What makes a perfect serve?

By Robert Mann contact

- Last updated on GMT

Perfectionism: customers will begin to justify premium price tags if you get your perfect serve right
Perfectionism: customers will begin to justify premium price tags if you get your perfect serve right
Getting your range of drinks is, of course, crucial but making sure you serve them correctly and with elegance will help maintain and even grow custom.

Getting a serve right is paramount to maximising sales, generating profit and customer satisfaction. In this feature, The Morning Advertiser​ takes a look at the importance of a quality offering and how operators can improve their perfect serve.

The ‘serve’ has become, essentially, one of the biggest selling points in the drinks industry today. Indeed, with so much competition and growing choice for consumers, the way you create and present a drink now holds much higher value.

Serving drinks no longer means just handing over a glass or a bottle. From glassware to garnishes, or even a bit of theatre from your bar staff, by achieving the perfect serve and adding something extra to your drinks offering, your customer will begin to justify premium price tags, ultimately increasing your turnover.

Build the trust

So, what makes the perfect serve and why is it so important?

Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits and a key producer of beer, believes that a drink perfectly served will build trust, ensure that consumers will be back for more and will, accordingly, get you positive recommendations.

Its Bar Academy programme, a global network of experts and insights from some of the industry’s leading influencers and world-renowned bartenders, shares its top tips on creating the perfect serve.

The first question regards the quality of your glassware: is it attractive and does it suit the drink its being served in?

According to CGA’s Mixed Drinks Report​ for April 2018, more than a third (36%) of consumers will buy a drink based on the glass it is served in.

On glassware, Diageo’s Bar Academy advises using the right glass is “very important” because it plays a “massive part” in customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, not only should the glass hold the right amount of spirit, mixer, ice and garnish, but the correct glass can contribute to the overall customer experience – Diageo’s consumer research uncovered if a drink looks better, it tastes better.

It also revealed the importance of using cool, dry glasses and to handle the glass as little as possible – remember the top two thirds of the glass belong to the customer.

Using clear, good-quality ice is a key ingredient to creating perfectly served drinks, their research continued to reveal.

You can use different types of ice such as cubed or crushed for different serves and experiences. For long mixed drinks you should fill the glass with ice – the more ice you use the cooler the drink and the less dilution.

Moreover, the pour is “just as important” as any other step in ensuring a quality serve.

The best way to ensure accuracy, consistency of drinks, reduced waste and showcase professionalism is by using a jigger to measure your spirit. Again, for long mixed drinks, you should pour the spirit over ice and a top tip is to pour in front of your customers with the label of the bottle facing them.

After all, good-quality chilled mixers can create exciting flavours, textures and enhance the overall customer experience and boost sales.

Another good idea is to keep ahead of trends and stock new and emerging soft drink flavours, for example, ginger beers and flavoured tonics. These on-trend mixers allow you to offer your customer something different and make your venue “stand out from the competition”.

Additionally, presentation can boost sales and give your venue a competitive edge.

Garnish can add colour, flavour and make your serves extra appealing. An easy rule to go by is to use oranges for orange-flavoured drinks, lemons for lemon-flavoured drinks and limes for everything else. You could also experiment with peel and other garnishes such as berries and herbs.

About a third of customers entering a bar are undecided about what they’re going to order, so your ability to impress and offer expert advice is key to unlocking potential sales.

A great way to upsell is within the brand using a menu, as most customers choose a premium version of their favourite brand before trying a new one and the menu is a great way to engage with customers.

Signature serves are a great way to showcase your venues identity and help you stand out from the crowd. These serves can help spread a positive word of mouth and, by using local or different ingredients, it can offer your customers a different experience and boost sales.

A great way to make your venue stand out is through the distinctive serves you offer for different occasions.

Seasonal serves can give you that point of difference and an opportunity to engage customers and drive sales by satisfying their desire for treating themselves.

