Hospitality

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Things Looking Up For December

Things Looking Up For December

by David Klemt

Friends toasting with Champagne outside during the winter

Food and beverage research and analytics firm Datassential’s end-of-year insights point to a positive outlook for restaurants in December.

While many consumers still have reservations about spending time in public, others are eager to return to “normal.”

Restaurants and bars are expected to play an important role in reaching normalcy this holiday season.

Let’s take a look at Datassential’s 2021 Holiday Issue statistics.

Hesitancy Waning?

Let’s get the less-promising data out of the way first. Some consumers still find the idea of in-person restaurant visits uncomfortable.

Nearly half of Boomers surveyed by Datassential (46 percent) said they’re “significantly less likely” to visit a fast-casual or fast-food restaurant in December.

And, interestingly, 42 percent of men gave the same answer for visiting traditional sit-down restaurants.

However, of all the in-person options presented to participants by Datassential, restaurants performed the best.

More than half of all respondents—men, women, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers—plan to visit fast-casual, fast-food, and sit-down restaurants more in December than they have in recent months.

It’s most likely that anticipation for restaurant visits is driven by the desire to gather and celebrate the holidays.

Overall, 57 percent of respondents plan to visit fast-casual and fast-food restaurants more. And 47 percent expect to visit sit-down restaurants more.

That makes those two options the top answers.

Only 16 percent of respondents indicated they don’t plan on visiting any on-site foodservice venues.

Regarding bars, sports bars, lounges, and nightclubs, men are “significantly more likely” (23 percent) to visit those types of venues in December.

Holiday Opportunity

According to Datassential’s report, the opportunity for holiday bookings is out there.

More than likely, gatherings will simply be smaller than they were prior to the pandemic.

Asked about plans to gather at restaurants in December, get-togethers are expected to be “moderately sized.”

Almost half of survey respondents (44 percent) plan on gathering at restaurants in parties of seven to twelve.

Just over a quarter (29 percent) plan on get-togethers of six or fewer of people. Only 18 percent of respondents are planning large (13 to 18 people) gatherings at restaurants in December.

As far as parties of 19 or more, just nine percent of respondents plan “very large” gatherings.

Of course, individual operations’ results will vary. However, this information gives us an idea of what traffic may look like for many operators.

2021 Spending

This is where the news looks even better for restaurants, bars and nightclubs in December.

When asked about spending money on going out to eat and for drinks, just 18 percent of respondents said they planned to spend less this year than in 2020.

Very nearly half (49 percent) plan to spend the same as they did last year. However, 32 percent said they think they’ll increase their spending.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, the numbers shift a bit. However, 50 percent of respondents plan to spend the same on NYE in 2021 as they did in 2020.

Twenty-six percent plan to spend more on NYE in 2021. Just 24 percent plan to spend less this year on NYE.

Per Datassential, Millennials are most likely to splash out for NYE this year.

So, things won’t be returning to pre-pandemic normalcy by 2021’s end. However, if Datassentials findings prove accurate, things are looking healthier for December.

Image: Christine Jou on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How is Plant-based Performing?

How is Plant-based Performing On-premise?

by David Klemt

Plant-based food bowl

With plant-based food options making their way to global fast food chains, it’s clear the category is continuing to heat up.

In fact, it’s likely time to stop referring to plant-based menu items as a trend. Obviously, they’re here to stay.

But how are these items actually performing on-premise? Is the category experiencing real growth or barely noticeable?

“Proliferation”

We’re full throttle into the holiday season. People are focusing on spending time with family and friends.

And what does that mean? Gathering for meals.

So, if restaurant traffic is going to tick up, it makes sense to see if plant-based should be more prevalent on menus.

To that end, Datassential revealed data on this category two weeks ago during their “Holidays Ahead!” webinar. Of four trend-tracking designations—Inception, Adoption, Proliferation, Ubiquity—Datassential notes plant-based menu items are in the Proliferation stage on-premise.

