From psychology to design, everything you see on a bar menu is there to you get to part with hard earned cash. Boost those all important sales numbers with 5 industry insights about what really works.

How To Sell More Drinks At The Bar

Walt Disney said, ‘there’s no magic in magic, it’s all in the details’. With that being said, it could be determined that success has diddly-squat to do with luck and instead all to do with savvy. We realise that giving a business-brain tips on being savvy is like teaching your granny to suck eggs, but often it’s easy to become so concerned with the big decisions that we miss the smaller, untapped goldmines beneath our noses. Not to worry, as Cluboid have it covered. Here is how to sell more drinks at the bar using prime purse-opening secrets in 5 easy steps:

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Keep drink menus simple simple

While variety is the spice of life, there is a phenomenon known as the ‘paradox of choice’ which implies that too many options can rob the consumer of the satisfaction of their pick. If it’s too overwhelming, many people will panic and just order ‘the usual’, taking your transaction total down to that of a single mixer and coke, or worse, nothing at all. A study at Columbia University determined that when offering passerby samples of jam, more people stopped for a variety of 6 than of 24. By all means, keep your cocktails varied and unique, but your menu should be concise and refined. After analysis, it would appear that the most items you can list before your consumers start to decline is actually a mere 6. This doesn’t however, discourage you from having a few more ‘in the back’ so to speak, but for the purposes of visual stimuli- keep it capped at 6 and keep psychology on your side.

Respect the crowd-pleasers

It’s great to have unique menu, obviously, but don’t neglect the classics because you think they’re tired. Look at your numbers. Statistically speaking, Brits’ favourite cocktails are in actuality, the traditionals. Over 60% of UK drinkers claim to have a favourite cocktail and what ranks top with 32% of them? The Mojito. It’s also worth noting, that in the same poll- ‘flavour’ outranked ‘base spirit’ when it came to what’s more important, so turns out people aren’t all that fussed with what they’re drinking if it’s done particularly well.

Try contemporary re-fixes of the classics for an exciting but smart menu addition. A poll by TASTE earlier in 2016 revealed the UK’s top 10, so try experimenting with one of the following favourites:



Espresso Martini

Pina Colada


Old Fashioned

Bloody Mary


Long Island Iced Tea


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How your menu is formatted plays a huge role in your sales figures, so you would be missing a major trick by neglecting your layout. By the looks of it, you would also stand to see an increase in sales by knowing what to leave off entirely. A study at the University of Cornell found that a menu that omits the currency symbols encourages people to spend anywhere up to 8% more in restaurants.

Font size is something that need also be considered. Bizarrely, if a font is too small, the very action of squinting to read the text causes the reader to frown, which psychologically generates negative associations with your venue. By mimicking the action of feeling discontent, the facial muscle used when we frown (known as the corrugator supercilli) is directly linked to the area of the brain responsible for our emotions, the amygdala. A study from The Journal of Pain (2008) reported that patients that frowned during a nasty or uncomfortable procedure claimed to have felt more pain than those that relaxed or smiled throughout. Ouch. To avoid any unintentional frowning, it is recommended that the ideal font size for comfortable reading is between 10-14pt.

Be familiar

People go crazy for pop culture references, which is partly due to a psychological theory known as cognitive fluency: a tendency to lean towards things that the brain recognises and can process easily. As an example, you will find that, say, the number 129148359260 doesn’t even warrant reading, instead the brain will scan it and dismiss it quickly. Chances are you’ve never seen that unique combination of numbers like that before, and rightly so - the brain doesn’t like it. Terms that the brain registers with little effort are scientifically more likely to convince a consumer that they already like a product by instilling a feeling of familiarity. It is quite simply known as ‘The Mere-Exposure Effect’, and the backbone of any product placement campaign in contemporary media. Studies have shown that mental bias is an extremely effective sales strategy, and one simple method to invoke the same feeling of recognition is to use mainstream media, topicality and pop culture to your advantage. Selecting the names for your house cocktails is a very important stage of the sales process so the wittier, more topical references you can crowbar in there- the better. Think Shirley Temple or Tom Collins, terms that are already interwoven in our subconscious are an easy and efficient way of capitalising on sales. After all, better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

Data taken by The ALMR (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers) has determined that the number of nightclubs across the country has decreased by a whopping 55% from 3,144 to just 1,733 in the last 10 years. [2005 - 2015] In the last year alone, we have said goodbye to many London-based favourites such as: Matter, Herbal, Pacha, Area and Hidden. We don’t want your venue on there too, so be smart and give your menu psychological makeover- we promise, it’s magic.

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Know your customers

Why waste energy curating an extensive cocktail menu if your demographic are die-hard beer fans? Sure, in an effort to expand and grow, but you have a major opportunity to increase your revenue by referral and recommendation if you just give the people what they want. Generally speaking this would be known as profiling: defining your current clientele to help you target similar prospects. You want to look at age, gender, income, behaviours, average spends, trends, incentives, what they believe in and what they feel passionately about. With all of that collated, you can effectively categorise your clientele into sensible approachable chunks and employ a marketing scheme designed specifically for each. Kerching. How do you do this you ask? Well, everyone knows that people don’t hand over their details unless given a ruddy good reason to. This is your cue to invoke your drinks promotions, your discounts, your membership/loyalty card incentives, competitions, social media interactivity such as feedback forms, quizzes or mailing lists. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

One case study may be: you identify that there is social event nearby every Thursday which sees your venue welcoming a group of females between the ages of 25 and 35. You also identify that this demographic is statistically shown to be amongst the most health conscious: in fact a whopping 25% of cocktail drinkers polled (both female and male) claimed they would always opt for the low-calorie option were it available. Based on this information, you can then create a promotion to best suit your venue for optimum sales - perhaps you choose to implement a Thirsty Thursdays 2-for-1 on all low-cal menu options.

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In summary

It all boils down to striking that perfect balance between knowing when to hold and when to fold. By that, we mean that customers respond to a carefully balanced combo of tradition and innovation: give the people what the they want, but in a way they’ve never experienced before. Use the knowledge you’ve garnered from learning your clientele to introduce subtle, exciting menu changes that demonstrate just how well you do what you do. Keep your menu content succinct, purposeful and familiar, and its design clear and digestible. The cocktails should be digestible too though. Just cause you’re investing in menu revamping, doesn’t mean you can skim on produce, you minx!

About the Author

Indiana West is a regular writer at Cluboid focused on helping large and small businesses achieve better bookings and reservations.

You can read more posts by Indiana on our blog.

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