How to wow your guests who choose not to drink.

Its very easy as a bartender or bar manager to focus your attention on alcohol in your business, that’s why people are coming out right? They want a beer, or a cocktail, or a great wine to share their evening with? Its very easy for non-drinkers to be an afterthought, and while they are in the minority, they are also a growing market day by day.

Studies show (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-331342 ) that along with the falling numbers of smokers, less young people are drinking on a regular basis if at all. This is driven by multiple factors including multiple campaigns like Drink Aware, religious beliefs, health concerns, drink driving being rightly stigmatised and other issues. Approximately 48% of the world’s population has NEVER tasted alcohol. So with less drinkers, how do we maximise our profits?

Creating a Comprehensive Alcohol-Free Drinks Offering

There is no shortcut way to create the perfect offering for those choosing not to drink alcohol, however there are certain steps that you can take and different areas to address within the menu you create.

Sodas

Sodas are the one area that most bars have pretty well covered. Most stock Cola, Diet Cola, Lemon Lime soda and perhaps an orange soda on the gun, of whatever brand is available, Coca Cola, Pepsi or one of the smaller players. Depending on your bar’s style, consider premium options like Feintman’s who make traditional colas and ginger beers for example, look at ready to drink options like J2O or Britvic 55, and don’t neglect the quality of your baby mixers, Fever Tree is a good option here.

Also perhaps look into options for more advanced post mix systems like those installed by Coca Cola at Five Guys outlets, which allow guests to mix their own sodas by adding flavour syrups to established flavours.

Juices

Really fresh juices, as well as transforming the flavour of your cocktails will also become a signature offering of their own. The challenge with really fresh juice is the short shelf life and the range that you should offer, so wastage here can be very high. On the flip side, under stocking will disappoint customers who come for the juice and find it unavailable, so there is a fine balance to strike here. Its quite possible to get juice on demand machines, which juice oranges and other citrus to order, but these are quite bulky and therefore not appropriate for every bar.

Hot Beverages

Coffee and a range of teas is a great way to expand your alcohol free offering, but make sure they’re good. Get a good quality espresso machine, good quality beans and make sure your barista knows how to set the grind accurately and adjust it throughout the shift. Keep the coffee machine immaculately clean, as old grounds on the group heads is the perfect way to serve burnt bitter coffee.

A range of premium teas will also add a huge range of flavour to your menu without bumping the price or stock holding through the roof, and tea infusions in syrups (I made a beautiful Verbena Tea syrup in 101 Marina Dubai) will make a great and unique addition to your cocktail (and mocktail) list.

I’m also fascinated to see what can be done with a virgin cocktail version of the espresso martini, while iced coffees have been served for a while, I can see a nicely balanced, chilled espresso with vanilla served straight up being a big hit in the near future.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails (Mocktails)

Of course your alcohol free virgin cocktails will be a vital part of your soft drink strategy, and still under explored in the bar industry at large. You can either create drinks from scratch for this or look at your most popular cocktails from your regular menu and aim to replicate these flavours without the liquor. I’d personally steer away from the later option, as the virgin cocktails deserve as much thought as their alcoholic cousins, and I don’t feel being a poorer version with removed ingredients should be the starting point in general. Start with the experience you want and work back from there!

Smoothies and Milkshakes

If your bar has a quality blender (and it should) you’re able to open up even further to offer great quality ice cream milkshakes and fresh fruit frozen smoothies. Start with a milk and vanilla ice cream base for your milkshakes and then add your flavours from there, you won’t have space behind the bar to keep 12 flavours of ice cream, but you can have one flavour plus fruit, chocolate syrups, butterscotch, peanut butter (be aware of allergy issues with PB of course). Look at the smoothies and coolers that coffee shops are serving and see how you can do it better!

Look at your local market

Is there a gym near your bar? Why not offer protein shakes too,  you’ll attract a whole new crowd into the bar, maybe to meet up with friends pre or post workout! Perhaps even offer a range of your mocktails with lower calorie counts for those looking to loose weight. The possibilities are endless, and only limited by the effort you’re willing to put in to find that market.

So don’t be blinkered and focus only on the drinkers in your bar, with more and more people drinking less and less, you could find your guest numbers dwindling and that is never good for the bottom line.