cocktail around that event.

Don’t clutter the menu with too many offerings

While it might seem like a no-brainer to offer customers pages upon pages of cocktail options in the hopes that they will choose one, the reality is that too much choice is actually a bad thing. It’s a version of information overload, in which consumers actually have a harder time making a choice when there are a lot of options. If viewing a list of 50 different cocktail creations, they might decide that it’s far easier and simpler just to order a glass of wine or a bottle of beer.

Thus, bar menu designers generally recommend dividing any bar menu into concise sections of just 5 to 8 drinks each. Your bar menu could still have 50 different cocktails on it, but it would simply be segmented into 10 different sections. That makes it much easier for customers to decide what they are in the mood for, and then narrow down their options.

Always highlight your most profitable drinks and cocktails

There are plenty of ways that you can use basic design principles to call customer attention to special drinks, cocktails or offerings. The idea here, of course, is to highlight your most profitable offerings. The more you can sell of these cocktails, the better it will be for the bottom line of your bar. Common ways to do this include using color to highlight certain offerings (just think of how red text or red background would “pop” next to a sea of black and white) or using boxes to highlight and feature special offerings. For example, you could use a box to highlight “bartender’s recommendation” or, even better, “cocktail of the month.” Long-time customers might enjoy seeing what your staff members are drinking, while options like “cocktail of the month” can help to guide and influence purchase decisions.

One important fact to keep in mind here is that, according to surveys, 9 in 10 customers will stay with the first drink they order for the rest of the night. So you can immediately see why it’s so important to make the first drink they order one that is very profitable for your bar. Once a patron has decided to order an exotic new $15 tropical-themed cocktail, it will be highly unlikely that he or she will then trade down to a $10 glass of wine or a $5 bottle of beer. And, in fact, other people at the table will likely be encouraged to order a similar type of cocktail, thereby boosting the value of the total tab significantly.

Use color, images and descriptions to engage customers’ senses

The more senses that you can engage at one time, the better. In other words, it’s best if you can make the cocktail as real as possible in the mind of the patron, so that he or she can imagine ordering and drinking it. As a result, some bars will include drink images next to each description. On a hot summer day, what could be better than looking at a cool summertime drink made with plenty of crushed ice? And, speaking of the descriptions for each drink, think of evocative words that really bring the cocktail to life. Adjectives like “delicious,” “exotic,” and “delightfully fruity” can help to make a cocktail creation the must-order drink of the night.

Of course, once you’ve created and designed the perfect bar menu, you will also have to train your staff on the new menu. They should feel very comfortable making recommendations and upselling customers on the most profitable menu items. A great bar menu will be easy to read, full of interesting new creations that help you stand out from the crowd, and precisely targeted to your local customer demographic. That will ultimately be the key to the success and profitability of your bar.