Tools and tips for keeping the bar up to date from Beacon drinks buyer Mark Holness
Keeping the bar up to date can be a tricky business for hoteliers and bar managers. With ever-changing bar trends and new products emerging constantly, it is sometimes easy to fall behind. At Beacon, we have the advantage of being able to draw upon insights from across our varied and expert supplier base, to identify current market trends and offer insight into the latest tools and technology available to hoteliers.
It’s always important to keep an eye on trends within the beer and wine scene – these are bar staples and an area that can really affect the bottom line. According to Beacon supplier, Bibendum, towards the end of 2014 the On Trade saw a real rise in the sales of sparkling wines (+17%) with still wines dropping by 1% - showing that consumers are increasingly willing to spend a little more for higher quality, celebratory wine. Understanding sales figures like this means that bar managers can keep ahead of the game, rather than waiting until the consumer demand is there.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Try not to see the bar just as somewhere for consumers to flock to after their evening meal. Considering the need for different drinks at all times of day gives hoteliers the opportunity to drive sales with breakfast bars and lunchtime menus, which will help to increase their profitability. We’re seeing a real trend emerging at the moment for healthier options at the bar, with natural fruit juices and water becoming very popular. Oranka Juice Solutions is launching its unique Hydration Station offering to hotels, which will enable hoteliers to take advantage of this growing health-focused trend, with the added bonus for Beacon customers being that they only have to purchase the juice, with no added investment in the dispensing system as this can be provided free on loan.
Think outside the bar
Another benefit of the Hydration Station is that it can be easily relocated to suit your needs; it doesn’t just have to sit behind the bar. Placing it at the hotel reception can offer guests a unique welcome on arrival or something to remember when they check out. If the hotel has leisure or spa facilities, something like the Hydration Station would be a great way to provide a unique offering of something more than just water. By far the best application though, would be at business events such as conferences or banquets for example. The station can be quickly located outside meeting rooms or conference venues to provide hoteliers with something different to meet the needs of their business customers. But it’s not just water or juice that can be offered around the hotel – why not offer a glass of champagne on arrival, or position coffee machines near meeting rooms?
It may seem like a basic tip, but effective merchandising can be key to meeting customer needs and driving sales at the bar. Beacon supplier, Matthew Clark, suggests using menu hangers to highlight which products are recommended and taking the time to ensure your staff are knowledgeable and confident when speaking to customers. It also pays to think about how to drive footfall to the bar from other areas of the hotel - using digital screens at reception can work brilliantly for this, and using digital frames on the bar itself gives a much more interactive experience for customers than a simple tent card. The added benefit of going digital is that it becomes quicker to launch different deals or promotions and in the long run becomes a much cheaper way to drive marketing activity than printing new point of sale each month.
Technology plays a huge role in the successful running of a hotel bar. The iRiS digital wine lists and menus enable drinks suppliers, such as Matthew Clark, to deliver multiple layers of information about their wines at the time of purchase, giving the average On-Trade wine consumer in the UK the confidence to trade up past the entry level offering. By using the iRiS digital menus, restaurants have typically seen a 19% uplift in wine sales and some 100% increase in premium wine sales.
Besides the typical drinks and merchandising tactics, it’s always important to try creating something that is specific to your hotel bar or to a specific time of year to offer an experience that can’t be recreated elsewhere. Getting guests through the door is one thing, but keeping guests in the hotel bar is one of the biggest challenges that hoteliers face, so it’s crucial to offer that point of difference to keep your guests coming back.