Analyzing data from 2011 to 2021, Datassential showed that the category started growing in terms of menu placement in 2018. As of this year, plant-based items are on nearly five percent of restaurant menus.

That may not seem like impressive growth. However, there was zero-point-zero-percent growth between 2011 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Datassential shows that only 0.1 percent of restaurants offered plant-based menu items. That growth doubled in 2017 (0.2 percent), then doubled again in 2018 (0.4 percent).

In 2019, the category quadrupled to inclusion on 1.6 percent of restaurant menus. Last year, that growth more than doubled to 3.5 percent.

According to Datassential, 28 percent of consumers like or love plant-based menu items. Interestingly, the research agency finds that all types of consumers like plant-based items, not just vegetarians or vegans.

The Datassential breakdown of plant-based menu proliferation by restaurant category is as follows:

  • Fast Casual: 11.5%
  • Casual Dining: 5.4%
  • Midscale: 3.9%
  • Quick Service: 3.4%
  • Fine Dining: 1.8%

Chains are more likely, at this time, to feature plant-based menu items.

Upscale Options

Wanting to include plant-based options and knowing where to start are two different things.

As it happens, Datassential featured a timely real-world menu to that should inspire operators this season.

Watercourse Foods in Denver, Colorado, offers mains and sides that will resonate with holiday diners:

  • Seitan Roast (wheat, soy, blend of herbs) which stands in for roast turkey.
  • Pot Pie consisting of carrots, celery, onions and mushroom.
  • Root Vegetable Stuffing made with root veggies (obviously), savory herbs, and housemade bread.
  • Mac and Cheese featuring shells tossed in cheese fondue and topped with shiitake “bacon” bits and breadcrumbs.

As you’ll notice, you don’t need to limit your menu to products from Beyond or Impossible. Obviously, you can leverage their brand recognition but you can also utilize your current plant-based inventory to create housemade menu items.

If you’re ready to embrace plants at your restaurant or bar, activate your kitchen team. With a bit of creativity you can take advantage on the rise in popularity of everything plant-based.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

Thanksgiving Eve by the Numbers

by David Klemt

Two shot glasses garnished with salt rim and lemon wedges

Tonight, guests will be looking to celebrate a bar holiday that’s traditionally lucrative for operators: Thanksgiving Eve, a.k.a. Drinksgiving.

It’s difficult to imagine that any operator or hospitality worker is unaware of Thanksgiving Eve’s status.

Sure, some mark the start of end-of-year celebrations with Halloween or Thanksgiving. However, I feel Thanksgiving Eve truly ushers in the holiday season.

I’d also argue that while retailers have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, operators have the night before Thanksgiving. Yes, New Year’s Eve is also huge, but Thanksgiving Eve is considered the busiest night of the year for bars.

Interestingly, this is a holiday that benefits bars across the nation. In fact, it’s not exclusive to destination cities.

After all, the reason it’s so big, traditionally, is that people are traveling back to their hometowns. And while Thanksgiving is for their families, Thanksgiving Eve is for catching up with childhood and high school friends.

Obviously, there are fantastic bars located in cities outside of their destination counterparts. Hot take, I know.

So, does Thanksgiving Eve deserve its hype ?

The Evidence

Unfortunately, data from 2020 isn’t readily available, for obvious reasons.

However, we do have some data, largely thanks to restaurant management and POS platform Upserve.

One of the simplest ways to analyze Thanksgiving Eve’s impact is to compare it to the previous Wednesday.

Per Upserve, guest counts rose 23 percent in 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving Eve.

Looking at data from more than 10,000 restaurants and bars, Upserve found that guest count totaled 496,883 on November 14, 2018. One week later, that number rose to 643,637.

As Upserve content marketing coordinator Stephanie Resendes says in her Thanksgiving Eve article, “More people = more money.”

Of the 10,000-plus Upserve clients whose data was analyzed, net sales were $17.250 million on the Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving Eve 2018. That number jumped to $22.296 million.

