Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Properly Prepping Your Bar for the Holiday Rush

The increased challenges and stress of the holiday season often reveal pinch points in bar and restaurant operations. New technology innovations now being introduced into the hospitality industry are designed to level out those pinch points. While time may be running out to take advantage of new solutions prior to the holiday rush – you can improve your operational posture for the season now, and position yourself to consider technology adoption in the new year. 

Manage and Optimize Your Increased Holiday Inventory

The holidays bring an increase in beverage inventory, particularly kegged inventory for bars and restaurants centered around draft programs. Forecasting weekly ordering now becomes critical as you don’t want to run out of a well-performing holiday stout, or on the flipside, carry over a Christmas beer into 2023. Cooler management and on deck planning also becomes central to lowering the chaos that an increase in kegged inventory can bring. But here’s the good news: better prepared bars and restaurants will increase receipts and positively impact the customer experience by tightly managing kegged inventory during the holidays.

How to Prepare:

  • Identify a method of more real-time analysis of kegged throughput for more accurate forecasting – especially for your seasonal products. While you may typically look at longer time frame averages for forecasting, more accurate ordering comes from evaluating depletion rates and throughput on a much shorter cycle.
  • Take a good look at your cooler now; clean out what doesn’t belong and prepare for the increase of kegs you anticipate. Get a good handle on existing inventory expiration dates and sell through what won’t be your best sellers as you move closer to Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Have a single source of truth for what’s in your cooler. Include product name, brewery, keg size, style and Alcohol by Volume (ABV) along with expiration dates so everyone making decisions around kegged inventory is working from the same source. 
  • Increase your team’s visibility to the on deck plan (and keep it up to date) for your draft program – so the right products get tapped in the right order at the right time. A well-maintained on deck plan can also help predict pending inventory issues if product is moving faster or slower than expected.

Design Your Holiday Customer Experience

At this time of year, customers look forward to (and are willing to pay for) new and special experiences, especially when it comes to food and beverage. Because they often break with their standard ordering patterns, they also tend to have more questions around tasting notes for the craft beer they want to try, or which seasonal beer, kombucha, or cider pairs best with their desert choice. But the holidays also bring stress points in staffing, with new staff onboarding that may have limited knowledge about the draft program you’ve carefully curated. A simple, efficient method for increasing your staff’s ability to deliver the customer experience you’ve designed will help you and your customers love this “…wonderful time of the year”.

How to Prepare:

  • Encourage your chef and beverage manager to collaborate on food/beverage pairings designed for the holidays and any new products on your draft program. Especially when pairing with craft beer, utilize for a simple, free resource to get direct-from-the-brewery product knowledge that includes flavor notes, glassware suggestions, and food pairing ideas for the specific beers on your menu.
  • Equip your new and veteran staff with “brewknowledge” of the new products you’re bringing into the draft program. Consider sharing links or posting printouts of product cards from BreweryDB to help your staff accurately answer customer questions and make informed suggestions.
  • Heighten your staff’s awareness of ABV knowledge. Increasingly, beverage customers associate “events” with ABV information. Depending upon the context of their visit, customers will be looking for “non-alcoholic options” from the draft program as well as “lower ABV” choices, or intentionally splurging on a higher ABV option because of a “special occasion”. Understanding this mindset will help servers enhance the guest experience.

As you make your way through the holidays, make a few mental notes about where the pinch points in your bar or restaurant operations reside. What are the manual processes of inventory management that are frustrating operations? What information deficits are limiting your ability to forecast more effectively? How can you increase your staff’s visibility to the on deck plan and the critical information that keeps the right products flowing at the right time? What impact could access to accurate product knowledge have on your guest and staff experience?

In the new year, use these mental notes to talk with providers of bar/restaurant technology about how their innovations can address your very real challenges and position you for long-term success for the many holidays to come.