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Crafting the perfect drinks list that goes CHA-CHING

Crafting the ideal wine and beverage list for your venue is more than just selecting a few bottles. It’s an opportunity to enhance your guests’ overall dining experience, elevating your establishment and improving your bottom line. Remember, each sip tells a story – so here are some ways to make sure your beverage list adds a compelling chapter.

Are you a charming bistro with an emphasis on local flavours, a cosy café perfect for brunch, or a rustic tavern where comfort food reigns supreme? Your beverage list should harmonize with your establishment’s theme, creating a seamless experience for your guests.


A casual venue is likely to suit a supply of medium priced beers in four key approachable styles – lager, pale ale, some very hoppy, hazy or fruity and an amber or dark beer. These

key styles that move in high volume are often best delivered on tap, while a small selection

of alternative bottles and cans can help you to augment choices for the craft connoisseur,

low-abv drinker or cider lover and charge a higher premium.

Follow the same structure with your wine list – it must match well with your menu and popular drinking styles at mid-range price points, where buying by the bottle can be encouraged as a value offer. One or two premium wine selections across the category will always make sense, but remember if you’re planning to sell by the glass – your wine list should be highly approachable so each bottle moves quickly reducing wastage.


Your price by glass should be roughly the same as your wholesale cost for the bottle. Running a 1:6 or 1:7 ratio ensures you make strong margins on your wine stock and that rule applies across every type of venue. Remember to stay seasonal when planning garnishes for your G&T menu or cocktails. Choosing an out of season fruit garnish or doubling down on lemons and limes out of season can ruin your GP (gross profit) per drink, so rip those fresh fruit daiquiris off the menu as soon as they come off season. Cocktails should run at a minimum of 75 – 80% margin per drink allowing for fluctuations in trade pricing that generally occur every six months. Building your pricing off your hard costs is a winning formula.


Venues where the food is the focus benefit from a smaller list where beverages pair well with

the theme, structure and flavours on offer. Lean into your wine suppliers and distributors to help supply additional wine knowledge and training to your front-line teams here so that your service matches the precision of wine matching with dishes. A smaller list by the glass and focus on mid to premium price point bottles will give your menu the opportunity to shine. Focus

on affordable quality for 70% of your menu across wines, spirits and beer so you can focus on moving volume steadily. This makes your establishment welcoming to a wider range

of guests.

You have great opportunity to lean into local suppliers and ingredients when considering your cocktail and spirits offering. Include brand names and highlight cocktails that enhance the dining experience. A beverage menu should include courses, just like the meal. Champagne or aperitif to start, wine by glass or bottle through the main and then cocktails and dessert wine to finish.

A small and select premium spirits list is a must – following the structure of one medium priced and one premium priced offering per category. Perhaps choose a spirit specialty rather than creating a large back bar and structure the same spirits into your cocktail offering too. If gin is your focus, then why not start with a well paired gin and tonic menu? Match five great gins with five unique tonics and garnishes and then offer a Negroni, Martini or Berry Bramble for dessert.


Ensuring your staff are trained to suggest and explain appropriate pairings is a large factor in confident selling table side or behind the bar and can also help service run more efficiently by reducing service time. The more concise the menu or the more training your staff have, the easier it will be to make suggestions and guide people into delightful drinking experiences.


Choose to celebrate your region wherever possible by including regional wines and beverages on your list. Not only does this support local businesses, but it also gives your guests

a chance to explore the flavours of the area and your staff meaningful stories to tell when engaging with customers. Local products that are hard to find anywhere else give you the opportunity to top up your margin, as they are often sitting in a premium category.


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