Gone are the days when a simple happy hour special will drive lines of traffic in the doors. Guests are now looking for fun, exciting activations with brands they love. Your bar is a highly-coveted venue for these spirits brands and a great place for you to start building a regular customer base.
First and foremost, know the laws as they pertain to alcohol in your establishment. Each state has specific regulations around liquor and food sales and the promotion of drink specials. If you’re unclear on what they are, Google “restaurant liquor laws” in your state. Here is a guide that came up in a search of Virginia with a lot of helpful information. And please, always encourage your guests to drink responsibly and train your bar staff to serve responsibly. There is no promotion that’s worth the cost of a human life, and drinking and driving can have real consequences. Consider partnering with Lyft or other ride-sharing services to provide an extra level of service and safety to your guests who are consuming alcohol!
Once you’ve established safe protocols for beverage service, it’s time to start getting creative with spirits brands. Consider these opportunities for activation:
- Introducing a new product or product line with neat pours and signature cocktails
- Establishing a partnership with a local, regional, or national brands that you love
- Holiday and event-related promos such as the Kentucky Derby, National Tequila Day, or Halloween
- Celebrating the professional achievements and skills of your bar staff through a special meet and greet event
- Guest bartender events
- Ongoing cocktail clubs
- Launching new food menu items that pair well with specific cocktails. Consider adding some of the spirit into menu items themselves if possible, such as a bourbon glazed pork or tequila ceviche.
Guests are looking for interactive, educational, enjoyable experiences that highlight food and drink in new ways, so sit down with your team and brainstorm thoughtfully to come up with promotions that are unique. Typically, guests respond well to clever merchandise, photo ops, and other takeaways that can be valuable touchpoints, helping guests remember the experience long after it’s over.
When you agree to co-host an activation with a spirit brand, it’s important to know what the roles and responsibilities are for each partner. Create a simple agreement that spells out what each person will do and sign it. If it’s an ongoing relationship or there’s a lot of money on the line, it might even be worthwhile to have your lawyer advise on terms so that everyone is crystal clear on how the relationship will take shape.
The next step is to spread the word! Share the news with your press list, newsletter, and, where appropriate, social media and make sure that your partners are doing the same thing to reach an extended network of guests who will be excited to come experience your bar promo!