Your seasonal drinks don’t have to be complicated and can be created by simply adding a garnish or extra ingredient. For example, you could create summer outdoor serves with crushed ice, winter hot toddies or celebratory festive serves.

For another, it’s interesting that Red Bull, one of the most successful on-trade stories of recent years, also emphasises the importance of a perfect serve.

Now the number one energy drink in the world, it believes its perfect serve is “fundamental” to the ongoing success of the brand.

Huge spirits range

Research carried out by Red Bull also suggests that by ensuring pubs deliver the perfect serve every time, they can increase sales by up to 21% – surely a statistic not to be ignored.

The lengths that licensees at the Winchmore – brother and sister team Mark and Eimear Walsh – go to are unusual for a local pub, even for one for which has a premium offer such as the one on offer at the Winchmore.

The dynamic duo at the north London watering hole, recently won a coveted Star Award from Star Pubs & Bars for Best Spirits Pub, and were singled out by the judges for their perfect serves.

The pub stocks more than 300 spirits, spanning the full category range and Mark also ages and infuses spirits on site to make a house range, which is sold by the bottle for takeaway.

“We were nominated for the award as we have an outstanding range of spirits,” boasts Mark.

“Customers want to enjoy a more premium experience when they are out because the perfect serve visually excites the customer and begins that premium experience.

“Also the correct glassware and garnish is, ultimately, of utmost importance.”

Whether it be gin, wine or beer – the serve must be perfected whatever the tipple, adds Walsh.

“For example, let’s take a beer – the correct branded glass must first be selected,” he affirms.

“For Heineken, we use a chilled pint glass straight from a blast chiller.

“The lager must be poured into a glass at a 45-degree angle – the nozzle must not touch the beer – ever.

“We seal the head on our pints with a back pour as we have a Heineken smart dispense system.

“This keeps the beer fresher for longer – giving you the perfect pint.”

The pair’s attention to detail when it comes to the perfect service is typified by their gin and tonics.

Gin still rules

Gin is “increasingly in demand” from customers, who are seeking new ways to drink it, Walsh says.

“We have the ‘gin society’ at the Winchmore, boasting a range of up to 70 gins,” he adds.

“We serve our gins in coppa glasses and each gin is carefully paired with the perfect garnish to enhance the botanicals on the gin.

“With so many choices of gin, we have found that our gin board helps the customer select their preferred choice as they make their selection by knowing what garnish the gin is served with.

“Customers stay longer and are keen to try different selections – it adds characters and fun to our gin society and it also increases the spend per head that, in turn, increases our gross profit within a tied model.”

Ben Ko-Nkengmo, Star Pubs & Bars’ spirits category buyer, gives his top tips on how to serve spirits.

“The perfect serve is the most crucial part of your spirit and mixer offering, but often the most overlooked,” he explains.

“With 45% of customers willing to pay more for a better quality drink and 33% of consumers ordering a premium mixer when they order premium spirits, there has never been a more important time to make sure that your service and presentation standards are as they should be.”

Ko-Nkengmo adds the serve is a “crucial part” of the customer experience.

“Start with a clean, dry, cold, glass,” he explains.

“Fill with ice – the more ice there is, the slower it will melt, thus, ensuring that the drink tastes as it should from the first to the last sip.

“Pour in your measure of spirit, top with the customer’s choice of mixer and garnish with freshly cut fruit.

“The golden rule with garnishes is to prepare little and often in order to minimise wastage and ensure fresh product at all times.

“Don’t be shy with your selection of garnishes – seasonal fresh berries can add an eye-catching twist to a classic G&T or Tom Collins.”

Looks matter

In summary, attention to detail and, above all, the ability to know what your customer wants from their drink – seems the best way to generate profit.

After all, new research led by professor Charles Spence of Oxford University, has proven that making something look good makes it effectively taste better, too.

So perfect your serve and create eye-catching drinks that, as an upshot of, keep your punters coming back for more.             

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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