So, looking just at a relatively small sample size from 2018, Thanksgiving Eve’s impact doesn’t seem overblown.

The Drinks

According to Upserve, beer was the year-over-year winner through 2018. It saw the most growth by far on Thanksgiving Eve 2018 when compared to the Wednesday prior and the same period in 2017.

Spirits and wine, at least for Thanksgiving Eve 2018, were nearly tied for second place.

Now, looking at the data for Thanksgiving Eve 2019, spirits saw the most growth overall. Resendes shared that shot sales increased 173 percent on Thanksgiving Eve 2019 when compared to the Wednesday prior.

Tequila led the charge for spirits, rising 156 percent. Vodka saw a 144-percent boost, rum increased 120 percent, whiskey went up 65 percent, and gin saw a lift of 47 percent. For its part, beer sales rose 65 percent.

Not content to simply look at traffic and sales numbers, Upserve also split their clients into four regions. In this way, they identified who parties hardest on Thanksgiving Eve and who needs to ramp things up.

The four regions and their net sales growth from Thanksgiving Eve 2019 compared to the Wednesday prior are below:

  • Midwest: 34 percent
  • Northeast: 34 percent
  • South: 33 percent
  • West: 22 percent

Clearly, there was still growth in the Western region. However, the Midwest and Northeast led the way, with the South just behind them.

We’ll have to wait to see how Thanksgiving Eve 2021 plays out. We’re still waiting on the numbers from 2020. However, Upserve’s data shows that Thanksgiving Eve remains crucial to restaurants and bars throughout America.

Image: Alena Plotnikova on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Giving Tuesday: World Central Kitchen

Giving Tuesday: World Central Kitchen

by David Klemt

Food bank charity donations

November 30 is Giving Tuesday, “a global generosity movement” that focuses on all acts of kindness and giving, large and small.

KRG Hospitality vice president Jennifer Radkey explains Giving Tuesday in-depth in her article from last week.

In her article, Jennifer puts forth ways to involve your business and staff in acts of kindness.

She also explains that November 30 is an opportunity for operators to give back. After all, communities supported restaurants and bars during the pandemic. Now’s the time to provide support for those communities.

All acts of kindness and generosity are encouraged on Giving Tuesday. Monetary donations, volunteering time, hosting charitable organizations free of charge… There are endless ways to participate in Giving Tuesday.

“In other words, it doesn’t matter how you give,” says Jennifer. It just matters that you take part.

World Central Kitchen

At KRG Hospitality, we support World Central Kitchen. Founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés and his wife Patricia, WCK has been fighting food insecurity for nearly 12 years.

One reason we give to WCK is exemplified in an announcement from earlier this month.

World Central Kitchen is committing to providing $1 billion over the next ten years via their Climate Disaster Fund.

Another reason we give to World Central Kitchen? The 501(c)(3) non-profit gave more than $250 million in 2020 to feed communities around the world.

However, it’s WCK’s overall approach to fighting food insecurity is what we find compelling. The charitable organization doesn’t just show up to a community, hand out food, and leave.

Rather, WCK commits to long-term, local solutions. They create food programs to improve a community’s overall health; offer culinary training and provide jobs; and work to build food security.

If you have the means, please consider following this link to make a donation to World Central Kitchen. Per Charity Navigator, WCK enjoys the highest rating for a charity: four out of four stars.

Donations can be one-time or monthly, for any amount, and in someone’s honor or memory.

Image: Joel Muniz on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants?

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

by David Klemt

Abandoned bar or restaurant

The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last Friday without the inclusion of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

For those keeping count—me, for instance—the RRF Replenishment Act has seen zero movement since June.

We’re now six months without RRF Replenishment progress. The RRF application portal closed on May, 24.

To put it bluntly, the House once again failed our industry.

Of the $1.7 trillion dollars in the Build Back Better Act, zero are earmarked to replenish the RRF.

