how to increase beverage sales in restaurant
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Beverages play an essential role in any restaurant. They complement meals, they quench the thirst, and they can get customers to stay longer. Out of all of the ways to improve a restaurant, serving various beverages is one you can implement pretty quickly.

Ultimately, having a generous drinks menu can increase your profits. But you also need to know how to show it off. I’ve put together a list of 15 tips on how to increase beverage sales in a restaurant. From promotions to upselling and limited-edition drinks, you’ll find out how to improve restaurant operations by selling more alcohol.

15 Tips on How To Increase Beverage Sales in Restaurant

1. Start Happy Hour

Happy hour is a culture in itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fresh and exciting for your customers. Brainstorm themed happy hour intervals based on who is most likely to visit your restaurant.

If most of your customers are millennials, ’90s themed happy hours will recreate childhood nostalgia and encourage them to spend more. For gen Z, organize happy hour events that revolve around social media. For example, for a retweet or repost of the event on Instagram, they get a free drink.

You can also organize your happy hour parties to match holidays. Around Halloween, for instance, all people in costume or wearing a specific item like a mask can benefit from your happy hour discounts.

Related: How to Increase Restaurant Sales

2. Hire a Bartender to Create Signature Cocktails

If you don’t have a bartender yet, consider hiring one so your restaurant can stand out through its signature drinks. If a cocktail is particularly good, you can bet people will tell their friends about it. Before you know it, it will be the talk of the town, which will also increase restaurant traffic.

If possible, you can have them prepare the drinks in front of the customers and make a spectacle of it. Customers will be more inclined to purchase a drink if it comes with a show. Borrow some ideas from cocktail bar advertising and use them for your restaurant.

When naming the cocktails, don’t settle for boring, regular names. Come up with unique ones that will spark curiosity. Here are some unique cocktail names you can use:

  • Dragon Egg Sunset
  • Cheeky Crush
  • Sherlock’s Escape
  • Blue Devil Lake
  • The Tipsy Shark
  • Snape’s Potion
  • Smirking Goblin Tonic
  • Direwolf Elixir
  • Mind Flayer Brain
  • Sweet & Sour Storm

3. Create a Waiting Area with a Bar

The idea above works better if you have a bar in your restaurant or at least a waiting area where you can also serve drinks. If you don’t have one specifically, maybe you can fashion one by adding some screens to separate it from the main seating area. Put out some comfortable armchairs to create a lounge.

Not only will this help you manage people waiting for a table and avoid them walking away, but it can also boost your drink profits. Train servers to suggest a drink in the waiting area before the table is ready or after the meal if you want to increase table turnover without hurrying people out of your restaurant.

4. Serve Craft Beer

Wondering how to increase beer sales? Craft beer is the way to go. Craft alcohol, in general, is pretty popular, especially among young people, and craft beer is definitely the star. If it’s sourced locally, even better.

Inquire about local craft beer merchants and strike up a deal with them to sell their products in your restaurant. Having a craft beer sales strategy can be tremendously helpful. Make sure you advertise these beers properly on your menu. Some information about how they’re made and a brief history of the merchant will go a long way.

Let people know these beers are unique. You will get bonus points for supporting other local businesses, and customers will get a kick out of sampling new types of craft beer.

Related: How to Increase Average Spend per Customer in Restaurant

5. Include Alcohol in Your Online Menu

Another beverage sales strategy that can prove useful is selling alcohol online. Of course, this will only work if you already provide delivery and takeaway. Instead of just selling your dishes, add a couple of alcoholic beverage options to the online menu as well, such as beer, wine, and spirits.

Another thing that is popular right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic is cocktail kits. If you can’t serve your delicious cocktails in person anymore, create kits for people to recreate them at home. Put all the ingredients together, and a recipe card explaining the process, and deliver them to people who order.

Power Your Website With an Online Ordering System Add food and drinks to your online menu to sell more.

6. Offer Taste Tests

Let’s say you have a snazzy new cocktail you want customers to buy. Apart from advertising it on social media and in your menu, suggest taste tests to interested customers who are undecided.

Similarly, instead of asking customers whether they would like a drink, servers can say something like: “We have a new cocktail you might enjoy. It’s called [name], and it’s delicious. I tried it myself.

If they ask for more information, talk about the ingredients and how it tastes, and suggest a small sample. If the presentation is interesting enough, they might agree to it and then buy the full version.

7. Have Constant Promotions on Different Drinks

Don’t just wait for a special occasion to treat your customers to some drink promotions. You should have them year-round and alternate the drinks, so everyone is satisfied.

Promotions are one of the easiest strategies to increase sales in a restaurant. They are a win-win situation. Check out these drink promotion ideas for inspiration:

  • 15% off our newest cocktail for the first month.
  • Name our next coffee specialty and get it for free for one week. (social media contest)
  • Order a bottle of wine, and you get a snack for free.
  • Celebrate Galentine’s Day with 1-for-1 cocktails.
  • 20% discount on the last week a seasonal drink will be available on the menu.
  • The designated driver drinks mocktails for free.

