Bloody Marys are the perfect cocktail. Few drinks can boast customer appeal for breakfast, brunch, and dinner, and none offer a platform for so many upsell opportunities. It’s easy to take a basic $5.99 Bloody Mary and turn it into a drink and a meal all in one. By using this “appetizer cocktail” approach, you can increase the price to $20 or more and create a signature drink for your bar.
Dallas Harrison has been sharing her ideas for building profitable appetizer cocktails for decades as Red Gold’s National Sales and Training Director. “There are no additional costs to the operator for featuring an appetizer cocktail on their bar menu. The ingredients are already in the kitchen. By using items already on the appetizer menu, it is easy to preload skewers and feature at least one signature Bloody Mary on anyone’s menu.”
The number of Bloody Marys on menus may indicate that bar and restaurant operators have caught on to the upsell opportunity. Bloody Mary menuing is up nearly 20% in just the past four years, according to Datassential, a company that tracks more than 400,000 items that come and go across American menus.
The Michelada, a Mexican beer and tomato juice cocktail, has seen 106% growth since 2014. Bloody Marias, using tequila instead of vodka, are up 83% over the same period.
“A gorgeous Bloody Mary loaded with scrumptious appetizers is such a great marketing tool for drawing crowds to an operation through social media,” says Harrison. “As I share the idea of appetizer cocktails and demonstrate how easy it can be to build an upsell Bloody Mary, operators in the room start pulling out their smartphones to take photos of what I created. In a few weeks, they will send me photos of their own creations at their restaurant.”
Harrison adds that another great tip for building momentum for an appetizer cocktail is to let customers chime in on social media or at the bar. By asking customers to create a restaurant-branded Bloody Mary with appetizers they choose, the operator can claim that the cocktail is customer-inspired and handcrafted from customer input.
Brick & Spoon, a four-unit Southern breakfast, lunch, and brunch venue in Louisiana and Alabama, lets customers build their own Bloody Mary. With prices starting at $12.50, customers can choose premium vodkas, up to five vegetables, and up to seven seasonings. Upcharges can include a boiled egg ($1 extra), vegetables (20¢ extra), and meats and cheeses (75¢ extra).
“When one customer orders an appetizer cocktail, heads start turning among other customers, and pretty soon everyone is ordering one,” says Harrison. “The secret is having the bar staff preloading skewers with the most popular garnishes to reduce wait times. There are always menu items still hot for last-minute grabs for skewering and serving.”
Just one signature appetizer cocktail added to a bar’s menu for up-selling is an easy start to building a reputation for over-the-top creativity that can spark the profit and the buzz every operator wants.
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