“Can I see your cocktail menu, please?”
It’s a question that’s asked at hospitality venues up and down the country, every day. And it’s no surprise, given that 15% of the population drink cocktails out of home.
On average, each person spends 109 seconds looking at a menu. To those people, first impressions count. Your cocktail menu should capture their imagination, tease their taste buds, and ultimately — drive sales.
Here, we’ll share some of our menu-making wisdom — so you can put bums on seats, drinks in glasses, and money in the tills.
Find a balance
The first step to creating the ultimate cocktail menu is deciding what to offer.
Inside the typical menu, chances are you’ll find the UK’s top ten most popular cocktails. Given that they account for two thirds of total UK cocktail sales combined, it’s wise to have at least some of them on your menu.
As a rule of thumb, aim to create a variety of different flavours to suit different tastes. That way, there’s something for everyone.
The trend is your friend
Like everything else, cocktails have their trends. Depending on what’s trending, consider tailoring your offer to the flavour of the month.
For example, 82% of people find the idea of a ‘modern twist’ on a classic cocktail appealing. A small tweak could make a big difference to your menu.
Write the right way
Drinking a cocktail is an experience. This is your opportunity to make people’s mouth water — and get them reaching into their pocket with your words.
Describe the ingredients, flavours, textures and aromas. Keep it concise and to the point — and leave something to the imagination, we like to use three word descriptions like “creamy, velvety, moreish”.
Write in a tone of voice that’s true to your venue’s character. Inject some personality where necessary and keep it consistent throughout.
Design with detail
Reading a menu is also a visual experience. The fonts, colours and even textures all come together to help communicate a feeling.
Think about what menu items you want to emphasise — it could be specific cocktails, special offers, or allergen info. Good design guides the eye.
Keep everything easy to navigate, read and understand. If your menu looks pretty but people can’t read it, what’s the point? Form follows function!
Make it visual
Even though the old wisdom tells us not to judge a book by its cover, it seems like cocktail consumers don't seem to find this applicable to their drinks. 46% of consumers agree that being able to take an appealing photo to post on social media impacts their choice of cocktail
The visual appeal of the cocktails your venue serves has an influence on how your bar might be perceived on social media - 38% of consumers take a picture of their cocktails on social media “every time” or “almost every time” they order cocktails. The power of social media can certainly drive footfall to your bar so serving 1-2 visually impactful cocktails is recommended.
Let your cocktails be seen on your menu as well. Two or 3 high quality photos of your best looking cocktails will certainly add to the intrigue and increase spontaneous cocktail purchases.
Albeit cocktail quality is extremely important to the consumer, balancing quality with value is key to ensure your venue doesn't experience traffic dips. Rising prices are leading to a greater reliance on deals and promotions. Premiumisation of the category combined with a reduction in disposable income is making opportunities to purchase cocktails at a discount much more attractive.
The most popular promotion mechanic with cocktail consumers is 2-4-1 cocktails (64%), closely followed by Price Discounts and Happy Hour offers (48% of consumers said they would use this mechanic).
Try a few different mechanics over the course of the month to see which one is most appealing to your guests. We aren't trying to suggest you turn your venue into a discounter, but offering promotional windows can help insure you have bums in your seats, in spite of the economic climate.
Get everyone involved
To confidently serve the cocktails you’re offering, everyone should know each cocktail inside out. It’s hard to sell a drink you know nothing about!
That doesn’t mean reciting the detailed history of each cocktail. It means knowing the ingredients, the serving techniques and flavour profiles.
When it comes to recipe experimentation, no opinion is a bad opinion. Each person has a unique insight to offer. After all, cocktails are for everyone!
Do’s and don’ts — recap
- Emphasise allergens. These are extremely important. Make sure to follow health and safety laws in your region, be clear and concise.
- Consider the length of the menu. According to studies 60-70% of sales will come from 18-24 menu items.
- Make it fun and engaging. People are in a bar to enjoy themselves.
- Ensure all staff know the drinks inside out, it’s hard to sell a drink you know nothing about.
- Use cocktail imagery.
- Create promotional windows to help you drive traffic and communicate them clearly on your menu.
- Consider every choice on your cocktail list. There should be a reason why they are included.
- Expect everyone to know what your obscure ingredients are. That includes new staff — keep it simple and explain them to your customers if they’re unsure.
- List only bartender style drinks — boozy and short. Most people don’t want this. Approachable drinks will sell better and avoid confusion.
- Never disregard people's opinions when developing new drinks. Don’t overlook new starts as inexperienced — they might have insights into your customers tastes.