Applicants in Limbo

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are at least 177,000 RRF applicants awaiting grants.

Unless the RRF is replenished, those applicants will receive nothing.

For six months now, two bills seeking $60 billion to replenish the RRF have languished. Those bills are the aforementioned RRF Replenishment Act and the ENTREE Act.

The former was introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the latter.

Unfortunately, the chance to replenish the RRF via a unanimous consent motion was shot down in August. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to $43 billion in emergency funding, killing the RRF.

At this point, it’s difficult to take any statement of support for our industry from members of Congress seriously.

NRA Speaks Out

The same day that the Build Back Better Act passed, NRA vice president Sean Kennedy released a statement.

“We are disappointed that the House passed the Build Back Better Act without including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act… Passing this bill without including RRF replenishment leaves thousands of small business restaurants teetering on the brink of closure,” reads Kennedy’s statement.

Kennedy also points to specific elements of the Build Back Better Act that can cause further harm to operators and our industry.

In particular, Kennedy states that the NRA “specifically asked Congress to not pass any legislation that would harm restaurants as they rebuild.” Instead, the Build Back Better Act imposes new taxes on small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Per Kennedy, “this bill newly applies the net investment income tax (NIIT) to active business income for pass-through businesses.”

Read Kennedy’s statement in full here.

It’s possible that the Senate will make changes to the bill. And it’s possible that replenishing the RRF will be among those changes. If that happens, the bill will be sent back to the House, further delaying the crucial assistance our industry needs.

Oh, and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is December 3.

To tell your lawmakers to replenish the RRF, click here. I know I’ve asked you to do this several times. As frustrating as it’s getting, we need to stick together and keep up the pressure.

Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

Código 1530 Tequila Closes the Loop

by David Klemt

Upscale tequila bar with luxury bottles on back bar

The evidence that consumers are showing increasing interest in luxury spirits continues to mount, with tequila benefiting greatly.

According to DISCUS, the luxury category of tequila continues to grow. Sales volume is up 30.7 percent annually since 2015 for luxury tequila brands.

While it’s easy to point to brand recognition, cache and perception, there may be another reason for this growth.

In a word, “responsibility.”

Sustainability is Sexy

Episode 57 of Bar Hacks features Collin De Laval. He’s the company mixologist for Código 1530 Tequila, and he’s intimately familiar with the brand.

So, De Laval knows more than every nuance of each Código 1530 expression. He also understands the ethos that drives the brand and its processes.

One of Código’s values is responsibility, which it manifests through sustainability efforts. As De Laval explains, “we try and close a lot of the waste loop, as much as we can.”

Not only does Código utilize naturally filtered water, they cut the water back out of their heads and tails. That water is then reused. The brand uses broken pieces of barrel and spent agave to char new barrels.

Further, Código is a small craft distiller. They don’t level thousands upon thousands of agave each day. Instead, they’re selective and take only what’s necessary.

“We’re treating the land a lot better in that way,” says De Laval.

These efforts are increasingly appealing to consumers. It’s not just the liquid in the bottle that matters. How that liquid got into the bottle is important to them.

“Now it’s like, ‘I know this brand. I know they do good stuff,'” De Laval says.

That “good stuff” doesn’t reference only the quality of the spirits but a brand’s responsibility and sustainability.

Drinking Better

“People are drinking ‘up’ now,” says De Laval. “Gone are the eras of, ‘Let me get whatever’s well.'”

He’s not talking about how a guest orders their drink. By “up” De Laval means they’re choosing top-shelf spirits.

Six years of steady growth for luxury or ultra-premium spirits supports this claim.

De Laval isn’t the only Bar Hacks guest who notices this trend. During episode 56, Pernod-Ricard Prestige sales manager Maxime Lecocq mentions the trend as well.

If luxury spirits and wines had suffered during the pandemic, that would’ve made sense. It could’ve been explained as people being cautious with their money.

