Sell More, Save More 3 Spirits: Boosting their spirits

Related tags Cocktail Mixed drink

Great drinks, a welcoming atmosphere and fantastic customer service are three of the keys to running a successful pub - and it's vital that licensees...

Great drinks, a welcoming atmosphere and fantastic customer service are three of the keys to running a successful pub - and it's vital that licensees offer comprehensive staff training to achieve this, according to Sell More, Save More spirits champion Mixxit.

The training scheme run by spirits and wine distributor Maxxium UK, Mixxit recently visited this year's three pubs to discover their current spirits offering and provide a tailor-made training proposal to help them take the category forward.

Training can play a key role in developing your business, enabling you to improve customer service, consistently serve great drinks and ensure repeat visits from the locals while attracting visitors from further afield.

All three of our Sell More, Save More pubs are hoping to make more of their spirits offering, as it should be one of their most profitable categories - but it's currently not an area that they are maximising.

High-street venue Woody's in Northwood Hills, Greater London, hopes to become the best cocktail bar in the area. Meanwhile, community pub the Stanley Arms in Portslade, near Brighton, feels it needs to ensure its spirits offering matches the quality of its renowned ale selection.

Rural pub the Wheel Inn in Pennington, Hampshire, needs help with serving spirits and knowing what to recommend to customers.

Cocktails at Woody's

At Woody's the Maxxium and Mixxit team will be helping Natalie and her staff create a range of cocktails to boost profits.

CGA research shows that the number of outlets offering cocktails has grown 36 per cent between 2007 and 2009 - underlining how pubs and bars are increasingly using cocktails to drive footfall, as they're something that consumers can't easily replicate at home.

Mixxit trainer Patsy Christie says: "Cocktails increase options for your customers and are the most profitable drink you can serve.

"Nielsen research shows that 58 per cent of customers don't know what they want to drink when they reach the bar, so if you've got confident staff who can recommend a great cocktail, there's a real opportunity to convert undecided consumers to drinking something with high profit margins."

Natalie would like to offer an extensive range of cocktails but Patsy recommends having a core list of four cocktails to begin with.

"To offer more would be too difficult for bartenders just starting out in cocktails and they could become frustrated about not being able to do it," she says. "Consistency is vital, so it's better to start with a few and get them just right."

Natalie hosts various themed nights including a talent show, open mic nights and gay nights. Patsy recommends offering a special cocktail menu for themed nights to make the night unique.

"Be strict with the rules and make sure you don't serve these signature drinks on any other night," she says. "It will give regulars to the event something to own and make it more special."

The eight members of staff at Woody's have had little training - and no cocktail or spirits education. Natalie wants to encourage her staff and make them feel like their job is a trade that they can be proud of, not just a stop-gap.

She says: "When I watch bartenders making cocktails, it looks so hard and I think 'how can we do that?' So we do need some training. The staff have enthusiasm and passion, they just need the guidance. They can't wait to learn."

Mixing it at the Wheel

At the Wheel Inn, Pete and Marie want to improve their spirits knowledge and make sure their back-bar caters for everyone.

Patsy's advice is to create a list of simple mixed drinks and make sure they're on a drinks list which is visible on the bar.

"Often it's the simplest things that can really work the best," she says. "Just introducing a simple long drinks menu could encourage consumers to try something different.

"Mixxit can help outlets with all types of clientele; we can help to raise standards to the next level, wherever you're starting from. It's also important to use your spirits knowledge to recommend drinks. Your staff are your greatest asset and present the biggest opportunity to influence your customers. If they are knowledgeable about their products and are making simple mixed drinks or impressive cocktails well, it's bound to generate interest from other customers who may want to try one themselves."

The Stanley Arms, Portslade, East Sussex

The Stanley Arms is known for miles around for its fantastic selection of regularly changing quality ales from microbreweries around the country. Licensee Steve Bennett is beginning to improve the wine offering too, with the help of Sell More, Save More wine champion ViVAS but he admits spirits is an area he needs help with.

Bennett says: "It's not an area we've focused on enough but we want some ideas to drive the business forward. We want to be known as a quality destination, whether it's for a soft drink, ale or high-end spirit."

Maxxium's UK on-trade marketing manager Chris Harrison says: "The spirits category is currently in growth in terms of value, while beer and wine are declining, so it's important to make the most of spirits."

The Stanley Arms is at the hub of the community, hosting various local teams and events and offering meal deals. This puts them in a strong position as, according to Him! research, 68 per cent of people choose a pub because it is an important part of their community.

Mixxit is recommending that the Stanley Arms themes its 'flame-grilled burger and a pint for £3.50' offer as 'American' and serve it with American whiskey, Jim Beam bourbon and cola, as an alternative to a pint. This would encourage more drinkers to try whiskey. Mixxit also recommends serving Cockburn's port on wine and cheese evenings, using the brand's quality point-of-sale material and promoting the offer through their menus.

Chris says: "The Stanley Arms can improve its business by providing a wider selection of simple but fantastic mixed drinks. This will encourage new drinkers, including women, which is something they would like to do. They will also boost profits by getting their spirit offering right. Our training will not only give the staff the confidence to recommend spirits but to serve them well too so that customers want to re-order, return or recommend."

• Watch this space in the months ahead to see how spirits progress at Woody's, the Stanley Arms and the Wheel Inn

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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