"It seems beyond the imagination of the menu-maker that there are people in the world who breakfast on a single egg." - Melvin Maddocks
Melvin Maddocks' above quote sums up my own frustration upon opening most hotel or resort beverage menus. While contemporary restaurants promote specific concepts through the selection of ingredients and styles of cooking, enticing guests with imaginative dishes and neatly worded menus, the same ideology towards concept development has not been widely embraced in the bar, and the lack of imagination to which Maddocks alludes is still common.
Take a moment to to consider the outlets in your property. Does the cocktail selection in your signature restaurant dovetail with the food offering? Do any of your bars have a specific beverage concept or do your menus consist of mainly classic cocktails?
The classics are all very well - they endure for a very good reason - but for your bar to stand out in an increasingly competitive market, consideration must also be given to signature concepts and cocktails. Aspiring operators are beginning to catch on and, at Fling International, we have seen a rise in requests for menu development in properties ranging from 4-star business hotels to exclusive boutique resorts.
We firmly believe that bar concepts are only limited by your imagination and that a little investment in intelligent menu development can really set your bar apart. Here is my 8-point guide to developing your own unique beverage offering.
1. Keep it Different
One of the keys to a bar's success is having a concept that stands out from the crowd. Have a look at the surrounding area and see what kind of bars are already established. If there are a lot of Latin bars in your area, for example, then don't open another one, even if you think your head bartender's Mojito is the best in the world.
That doesn't mean you should eschew popular drinks for the sake of being different but why not put your own conceptual twist on them? What about an Italian concept that lists a sun-dried tomato Bloody Mary, a fresh basil Daiquiri or a Mojito topped with Prosecco?
2. Make Sure it is on Trend
Strong concepts take a current trend like the use of homemade bitters and syrups or the incorporation of local, seasonal ingredients and run with them.
Research what is current and popular through the internet and the industry press and be careful that you leverage the popularity of a growing trend rather than jump on to the back of a fad that will not deliver in the long term.
3. Make sure it fits
While you need to be different, don't be so different that your concept confuses your clientele. Developing a molecular mixology concept in the centre of a cosmopolitan city will endorse your bar as cutting edge, however, in a remote game reserve it would be out of place.
When developing a menu I always try to keep in mind a sense of place, especially if there are a number of tourists among the clientele. I believe the concept should not only promote the outlet but also the property
4. Don't price yourself out of the market
Gold dust and lobster-infused vodka may catch the eye on the menu but make sure your guests can bear the sales price or you risk implementing a vanity project rather than a profitable product. One-off luxury drinks that require expensive ingredients or time-consuming methods can add value to an outlet but they should be kept to a minimum and highlighted on the menu for maximum effect.
5. Control the cost
Don't load your menu with too many ingredients that are only used in one drink. Smart concept design concentrates on ingredients you already purchase and integrates them into multiple drinks. Look at how you can fit one ingredient into a non-alcoholic cocktail, a long cocktail and a martini cocktail. Place them in different sections of the menu so the repetition isn't obvious.
6. Spell it out
Make sure your guests understand the concept of your bar through the menu. This is achieved through the ingredients you use as well as the cocktail names and descriptions.
Your beverage menu should be a reflection of the bar and, worded correctly, it will celebrate the concept, generate positive interest and become a selling tool for the outlet in itself.
7. Make it deliverable
Don't burden your bar with a concept that is difficult to implement or sustain. A Mexican concept isn't going to work if your suppliers only have two different brands of tequila.
Also, don't overload the menu with concept cocktails. Develop six to eight signature drinks and highlight them at the front of the menu then use the remaining pages for popular contemporary cocktails and
8. Train your staff
Perhaps most importantly, make sure your staff understand the concept and cocktails and are able to make and explain them correctly to your guests.
While the menu can become a selling tool for the concept, it is essential your staff have the skills and knowledge to actively promote the concept, answer guest questions, make recommendations and deliver the drinks in a sustainable manner.
By Andrew Mullins, founder and director of Fling International
Fling International is a group od professional bar developers
and hospitality operators dedicated to the improvement of bartending
bar operation, hospitality training and guest experience worlwide.
They provide comprehensive consultancy and training courses including
menu development, professional bartender and bar waiter courses,
salemanship and opening support. They count One&Only Cape Town
among a prestigious list of satisfied clients.