Our consultancy expert, Anil Sabharwal, explains why less is more when it comes to cocktail menus!
Why having lots of cocktail options is not beneficial for your menu.
Over the years I have designed drinks programs and cocktails for many venues, and one of the most common requests from clients is a large list of cocktails to offer guests. This might sound like a good idea on paper, but it can do more harm than good for the business. Here we will explore some of the main problems that venues, guests & staff face when presented with too much choice. Many venue owners and managers believe that more choice equals happier guests, but as a business you must understand that you can’t cater to everyone. Brand identity is key so that guests know what to expect when they come to your venue—you would not expect to get a steak at McDonald’s, for example!
Imagine the scenario: You get to the bar and are greeted by the bartender, who then hands you a drinks menu that is pages and pages of different drinks that are available at the bar. This is an overwhelming and daunting experience for many guests. People go out for many reasons, and one of them is to relax. If looking through your menu is exhausting and confusing, then many of your guests will give up and order the usual beer or spirit they have at home.
For one of my very first cocktail bar jobs many years ago I had to learn 106 cocktails! (no, that’s not a typo). Granted, some were simple drinks like a Screwdriver & Cuba Libra (a fancy vodka orange & rum coke respectively) but most of them were not as simple. Remembering all these drinks and reproducing them accurately and with consistency is difficult for even an experienced bartender. It also made setup and breakdown every shift extremely long and laborious, which affects staff morale. Plus there were days that we did not have certain ingredients, because the list of stock was too long to keep track of.
Large menus do put unnecessary pressure and extra work on management and storage. It just makes the whole ordering process a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Wastage can also be a huge problem, as a lot of fresh ingredients will have to be ordered daily. This might be fine for smaller venues, but does become an issue for larger venues who will order in even larger quantities. With a smaller menu, training your bar team also is simpler and makes bartenders a lot more confident in producing and remembering cocktails. You also have more control over smaller menus as cocktails that sell poorly can be more easily swapped out for another selection.
Tips for choosing a cocktail selection for your bar:
• Ensure that your menu has a balance of flavours, spirits, colours & presentation.
• Tailor your menu to your venues style or have something unique to get people talking and taking photos
• Try to make sure that any speciality ingredients on the menu are being used in at least 2 cocktails. This will help to make sure your stock is moving more consistently.
• Keeping your menu smaller will be easier to manage and make changes.
• Seasonal menus are something that a lot of top cocktail bars do, changing up the menu depending on what is available seasonally which keeps down costs and ensures that the ingredients available are always fresh and of the best quality.