October 20th, 2019 | By Adam Billings
Last year, there were 302,989 full-service, independent restaurants in the U.S. (according NPD’s Spring 2018 ReCount® census). With more restaurants closing than opening from the year prior, the restaurant business can be very challenging, and the percentage that are promising enough to turn into successful small chains is miniscule. These restaurateurs are as brave as they come.
There are land mines waiting for unprepared restaurateurs around every corner: food safety, staffing, accounting, advertising, legal and the list goes on. The most important decision a leader can make is to build a strong team, and it’s no different within the beverage category. A beverage director can be a huge asset to the success of the restaurant group, and hopefully it is an individual who has been hired from within. This new position usually starts as a part-time gig with this individual pulling double duty as a bar manager at one of the restaurants. It’s important for them to carve out a proportional amount of time for their new responsibilities. Developing this person’s skills and experience will help them best navigate the challenges ahead.
A common issue with small chains is the inconsistencies of beverage offerings by restaurant due to regional differences, wholesaler selections or manager preferences. This can lead the beverage director down the thorny path of menu versioning, recipe management and frayed inventory reports. These differences can turn into uncontrolled nightmares when there is a lack of proper leadership and strong organizational skills. The key to success is a strong core brand list, stated flexibility and proper approvals for product alternatives. This will communicate a strong brand message to the team.
Turning individual success into shared success is the job of the beverage director; the quicker they are able to identify and replicate the desired behavior, the faster your chain will grow. A well-defined promotional calendar is crucial to building a culture of guest engagement and brand activation. However, simple calendar reminders aren’t the answer. A promotional calendar should forecast future promotional opportunities as well as document past promotional effectiveness. A post-mortem report pulled from the restaurant POS is just as important as the promotion itself.
POS systems are an essential tool of any restaurant operation but more often than not, they are in eternal flux. As a restaurant chain grows, very often POS buttons are being cloned and the reports become messy (think “Steve” in the movie “Multiplicity”). While it’s never a bad time to reprogram the POS, an overhaul should certainly happen around ten restaurant openings or after five years. An experienced industry professional should be able to provide the guidance and layout within a week’s work. The beverage director should be keen to learn from these proceedings as that person will be responsible for ongoing management.
Restaurateurs would be right to set an example of innovation, and an important step in this process is supporting industry conferences and the application of trend data. There is no lack of amazing food and beverage events throughout the U.S.; the question is deciding which ones are the most beneficial. Trend data is also quite accessible throughout the industry as a whole, especially from supplier partners. These efforts should lead the beverage director to a healthy environment of training and education. When a growing restaurant chain cultivates an effective beverage director, sales and check averages will rise. This is the right environment for unit growth and expansion.
PayBev is a business designed to assist growing restaurant chains with tools to develop their beverage program. We empower beverage directors to work with their supplier partners to meet sales goals and service standards. Please check out PayBev.com and let us help drive beverage success!