5 Ways to Succeed with To-Go Alcohol Sales

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

5 Ways To Succeed With To-Go Alcohol Sales

We’re all adjusting to our “new normal” and, for many of us, that ‘normal’ continues to change almost daily. For restaurants, the new normal is carry-out and delivery, which isn’t all that new except that many states are now allowing alcohol sales to-go! And this is great news for the folks who get on the bandwagon quickly because if the last 24 hours in Ohio is any indication, your customers are ready for it!

Here are five simple ways that you can ensure that your restaurant is ready to successfully distribute alcohol sales to-go:

1. Ditch The Ice

Why is this number one? Because within 4 hours of the new to-go liquor order in Ohio, I saw three pictures of to-go cocktails on social media that were being transported with ice in the glass. Drinks go “stale” on average within three minutes of their crafting. If a delivered or carried out cocktail is going to taste great at home, it has to be transported pristinely. Let your customers ice that drink at home!

2. Use The Right Container

There are two rules for carryout beverages. One, they have to taste great when they arrive at home; and two, they have to look as delicious as they taste.

A plastic cup with a lip that can accept a straw is not the right answer for a number of reasons. First, it’s open and can cause spillage. Second, it’s afoul of liquor laws in every state. Third, it just looks tacky. For these reasons, we recommend 12-16 oz plastic bottles that can be one-time sealed. Here’s an option from our friends at GoodStart Packaging, which costs less than $0.35 per bottle and can be used with tamper-evident caps: https://www.goodstartpackaging.com/16-oz-wh-juice-bottle-pet-240-count/. Your existing distribution should have similar items, maybe even at a better price point.

Glass Mason jars coupled with a wax rim or sealable plastic can be a great option, too. Here’s what a take-home margarita might look like courtesy of Tekela in Ohio:

If you’re really feeling it, a custom label can be applied to these bottles for less than $0.30/bottle, leaving your complete branded packaging costs less than $0.70 per serving.

We know how important branding is, so if you need graphics designed for your to-go bottles, we’ll design it for you for free within 48 hours. Our gift to you! Simply email our support@whatisflyght.com email with your logo, dimensions, and purpose.

3. Keep It Simple

This is the rule with all 100% dine-away operations, and it’s no different whether it’s just food or food and booze. Profits happen when economies of scale occur. Pare your cocktail list down to your best-sellers and those easy-to-make items to keep profits up, waste down, and time-to-prepare at a minimum. It’s also a point to note that many complex cocktails don’t travel well – anything with ingredients that stale quickly will be hard-pressed to satiate a palate at home.

Are you looking for a list of simple cocktails? A martini, an Old Fashioned and a margarita are all staples, but the truth is, what will make you any different from the triple sec + mix + El Jimador margarita down the street? Be yourself, be unique, and build your cocktails inline with your business. Customers aren’t looking for a rum and coke – they’re looking for a cocktail that they wouldn’t otherwise make at home for themselves.

4. Prep In Advance

If you can mass mix, measure, and prep your mixers; labor costs can be reduced, and orders can continue out the door at a breakneck pace. Prepping in advance can also reduce inconsistencies from one cocktail to the next. How many times have you gone to “your place” but a new bartender is on shift who makes the cocktail just slightly off from how it was meant to be served? Prepping mixers and portioning alcohol can remove these inconsistencies, ensuring that your customers always get the drink (and food) quality that they’re used to.

5. Expand Your Marketing

Finally, use this opportunity to expand your social media presence and engage your customers as the novelty of takeaway liquor begins. Ask your customers to tag you as they pick up their orders. A great way to show appreciation for your customers during this time (and boost your online presence) is to offer a gift card for the best #backyardbbq, #tacotuesday, #margaritamonday, or #backyardhappyhour photograph that tags your item and your restaurant.

As you embark on this adventure, we’d love to see the successful marketing of your takeaway alcohol program. Tag us on Instagram and Facebook so we can share your success with other great restaurateurs.