8. Upsell More Expensive Liquor

Upselling is a tactic that all restaurants should use for both food and drinks. In the case of drinks, liquor is what will boost your profits the fastest. So, here’s how to increase liquor sales: upsell, upsell, upsell. Upselling works like this: you automatically suggest more expensive options or wait for the customer to tell you what they want and then suggest an alternative.

For example, let’s say a customer has ordered the steak. You could naturally say that would pair well with a glass of your finest Lagavulin whiskey. If the customer simply says they want a whiskey neat, you could give them two options and shine a light on the more expensive one.

If your staff is wondering how to sell more alcohol as a server, it is your responsibility to teach them. Consider investing in restaurant sales training that will teach your staff about upselling and cross-selling.

9. Suggest Refills

Instead of asking the customer whether they’d like another drink, which implies it could be a different drink altogether, ask them if they’d like a refill.

Not just that, but also mention the drink they’ve ordered first by name. That shows attention to detail and it will also make customers more likely to accept. You could say:

  • Would you like a refill of this Chardonnay? or
  • Could I get you another glass of Chardonnay?

The word “refill” automatically sounds lighter than “another drink.” Although the customer still has to pay the full price of the drink, it will sound less expensive in their mind.

10. Offer a Little Bit for Everyone

If you want to make more money from selling drinks and increase beverage sales, your drinks menu should be as diverse as your food menu. What does that mean? Have at least one beverage option for every taste and mood: beer, wine, spirits, cocktails, juice, coffee, soft drinks, water.

Of course, this also depends on your restaurant concept and food menu. If you have a small, one-page menu that only features a couple of dishes, it makes sense not to have a bigger drinks menu. However, at least strive to include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options.

11. Tinker with the Atmosphere

Most often than not, customers are what you make of them. What does that mean in terms of selling more beverages? That the environment you create can have a significant impact on that. Depending on how well it fits your concept, you can use some tricks to get people to spend more on booze.

Loud music is said to stimulate drinking more. However, this might not work in most restaurants where people want to chat and not have their words get drowned by loud music. You could, however, turn up the music at the bar or in the waiting area.

You could also invest in more comfortable chairs if your goal is to get people to stay longer and order more. It all depends on what your expectations are. A high-end restaurant won’t rely on fast table turnover but on a higher average spend per table, which can be achieved by ordering more drinks.

12. Consider Outdoor Seating

While this may not work year-round, it’s an excellent option for those warmer months, and it can be pushed into the colder months as well if you add outdoor heating. When possible, most people will choose to stay outdoors because they want to smoke, or bring their dog with them.

Alcohol and smoking go hand-in-hand, so having outdoor seating will increase your beverage sales. Consider adding larger tables outdoors and smaller ones indoors because groups of friends might want to sit outside and spend more time there, which will prompt them to order more drinks.

13. Offer Seasonal and Limited-Time Drinks

Slap “limited-edition” next to any drink on your menu, and you will see its sales rise. That’s because the element of uniqueness, the one-time thing, draws people in like moths to a flame. To capitalize on people’s desire to taste fleeting things, create limited-time drinks that you keep around for a couple of weeks or months (depending on how liked they are).

The same goes for seasonal drinks. Just take a look at what Starbucks did with its now-famous Pumpkin Spice Latte. It has become a thing people look forward to every fall and a true staple of American popular culture. Since we’re in the midst of fall and winter is fast approaching, here are some seasonal drink ideas for the cold season:

  • Mulled mead
  • Pumpkin chai hot buttered rum
  • Non-alcoholic eggnog
  • Peppermint mocha
  • Hot cider with orange twists

14. Post About Your Drinks Online

As an integral part of your menu, the drinks should be as advertised as the food. Post about them on your website and include nice photos to make people want to try them, like a steaming cup of coffee or a colorful cocktail with an umbrella.

Similarly, you should post about them on social media, especially if you offer promotions or discounts. How else are people going to find out about them? Social media is also an excellent place for contests and giveaways.

15. Don’t Overpour

This mostly happens when preparing cocktails if an overly enthusiastic bartender pours way too much alcohol. Besides the fact that cocktails need to follow a recipe to be tasty, this also loses you money. Even if the overpour isn’t massive, it will add up if it happens all the time.

Train your staff to stick to the exact recipes when preparing cocktails, so they don’t overuse any of the ingredients. For measuring, have them use shot glasses instead of just pouring the drink straight from the bottle.

Conclusion

Learning how to increase beverage sales in a restaurant can lead to a considerable increase in your overall profits. Convincing customers to order an extra drink or a bottle instead of a glass is all about how you present it to them.

From how the drinks menu looks to the promotions you offer and how servers interact with the customers, a little can go a long way when it comes to creative ways to sell alcohol.

When formulating an action plan to increase sales in a restaurant, don’t forget about beverages. It can save you a lot of time and money.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She delivers business-optimized content to help restaurants boost sales and grow their brand.