“Navigating the new normal” is a phrase that has been used a lot lately, don’t you think? It is no secret the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our world over the last several months, and our beloved Hospitality Industry has quite possibly taken the hardest hit. From government-mandated quarantine and restaurant closures to widespread furloughs and layoffs, everyone – even our guests – are having to alter their habits and lifestyles in order to adapt to this “new normal.”
As our country begins to reopen, with varying levels of restrictions still in place, we are seeing the states, which have been allowing restaurants to open for dine-in service, reporting a slight upward tick in restaurant traffic. Nielsen CGA conducted a study comprised of these states and reported that 30% of consumers went out to eat in bars/restaurants at the beginning of June.¹ While there is still room for growth, since approximately 82% of total U.S. consumers visited bars/restaurants for a meal at least once every two weeks pre-COVID-19¹, it is important to look at why guests may not be venturing out to dine-in just yet. Nielsen CGA also reported in the same survey, that out of those who noted “not having returned to a restaurant,” the two biggest concerns were not feeling safe being in close proximity with strangers, and not feeling safe going out [in general] at the moment.¹
This tells us the on-premise sector is currently in a very unique position where we can up our game in a sense. As we all work to navigate to this “new normal,” we must think of our guests FIRST when considering ways to drive both traffic and sales this summer. It will be imperative that we welcome our customers back with a better, safer experience than ever before – which is going to have to include some key factors moving forward, including but not limited to:
Polished Best Practices
Aren’t sure where to start? This is where the PHCP Team comes in! We have reviewed the data and conducted brainstorms to develop some top-level ideas for traffic-driving promotions that are based around these 4 key factors. We also met with our Director of Beverage Operations and Training, Kurt Moody, who advised on some operational best practices for these promotions, or really any promotion or limited time offer (LTO) that you may want to put in place in the future!
Consumers craving convenience has been a growing trend for some time now, even before COVID-19, and what is more convenient than getting your entire meal to go – even your drink of choice?! With the majority of states now allowing alcoholic beverages to be ordered with to go meals, we do not expect this trend to stop any time soon. Especially seeing that some states, like Texas and Iowa, have now made this a permanent option. Upon conducting their latest study, Nielsen CGA reported that 53% of consumers had noticed restaurants offering alcohol to go.² Sam Awdish, president of the Michigan Spirits Association, said in a statement to Nation’s Restaurant News, “[t]hese new laws not only provide needed relief and new revenue sources to the hospitality industry, but they offer fun and safe alternatives for their guests to enjoy hand-crafted cocktails in a comfortable setting of their choice.”4 If you are looking to capitalize on this opportunity with ways to enhance your to go program with beverage elements, look no further than these kits detailed below!
Program Info: Some guests are choosing to stay at home, despite some states allowing restaurants to open for dine in, and that is okay! We can still help make date night special, or foster those family traditions at home, by offering an all-encompassing movie night kit for a set price.
The Couples Kit can include:
Their choice of : “Craft Your Own Cocktails” that come with their selected spirit & mixer*, a bottle of wine or a 6-pack of beer!
A shareable dinner option for 2 that includes dessert.
A movie rental code through an online streaming platform.
The Family-Friendly Kit can include:
For the parents, their choice of : “Craft Your Own Cocktails” that come with their selected spirit & mixer*, a bottle of wine or a 6-pack of beer!
Don't forget non-alcoholic drink options for the kids!
Shareable dinner options, where the size of the servings can be adjusted in order to accommodate the number of people in their family (price will vary).
A movie rental code through an online streaming platform.
Program Info: Offer guests a premade meal kit, with everything they may need for their day in the park, beach, wherever! That means, for a set price, they will receive food that is packed in travel-friendly containers, along with their beverage(s) of choice, disposable cutlery sets and drinkware, even disposable plates! For an additional cost, offer an “elevated” package where the meal will come in something nice that the guest can keep – like a picnic basket or a soft cooler!
Kit can include:
Their choice of: “Craft Your Own Cocktails” that come with their selected spirit & mixer*, a bottle of wine or Champagne - or a 6-pack of beer or seltzer.
Packaged courses: Appetizer, Main Entrée, Dessert
Disposable utensils and drinkware
*Where legal, try prebatching the to go cocktails and serve them in branded packaging. This will add onto the guest’s experience and is a sure way to generate some buzz about the cocktails – we can see the Instagram stories now!
Properly implemented social distancing on-premise will be an important safety strategy that guests are going to be expecting for a long time to come. As restaurants across the globe are beginning to reopen, consider some creative ways to utilize and plus up the space you have this summer, inside and outside, that will show customers we want them to have a great dining experience – while also showing that we care about their safety by following the CDC Coronavirus Guidelines for Restaurants and Bars.