Indeed, consumers were cautious. However, not in the way that many would assume. The numbers support the belief that consumers were spending more to drink higher-quality bottles.

Interestingly, drinking better doesn’t appear to refer only to quality or price. Many small, luxury craft distillers enjoy the perception as more responsible than large, industrial producers.

Drinking better now seems to mean drinking what’s better for the environment. And if what’s more responsible and sustainable happens to be ultra-premium, consumers are willing to pay for it.

Image: Spencer Pugh on Unsplash

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

Why You Should Take Part on Giving Tuesday

Why You Should Take Part on Giving Tuesday

by Jennifer Radkey

Kindness is a Superpower stencil graffiti on brick wall in black and white

You are most likely familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, days that encourage consumerism and support the economy.

However, after these two days comes a global movement that you may not yet be familiar with but need to be: Giving Tuesday.

Created in 2012, Giving Tuesday will be celebrating its ninth year Tuesday, November 30th. It is a global movement in which organizations, businesses, charities, and individuals all come together to support their favourite causes.

From large monetary donations to simple acts of kindness, it is a day that encourages people to do good and to bring about positive change in their communities.

Why Generosity?

Generosity not only benefits the charity or person who is on the receiving end, it has huge benefits to those on the giving end.

From increased happiness to a sense of shared community, being generous with your time, resources, or money is often a simple act with big rewards.

A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifts participants’ happiness more than spending money on themselves.

This is true even when the participants anticipate prior to the act of giving that spending the money on themselves would make them happier. Research also suggests that similar well-being benefits come from giving monetary gifts/donations or volunteering your time.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how you give, it is the act of giving in itself that gives us that “warm glow” feeling that we typically associate with the holiday season.

Hospitality and Generosity

The words hospitality and generosity go hand in hand.

To be a welcoming hospitality brand you need to be generous with your time and your kindness. You need to be willing to create an atmosphere in which people come to not just eat a meal, have a drink, or spend a night, but to create memories, to socialize, and to have an experience.

Over the past (nearly) two years, we have asked our communities to support hospitality businesses as we faced lockdowns and restrictions. In many ways, our communities did just that.

Guests ate on patios when the weather was not pleasant. They supported through ordering takeout. #SupportLocal movements popped up not just in the U.S. and Canada but globally. Through their extra efforts, many businesses were able to keep their doors open and their staff employed.

Now it is time to take that generosity shown to us and give it back to our community.

Giving Back

So, as a hospitality business, how can you contribute to Giving Tuesday?

Firstly, discuss it with your team! If you are able to contribute a monetary donation to your community in some way, which charity or organization speaks most to the values you all share?

If you aren’t able to contribute a monetary donation, how can you volunteer your time as a team? Maybe you can make your space available free of charge for a local organization or charity to host an event. Perhaps you can cook meals or bake goods as a team to provide to those in need, or who work tirelessly to make your community a better place.

The opportunities for giving back are endless and you can be as creative as you like. Host a breakfast with Santa for a local children’s group or do a hot chocolate and cookie drop off at a senior’s centre.

Brainstorm as many ideas as possible with your team. The process of thinking of charitable acts alone will brighten your team’s mood and get everyone in the giving spirit.

Share, Share, and Share Some More

Once you decide how you will participate in Giving Tuesday, tell the world about it!

Take photos, share the link to the charity or organization you are giving to, and encourage others to give alongside you. Tell a story.

However, do not engage with Giving Tuesday cynically with the goal of social media exposure. Be truly kind and generous.

Generosity is contagious. Your act of kindness will encourage others to do the same. It will also shine a bright spotlight on your hospitality brand, so make certain you’re engaging in kindness authentically and not just to score points with your community.

For more information on Giving Tuesday, please visit www.givingtuesday.org. Cheers to professional and personal well-being!

