With so many polarizing items in the news right now, I’m sure you’re as sick and tired as I am listening to more conversations that divide us.
So today, let’s talk divided lines that bring us together. That’s right, your draft systems. Now, we’re not talking taps for beer. That’s too simple. Everybody has them, so what’s to say? No, I’m talking about wine and cocktails on tap. Coffee too. It’s seriously fun business for guests and staff, and around the country introducing these drinks on tap is changing the paradigm for many businesses.
Walk into almost any Dunkin’ and you’ll see the newly installed Micro Matic draft system. It’s one way they’re speeding up service and keeping coffee fresh.
At my local Dunkin’, the installation of the Micro Matic draft system came as part of a recent renovation. The store closed for a day or two and when it opened, shiny new taps for cold brew, iced tea and iced coffee were proudly on display and streamlining the workflow of the staff. That’s one way to do it- eat the 24-plus-hours of missed profit to get the job done.
Or, as Kris Byrd, Director of National Accounts at Micro Matic recommends, consider it early on in your build out. He shares, “I always say that conversation can’t be held early enough. When you’re working with the architect and in the initial stages of planning, that’s the best time. Of course, we can go in later and put in a system, but if you’re thinking about it, don’t wait.”
Waiting, as Byrd points out, can make things tricky on the MEP side, “There are unique electrical requirements, for example for the chiller you will need a different current, you need to consider the water line floor sink, floor drain and the best place for a trunk line to run. The tubing that has the glycol running through it to keep everything cold is best underground and it has to be part of the plan.”
Of course, all is not lost if you haven’t started thinking about it early on as Byrd mentions, “It can go up above and into a conduit but then you’re talking about more trunkline and more capital expense.”
Thinking early on in the physical plant planning process saves capital, and thinking about the draft system early on in your menu development can truly help build capital.
At Finch & Fork, the 150-seat restaurant in the Kimpton Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara there are always eight wines on tap, and it’s been that way since they remodeled. Christine Tran, Director of Food & Beverage, notes, “The restaurant just went through a remodel. It has been around for ten years, though the remodel was a year ago and the wine system went in then. We added it because we wanted to offer higher end bottles that guests definitely would be able to enjoy by the glass.”
With the draft system Tran is pleased to be able to offer higher end bottles to guests that they would have to pay more for because they’d have to buy the whole bottle otherwise. It also gives her and her staff an opportunity to show off the local wines. They concentrate on Central Coast wines, offering guests a real taste of the region. She comments, “We are special in that we are located in a wine region, so our guests like to come to us in order to be able to try various local wines. All eight wines are central coast and that’s how they can experience our wine program and not just be another wine program. We’re hyper local.”
Offering a hyper local flavor is one great reason to add taps to your system. It also helps with the upsell as Tran notes that guests coming in looking for a nightcap are often willing to splurge a bit and try something new without much risk.
In her role as Wine and Service Director for AC Restaurants, which includes Poole’s, Poole’side Pies, Beasleys, and Death & Taxes, Kat Robinson is a big fan of having wines on tap. Particularly at Poole’side Pies, the more casual family pizza concept. Having wines on draft encourages sharing carafes going by inspire more tables to order too. Robinson notes the benefits with groups, “Having a large carafe on the table can be an easy sell.”
She’s especially going through a lot of prosecco because, while it’s not what they’re generally pouring for guests who simply want to sip it, the prosecco on tap is an integral part of their spritz program – a hot selling section of the cocktail menu. Both the prosecco and the red on tap are big sellers. Robinson shares, “We’re burning through either of them at a similar rate. That’s because our spritz program is such a chunk of the menu and that’s a highest seller.”
With high volume drinks like the spritz time efficiency for service is key. Robinson loves having the draft system available as she remarks, “There is definitely a huge benefit to being able to top off a carafe or a glass. You don’t have to open bottles, reach into refrigeration. On tap is a big part of the efficiency of Pies. Also, we are right next door to an outside amphitheater, so it’s good to have the small things – like an extra moment to enhance service – that happen with efficiencies at the bar.
Being cost efficient also comes into play when you buy in true keg format. And a lot of it comes down to waste. Robinson and her colleagues know that if you open a bottle on a Monday and don’t sell it for a couple of days that wine is past its prime and needs to be dumped as it’s not the quality you’d want to serve your guests. At a place like Poole’side Pies which is open only four days a week keeping wine fresh is really a positive for their bottom line.
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina at The Katharine Brasserie And Bar in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel Bar Supervisor Justin Rankin is constantly considering his bottom line while he develops menus for the restaurant and the lobby wine hour and that draft system the restaurant has installed plays a big part of it. Though he doesn’t currently have any cocktails on tap he notes, “We definitely have the infrastructure. We change menus at least quarterly to keep present with what’s relevant in the city. We do a lot of events here and part of that is that we do a lot of cocktails for the cause.”
For a big group being able to push out drinks fast is helpful. Rankin also utilizes his draft system to surprise and delight guests. He shares, “I have done mini-taps – batched cocktails for the hotel. I do that for the hotel about once a quarter. It’s a little extra other than the wine hour.”
Rankin sees his wine on tap program as the little extra nudge guests need to be more adventurous. A USP (unique selling proposition) for the hotel as it builds great memories and helps drive local business sometimes too. Recently he had a verdejo on tap, and before that a rosé. With wines like verdejo that may not be familiar to clients it’s easier to educate when they’re on tap as Rankin explains, “I think if you’re doing something that’s not universally known – cocktail or wine – and you take that profit margin and lower the price you can intrigue the guest, then the bartender can educate. On tap it’s easy to give you a taste of the wine.”
Truthfully, that taste of verdejo didn’t intrigue guests enough that they were willing to take a whole glass at the price point it was offered, but that’s the beauty of a draft wine; even if it doesn’t move it’s not like it’s sitting in a bottle and oxidizing so at least you can eventually run through it rather than dumping it.
Cocktail service on draft has similar efficiencies. Additionally, you avoid consistency issues. Batched recipes taste as they should, and balance isn’t dependent on individual bartender skill. The last thing you want happen is that cocktail influencer coming in and posting about your signature drink and having other guests follow yet find the drink isn’t consistently great.
Like a draft system preserves your wine, it also can preserve your bar or restaurant’s reputation. So many reasons to think about adding wines, and cocktails, on draft to your bar menu if local statutes allow.