Getting a liquor license is no small undertaking in most restaurant markets. It can add to your cost of business, but it can also be political, depending on your area. For the amount of work that often goes into getting a liquor license, I’m continually amazed at the fact that nearly half of all restaurants with bars lack a cocktail menu.
“Why does a cocktail menu matter?” you might ask. After all, you have a full bar, right? Can’t people just ask for what they want? The truth is that yes, they CAN ask for what they want, but people learn quickly that very few bartenders know more than 8-10 staple cocktails. If your tastes stray from basic martinis and Manhattans, you’re probably no stranger to bartender disappointment. People don’t like feeling like a picky drinker, and a surprising number of people will skip a drink altogether to avoid the trouble.
There’s also a sizable percentage of the dining population that doesn’t routinely order drinks – but many of these people can be convinced IF something appealing is staring at them from the menu. That’s even more likely if you train your servers to mention the cocktail menu and later follow up by asking guests if they’d like one.
Given that cocktails can significantly increase average check size and overall profitability, there’s no good reason not to put together at least a small cocktail menu and give guests some suggestions. If you’re feeling especially strategic, consider leading with the cocktails that are most profitable for your restaurant, based on the ingredients and preparation time.
If you have a restaurant where patrons seldom order alcohol at lunch, you might consider even adding a “mini cocktail” menu where diners can order a half-sized cocktail to get just a taste of something delicious before heading back to work. Remember, many people drink as much for flavor as they do for any amount of intoxication.