Image: Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

Go Big and Bold on National Zinfandel Day

by David Klemt

Black photo concept of red wine glass and bottle

Cabernet Sauvignon may be King of Grapes but Zinfandel certainly isn’t the court jester when it comes to wine.

No, it’s not one of the five Noble Grapes from Bordeaux. And yes, in Italy Zinfandel’s name is Primitivo, which translates to “primitive.”

But just because this red wine is often described as rustic doesn’t mean it’s basic.

National Zinfandel Day, which takes place Wednesday, November 17, is the perfect time to introduce Zin to your guests.

Zinfandel 101

While there are a few reasons Bordeaux doesn’t consider Zinfandel to be a Noble Grape, there’s one in particular that stands out: Zinfandel is an Italian grape. Well, sort of.

Basically, Zinfandel is grown in Italy and America. Intriguingly, however, the grape originates from Croatia. It’s original name is Tribidrag.

Another interesting note: Red Zinfandel only accounts for about 15 percent of overall Zin production. You’re probably already guessing which style accounts for the lion’s share: White Zinfandel.

Now, you can promote both styles of Zinfandel—that’s a decision you have to make. But for this article, I’m talking exclusively about Red Zinfandel.

This is for three reasons. First, White Zinfandel is best as a beginner wine. It’s light, it’s usually low in alcohol, and it’s not very complex.

Second, you can sell Red Zinfandel as a worthwhile alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, the most popular wine in the world. Third, it’s delicious, full-bodied, and the ABV is often quite high.

A great Red Zin is jammy (like a big Cab), bold (like a big Cab), and velvety (like a big Cab). So, many of the Cab Sauv drinkers among your guests will be willing to try a medium- to full-bodied Red Zin.

This “rustic” wine also pairs well with pizza and barbecue. How can that ever be a bad thing?

Bottles of Note

Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert (15.8% ABV), $50 SRP

It’s arguable that Red Zinfandel’s rise in popularity is due to it showing up in many red wine blends. Another factor? Winemaker Dave Phinney in particular utilizing this grape in his red blends. 8 Years in the Desert round in the mouth, providing drinkers with a decadent, lush wine drinking experience.

Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel (14.4% ABV), $22 SRP

The 2019 vintage of Bedrock’s Old Vine Zin receives top marks from experts across the board. When it comes to American Zins, wine aficionados consider this Zin to be the gold standard.

Opolo Mountain Zinfandel (15.7% ABV), $30 SRP

For those guests who want to taste a straight-up, 100-percent Zinfandel. Opolo is one of the finest producers of American Zin. The 2019 vintage is velvety smooth even with it’s big alcohol content and bold, jammy flavors.

The Prisoner Wine Company Saldo (15.5% ABV), $32 SRP

You don’t have to be a wine aficionado to be familiar with The Prisoner Wine Company. In fact, The Prisoner, undoubtedly one of those most famous red wine blends in the world, helped shine a spotlight on Red Zinfandel. Saldo is a three-wine blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.

Seghesio Old Vines Zinfandel (15.6% ABV), $36 SRP

Like Opolo, Seghesio produces big Zins that offer the drinker a balanced experience. Yes, the alcohol content is high but the mouthfeel is smooth and plush while delivering bold flavors. The mouthfeel may be soft but it’s certainly not shy on the palate.

Turley Old Vines Zinfandel (15.5% ABV), $40 SRP

So, there’s a debate over whether “Old Vine” or “Old Vines” has any official definition. In general, a grapevine matures some time between 12 and 25 years old. Some say that “Old Vine” is a designation that means more than 25 years old, at least 40 years old, or at least 50 or 60 years old. Well, it’s fair to say that Turley offers true “Old Vine” Zinfandel given that the producer’s grapevines range in age from 40-plus to nearly 130 years old.

Image: Mae Mu on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

by David Klemt

Luxury concept featuring Champagne coupes on silver tray

Consumers are drinking better and the luxury categories of several spirits, wine and Champagne are benefitting.

