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Keep business moving with Booze, To-Go

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How are you going to keep your sales up when the temperatures start to go down? Offering a selection of craft cocktail kits for take-out could help maintain revenue.

We’ve interviewed Restaurateurs who are currently preparing their outdoor seating for the winter and Chefs adapting to changing markets with meal kits. Now, we talk with Shan Wickham of Rally Pizza, in Vancouver, WA, about the evolution of their bar program amid the pandemic. Many states have relaxed their liquor laws slightly throughout COVID and are allowing many establishments to begin selling cocktail kits for patrons to prepare at home. As Rally customers enjoy beverage pairings with their ingredient-driven Neapolitan style pizzas, in the safety of their homes, this small business is able to keep generating revenue. 

Quick action

Rally reacted quickly to the lockdown restrictions. By already having third-party delivery services in place, the restaurant managed to quickly change their business model, without having to close their doors to reassess for the new regulations. Wickham acknowledged that Washington’s ease on off-premise alcohol sales helped out in the early months, by permitting businesses to sell beer, wine, and liquor for take-out and delivery with the purchase of food. Her team quickly pivoted their extensive cocktail program to be available to-go, offering premixed cocktails, DIY kits, and boozy floats + shakes along with their vast selection of local beer and wine. Wickham factored a rise in revenue was “due to people avoiding going out, so many people being off work, and also not a lot of places selling to-go booze.” Though, she explains, that it is slowing down, they still see a lot of repeat business. 

Staying up-to-date with your local COVID regulations will give you an advantage on what your business can offer, allowing you to transition your bar menu to pick-up or delivery. Rules vary from state to state and are changing frequently, so contact your local liquor commission for more detailed information. 

Offer Options

Rally cocktail kits include something for everyone! Ranging from $8-$85, guests can choose from a variety of their signature premixed cocktails for two. Or, a DIY kit that offers all the quality ingredients to create about 33 Mandarin Margaritas or their namesake Negroni. All kits come with housemade garnishes, fresh squeezed juices, and detailed instructions served in a mason jar. 

In these uncertain times, we all want to feel some resemblance of how things used to be. For customers, it’s enjoying a craft cocktail with their meal. The problem is most at-home drinks consist of the same basic two ingredients (think gin + tonic or whiskey + gingers). By offering your bar’s unique bloody marys in batches, or bespoke manhattans in bottles, you could help your guests to level up their mixology skills and turn a profit. Note that most patrons will not have bartending experience so make sure to include thorough instructions, with a supply list, if it is a do-it-yourself kit. 

Sustainability + Flexibility

“We have learned to be a lot more nimble and flexible about changing our product offerings,” Wickham emphasized. “We’re focusing less on efficiencies of scale and more on changing frequently to respond to a rapidly evolving market.” Wickham stresses that the sustainability of finding jars for their take-out bar program has become a struggle. The pandemic has caused the biggest surge in canning jar sales since Y2K, both from home chefs getting into pickling and the upcoming trend of restaurants using them as takeout vessels. 

Due to the pandemic, shortages in the supply chain are not a rare occurrence for small business owners who have to be both creative and persistent to find providers. Being prepared to find alternative solutions will be a useful skill if the supply chain breaks down. Try offering incentive programs for customers to recycle and return glass jars.

If your liquor commission has not eased restrictions for restaurants and bars, a good alternative is offering kits with everything but the booze. Many establishments have recreated their signature craft cocktails, dry, but compensated with fun garnishes, clever cadence of the instructions, cool packaging and trendy branding. Emphasize to your customers if your bar team creates their own bitters or cordials in house, or prepares their own infusions. In today’s industry you will have to promote what sets your cocktail kits apart from the next. Bring your unique bar experience to your guests – they were already lured by the food. 

Rally Pizza’s ability to quickly implement a bar program for takeout is another innovative solution to stay afloat.  As bars and restaurants continue to pivot their business models in reaction to reopening guidelines, a number of operations are offering more than just food. Cocktail kits could be a solution for your business to maintain sales during the winter. 

Rebecca Gill

Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work has directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring and cuddling with her dog, Indiana.

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