Making The Leap – A New Banquets Beverage World

Making the Leap – A New Banquets Beverage World By: Scott Martiny

Some things never change, so the story goes. You can put banquets bars on that list. For decades now it’s been 8 bottles of liquor, and a couple of bottled beer and wine choices. It was boring then and it’s still boring. But most times we drink for free, so what should we expect anyway? For the event sponsor, however, they still get the invoice, and they still erupt, absolutely certain there was no way we all drank that much.

30 years ago there was no way to approach a banquet beverage bar setup differently. It’s challenging to setup a bar, take a starting and ending inventory, manually calculate consumption, then the invoice all in the course of one evening. Add to that the competitive pressure to win events which makes price a big decision factor, and it’s no wonder banquet bar programs are a race to the lowest common denominator.

But some things have changed. Technology is now providing new options which, if embraced, can dramatically change the way you approach your banquet beverage service offering. In so doing you can improve your overall competitiveness in securing event business while improving your beverage revenue yield per event. Beverage monitoring technology allows everything about banquet beverage service to be reconsidered. Now you can know exactly what and how much is poured, when it’s poured. That capability unleashes the chains which have traditionally bound banquet bar operations to status quo.

You don’t have to depend on eyeball based consumption information for invoicing. You can know if or when bartenders are over pouring drinks. Your customers can now have confidence in the bill. Because you have a real time automated consumption measurement system what stops you from:

    o Putting as many bottles on the bar as you can
    o Pouring well, call and premium liquors on the same bar
    o Selling drinks with normal up charge type pricing (i.e. ROX/Martini’s) – so no more 1.25oz ROX/Martini’s
    o Selling specialty cocktails (mixes of liquor and juices), tasting flights (i.e. tequila tasting), promotional cocktails sponsored by brands or tied to charitable donation programs
    o Giving customer real time invoice position updates during an event so they know where they are and can make informed choices on extending bar hours or cutting things off early.
    o Doing Hybrid programs – Hosted for a period and then cash bar – Package for a time and then hosted or cash bar

The customer wants?

• Their gathering to feel like a real bar setting. If they could rent out their favorite cocktail place for an evening, they would. Many do today, as restaurants and bars are more and more often posting that “private party tonight” sign outside their door.

• An enjoyable social setting for the celebratory and or social connection goals of the event planner. It’s not about pumping alcohol into their event attendees.

• To feel the service was correct and the bill is right at the end of the evening. It’s hard to trust an invoice prepared based on bartenders eyeball measuring liquor left in bottles

But it’s a leap to get to this new world. Status quo is a powerful force to overcome. Two completely different departments (Catering Sales and Banquet Operations), teams with different personas, leaders and focus, have to make the leap together. This is an innovation project. Technology is just the enabler. The technology deployment has to facilitate the necessary evolution in products you offer to event customers and execution of those services.

ROI Results scorecards on these projects can be jaw dropping both in terms of the rate and scope of return. You have to be confident in the innovation leap to have the project payoff, but the return potential is significant. Increased event win rates mean more events. When someone chooses your venue over another and a contributing factor was the unique beverage program you offered, the impact on revenue and profitability is the entire value of the event to the property. Arm the catering sales folks with real bar operations in terms of experience and cost to the customer and they will win more events. Arm those catering sales folks with a beverage invoice that is guaranteed to be accurate and a customer service program that is guaranteed to be consistent; and they will win more events because they know how concerned potential customers are about this issue. Arm those catering sales folks with real time bill position feedback options and they can make the case to the customer that your venue is the only place they can host their event and not have to worry about the bar bill the entire evening.

Increased flexibility in your beverage program means more beverage sales per event. The innovation makes the bar a funner place to visit during the event and offers customers the kind of ordering flexibility and options they normally get in a bar. The host of the event gets what they want in terms of their guest experience and you get a higher beverage invoice per event.

Getting ROI Results

The key to getting ROI results is to focus strictly on the program and business process changes that will support winning more events and better matching customer desires for a bar experience in their events. Then it’s time to drive those changes into the sales effort and ultimately execution of beverage services.

    Obstacles to overcome:
    Ops has to agree to product and pricing offering adjustments and catering has to effectively sell the new programs. Given the future character of event sales, any changes today may take months to show up on next week’s plan. For a period of time you are standing in two worlds at the same time.
    The technology itself can be complicated. Making the leap means your business strategy for banquets depends on the system working anywhere you may choose to set up a bar. These systems should run wirelessly on existing public or private facing wireless networks to insure you have data when you need it.
    Change only what drives higher event win rates and higher beverage revenue yield per event. It’s important to keep focus on the primary role of the technology and not get distracted with business process change in areas that work just fine today.



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