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In association with Diageo

How to drive spirits sales

By Nicholas Robinson+

Last updated on 07-Jun-2017 at 10:34 GMT2017-06-07T10:34:19Z

Boost: advice on driving spirits sales in pubs

Boost: advice on driving spirits sales in pubs

Cocktails in pubs are on the rise, but making money from mixed drinks is not as simple as just putting a menu together. Operators must not only consider what their back bars say to customers walking through the door, but also how their online and social-media presence attracts drinkers too.

It is the age of social media, meaning more customers are either communicating, learning about new things or sharing their experiences through means other than speech.

Key stats

  • 84% of UK adults use social media
  • 35% of people use social media to help find a venue
  • 18% of customers say drinks quality is a key factor when eating out
  • 40% of customers say they will pay more for a better quality drink

According to We Are Flint’s 2016 UK Social Media Demographics Report, 84% of adults asked said they used social media. More than a third (35%) of consumers also said they looked at social media for suggestions of where to go, Diageo Omnichannel Research for September 2015 showed.

With those two points in mind, it is imperative pubs embrace digital channels to communicate their offering and help drive footfall.

Having an online presence is a necessity for almost all businesses now, it helps recruit new customers, as well as letting existing ones know what’s going on.

There are three simple ways to drive sales through digital (see boxout). In short, these include cementing your businesses profile on Google My Business, putting key information on your social media channels and ensuring your website is mobile friendly and captures email addresses for newsletters.

You want them to buy

But, the main challenge is getting the customer through the door and making the most of their time in your site by selling them the products you want them to buy.

Remember, a third of customers who walk into an outlet do not know what they want to order, according to CGA Strategy data.

It makes better sense, for you as an operator and from the perspective of a consumer who is looking for a great experience, to bring the best products into the conversation.

Three ways to drive through digital:

  • Local: get your business on the map for people looking for a great place to eat or drink in the area.  List your venue at Google My Business to provide information and look out for and respond to reviews
  • Social: add your address and opening times to social media, find fans who are already posting and focus on them and be sure to include photos or short videos of your venue, staff and serves for maximum likes
  • Online: make sure you have a website that includes your address, contact details, location map and menu and that the pages are mobile friendly.  Capturing emails with some personal details is a great way to build up a database and that will enable you to contact people with relevant news and promotions – think about birthdays, new menu launches or special events

If every licensed outlet in Great Britain traded five customers up every day by £1, it would provide an additional £223m in total annual alcohol sales, CGA OPM data to 25 March 2017 shows.

Doing this is not as tough as it sounds, though. According to CGA’s Mixed Drinks Report 2016, a quarter of cocktail drinkers now opt for a premium option. The same data also shows a third of customers would trade up to a premium option if it was suggested to them.

And with consumers increasingly demanding better quality experiences, the bar tender’s ability to consistently deliver a superior service is more crucial to driving incremental sales than ever.

Consumer curiosity

So, bar staff must be trained to confidently communicate the range available and take advantage of increasing consumer curiosity.

It is also vital not to forget that your bar staff are the greatest resource you have when it comes to selling drinks, with almost a third (32%) of customers stating bar staff play a key part in their decision making process (Diageo Omnichannel Research 2015).

If a member of staff can tell a customer why one drink is better than another, they are more likely to buy it, according to CGA’s Brand Track to February 2017, which also showed 40% of consumers agree they are likely to pay more for a better quality drink when out.

But, don’t forget the importance of the back bar when it comes to driving sales. It needs to be functional as well as good looking, so double-bank your bestsellers, remove any clutter and ensure your mixers are next to or close to your spirits.

Think small, whether you have one or more stations on your bar, staff should be able to reach everything they need without moving too far or frequently. Keep your bestselling drinks, the relevant glassware and garnishes no more than two steps away from the station.

Also, if you have a cocktail offer or are promoting a specific drink, help your customers by telling the story of the drink as clearly as possible. For instance, if it is a Cosmopolitan, then you might position a premium vodka, such as Cîroc, next to a Martini glass filled with cranberries and a lime next to it.

Make a Cosmopolitan:

Also known as the Cosmo, the Cosmopolitan became famous the world over after the characters in Sex and the City thirstily drank them. This is an easy, effective make that any pub can master.


  • 25ml premium vodka (we use Ciroc)
  • 25ml triple sec, such as Cointreau
  • 20ml fresh lime
  • 25ml of cranberry juice

Garnish: Orange peel twist
Method: Add all the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into the glass. Balance the lemon twist on the edge of the glass to decorate.
Degree of difficulty: Intermediate


Texan Mule
Glass: Tumbler or copper mug

  • 50ml Tito’s vodka
  • 100ml ginger beer
  • Fresh lime juice

Garnish: Lime wedge
Method: This simple suggestion comes from the Texan vodka brand Tito’s but, better known as the Moscow Mule, the serve is a vodka classic that dates back to the 1940s. Fill the mug or glass with crushed ice and simply combine all the ingredients over the top.
Degree of difficulty: Beginner

Summit of 72
Glass: Highball or hurricane

  • 50ml vanilla vodka
  • 200ml Pepsi Max
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

Garnish: Sprig of mint
Method: This Pepsi Max signature serve is for when (or should that be if?) the mercury levels soar. Three-quarters fill the glass with cubed ice. Add the vodka and the cola. Finish with the ice cream and serve with garnish, a straw and spoon.
Degree of difficulty: Beginner

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