Program Info: Who doesn’t love a good tailgate party? This twist on the traditional American experience is made for those who may want to go back to their favorite restaurants but aren’t quite comfortable with sitting inside of a restaurant/bar dining room just yet. Utilize the parking lot to create designated spots that guests can reserve and park in for a 2-hour time period. Tape off the reserved areas and ask that guests stay in their designated area to ensure everyone respects and properly adheres to the CDC Social Distancing Guidelines. Promote that they can also pre-order their food and beverages for a set amount of people, in order to reduce contact as well. If you have your own app/website or a third-party app/website that you use for reservations, this could be an additional element that is included on those platforms!
Additional Element: Kick this promotion off with a pop-up concert in the parking lot to showcase local talent! Make it a larger event by also inviting local vendors who may have been affected by the COVID-related closures to participate.
Program Info: Set up a pop-up drive in movie theatre in your parking lot and give guests a new version of dinner and a movie! We can ask that everyone stay in their cars once they arrive to ensure the CDC Social Distancing Guidelines are respected and adhered to, rent a jumbo inflatable projector screen, and even pick a fan-favorite movie to theme the featured food and beverages around – which will be served to them in their vehicles of course.
Additional Element: Utilize QR codes and augmented reality (AR) to create a platform where guests can compete against one another with themed trivia questions, before the movie starts, to really get them connected and foster a sense of community in an entertaining way.
According to a recent TD Ameritrade survey that Business Insider reported on, a number of Americans said the pandemic helped them find new ways to cut back on spending. Most reported a noticeable gap in their budgets that was once reserved for eating out, going on trips, etc. Here’s the kicker…64% of those surveyed said their spending will be permanently changed post-pandemic.3 Therefore, showing value to our guests through our beverage promotions is essential!
Program Info: This is something we are seeing more and more! The traditional wine dinners, which include carefully thought out course pairings, are now seeing a shift to the virtual world. Allow guests to get the best of both worlds and offer a choice of whether they would prefer to attend the wine dinner in-restaurant or virtually. The virtual option would include a Wine Dinner Kit, which can be picked up at their local restaurant day of and would include a code to get into the tasting experience room. Partner with one of your wine suppliers and see if they can include a special message from the wine maker themselves for an added bonus!
Wine Dinner Kit can include*:
4 bottles of wine
4 course dinner: Hors d’oeuvre(s), Appetizer, Main course,Dessert
*example shown for 4-course meal, would be best for 2 or more people.
Program Info: The ultimate value offer – select beers, wines, and cocktails for $5 before 5 P.M. (where legal)! Welcome guests back to stores with this promotion, which not only lets them know that we understand times are tough right now and budgets are tight, but also helps us deplete our inventory at the same time! This is a great way to drive day-time traffic to stores and show value at the same time.
Featured items can include:
Domestic draft beer pitchers or growlers
Mix and match buckets (beer, seltzer, RTD, etc.)
Tall craft and import drafts
Low COGs cocktails (highballs, spiked lemonades and teas, margaritas, Aperol Spritzes, etc.)
House Wines by the glass (BTG)
POLISHED BEST PRACTICES
All of the programming ideas we have presented you today are easily executable, but you cannot forget the most important part – making sure your restaurant’s best practices are polished. Our resident BevOps Expert, Kurt Moody, gave us 3 things to always keep in mind when considering or executing on-premise beverage programs!
DO THE HOMEWORK!
Conduct market research and track where guests are coming from using a map. Use methods like geotargeting to get specific data by region.
Create a competitor worksheet to identify gaps and opportunities and note what’s working for the competition.
CREATE A PLAN!
Track sales history over the same period based on previous years, months, and weeks.
Identify sales-driving priorities based on sales history and your current beverage strategy.
Define the promotion’s objectives and create strategies.
Work with local managers and team members to finalize any staffing and product inventory needs.
EXECUTE THE PLAN & MONITOR RESULTS!
Execute and promote the event across all channels available (print, social media, etc.)
Track and adjust your plan every week, and make any needed adjustments based on results, not forecasts.
Run the promotion for at least 6-8 weeks in order to establish guest loyalty and awareness!
¹ Nielsen CGA, Covid Update, June 11, 2020
² Nielsen CGA, Covid Update, June 19, 2020
3 Business Insider, Americans are confident their smart spending habits will outlast…, June 22, 2020
4 NRN, States begin to make cocktails-to-to laws permanent, July 2, 2020Author: Bradie Bowen
Category: Industry Buzz