Interestingly, this growth no longer appears to be driven solely by a desire to stand out and be seen.

Instead, according to one Bar Hacks podcast guest, consumers seem to be more carefully allocating their dollars.

Luxury Continues to Rise

The word “luxury” tends to conjure thoughts of expensive, high-end items.

Indeed, that’s certainly still a part of luxury. However, the concept of luxury as unattainable to most people is seemingly falling to the wayside.

Maxime Lecocq, Prestige sales manager in Las Vegas for Pernod-Ricard, shares a similar thought on episode 56 of Bar Hacks.

“The consumption style started to change during the pandemic,” says Lecocq. “So, people are more careful on what they’re drinking, where they’re spending their money.”

Intriguingly, Lecocq doesn’t mean that people were looking to spend as little as possible. Rather, they wanted higher quality for their dollars.

“Instead of having just any Scotch, they’re gonna research more,” Lecocq says. “Instead of spending, like, $25, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna spend $40 but I’m gonna be more careful about what I’m gonna drink.'”

As far as Lecocq is concerned, consumers doing more research is benefiting the luxury segment.

Why does he think that? Because it appears that research is leading consumers to spend more on luxury spirits and wine.

Numbers Support Luxury Growth

Early last month, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) shared their research into luxury spirits.

DISCUS data shows that during the period from 2015 to 2020, luxury spirits brands saw sales growth of 125 percent. Further, looking at the first half of 2021, luxury spirits volume is up 25 percent.

For the curious, DISCUS considers any brand that sells 750mL bottles at retail for $50 or more to fall within the luxury segment. So, $10 more than the example Lecocq provides during his Bar Hacks appearance.

There are six luxury categories tracked by DISCUS: American whiskey, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

On his podcast episode, Lecocq discussed three of those categories: Cognac, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

Growth Categories

Per DISCUS, American whiskey has seen annual growth since 2015 of 41 percent. For Japanese whisky, that rate of growth is 42 percent.

Irish whiskey and Single Malt Scotch are also healthy annual growth. However, Irish whiskey’s annual growth is only a third of that of its Japanese counterpart at 14-plus percent.

Single Malt Scotch, in the first half of 2021, is up 5.6 percent.

According to DISCUS, Cognac’s annual growth is nearly 16 percent. Lecocq posits that this rise in interest in Cognac is down to shifting consumer perception.

Once thought of as “your grandparents’ drink,” younger consumers are now more eager to explore this type of brandy.

It’s perhaps tequila that sees the most interesting growth. Given its explosive and seemingly unwavering popularity, I thought the luxury tequila category would see growth in excess of 42 percent.

However, per DISCUS, luxury tequila brands are up 30.7 percent annually since 2015. Obviously, that’s impressive growth, and the category represents 28 million bottles sold.

That’s more than American, Irish, Japanese and Single Malt Scotch whiskeys combined.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that operators should abandon their less expensive spirits and wines. It does, however, show that consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be higher quality brands.

Image: Billy Huynh on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Your Brand Can Learn from LEGO

What Your Brand Can Learn from LEGO

by David Klemt

Assortment of LEGO bricks in different colors, sizes and shapes

When it comes to brands that enjoy nearly universal reverence, LEGO is a company with enviable presence and visibility.

Around the world, it’s difficult to find someone who isn’t aware of LEGO. It’s even more difficult to find someone who outright dislikes the brand.

Of course, we can say the strength of the LEGO brand boils down to them being a toy company that taps into nostalgia.

However, LEGO’s strength was recently revealed by tech columnist Jason Aten for Inc. The company, it turns out, approaches customer interactions in a “freaky” manner.

Fun

“Freaky,” as Aten explains in the Inc. article, stands for Fun, Reliable, Knowledgeable and Engaging.

When you look at those four words in the context of LEGO’s “freaky” approach, you can see the obvious links that can be made to hospitality.

Let’s start with Fun. This should be an easy one—your restaurant, bar or hotel should provide a fun guest experience.

Really, this should go without saying. If spending time at your hospitality business isn’t fun, why would guests return to spend their money on you?

Also, if your business is fun, your guests will become loyal, walking billboards for you. They’ll tell family, friends, and tourists they need to check out your restaurant, bar or hotel.

However, the guest side is only half of the brand equation. A brand that’s fun to work for as well is even more powerful. Your workers will help you recruit rock stars to add to add to the team if it’s fun working for you.

Think about it: If it’s fun to work for your brand, every team member is now a brand advocate.

Finally, think about your mental and emotional health as an operator. Running a business in this industry will always be difficult to some degree. Wouldn’t you be happiest operating a brand that’s fun and loved by guests and staff alike?

Reliable

Replace the Reliable with “consistent” and you can see where I’ll be going with this one.

While lately they never seem to be shy of controversy, McDonald’s is an excellent example for consistency.

After all, there’s a reason the company is the most-powerful fast-food concept on the planet. Not to malign the brand, but do you think it’s because they craft the best-tasting, highest-quality cheeseburgers?

No, it’s because McDonald’s demands consistency from all their locations. For decades, the company has dialed in their processes.

Global perception of the brand is that regardless of where in the world you visit a McDonald’s, the experience will essentially be the same. There may be menu items exclusive to certain countries or regions, but the core menu will taste the same.

One of the most effective ways to convert a person into a loyal guest is to ensure your experience is consistent.

The food, the service, the atmosphere, the energy… If it’s consistent—also known as reliable—your guests will return (if it’s consistently great, of course).

Knowledgeable

When of the most effective ways to turn a small guest issue into a huge one is to utter the following: “I don’t know.”

Guests hate those three words. Whether it’s a question about a menu item or one that’s about a problem, being told “I don’t know” is frustrating.

According to many reports throughout the years, Disney prohibits guest-facing staff from saying those three words. Instead, if they don’t know the answer to a question, they’re supposed to say, “I can find out for you,” or, “That’s a good question.”

And that’s just one example of ensuring you and your staff are knowledgeable.

Another example is educating your guests.

It’s fair to say that due to the nature of their positions, your bartenders and servers spend the most time engaging with your guests.

Sharing their knowledge of your menu items is a great way to upsell and create loyalty. It’s one thing to be able to rattle off a menu description; it’s quite another to be able to go deeper and share information beyond a short menu blurb.

Bartenders in particular are integral to educating guests. In a few moments, a knowledgeable bartender can introduce your guests to new spirits, beers, wines and cocktails.

That sharing of information demonstrates being Knowledgeable and Fun. And if guests return because of that element of the guest experience, it also embodies being Reliable.

Engaging

Put Fun, Reliable and Knowledgeable together. What do you get? A hospitality brand that’s Engaging.

Of course, that’s not all there is to building an engaging brand.

Social media, it should go without saying, leverages engagement. Your guests—and potential guests—can interact with your brand when they’re not physically at your location via your social channels.

Wendy’s is a compelling example of being Engaging. The brand’s Twitter account is famous for engagement and interaction. It’s also Fun (for their audience, not always so much for their targets) and Reliable (in the sense that we know what’s going to happen if you step to the Wendy’s Twitter admin).

However, I caution against attempting to copy what Wendy’s does on Twitter, lest you draw their ire. Like battle rappers had a long-standing rule against challenging KRS-ONE, hospitality and foodservice accounts should heed the rule against trying to battle Wendy’s on Twitter.

Guest-facing staff with great personalities, informative and fun tastings, special promotions, F&B-focused membership clubs, loyalty programs, and live entertainment are also examples of how you can build an Engaging brand.

They’re also examples of being Fun, Reliable and Knowledgeable. That’s because all four elements feed into one another.

So, take some time to consider what your brand communicates to your guests and staff. If it’s “freaky,” you’re on your way to being as beloved as LEGO.

Image: Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

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