Food & Beverage

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Program for Unique Holidays: March 2024

Program for Unique Holidays: March 2024

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your March holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our February 2024 holidays list, click here.

March 5: Cinco de Marcho

Supposedly, this holiday is meant to “train the livers” of people planning on getting slightly wild on March 17. They have 12 days to get ready to party.

Well, we at KRG Hospitality think this sounds a bit irresponsible. We don’t want any operators or their teams to run into any legal trouble. So, I recommend offering a spin on the Coronarita as a nearly two-week-long LTO.

Build a Margarita with Irish whiskey, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup. Serve it in a salt-rimmed pint glass, schooner, or mason jar. Invert a Harp Lager, Smithwick’s Pale Ale, or Guinness Blonde Lager in the glass.

March 7: National Crown Roast of Pork Day

Here’s a fun one based on a culinary classic. Put simply, a crown roast is anywhere from a dozen to nearly two dozen pork rib chops. When arranged in a circle, they look like a crown.

It’s old school, and it’s certainly a shareable dish. Dress this LTO up with a wine pairing, or dress it down with a bucket of beers.

March 8: National Proofreading Day

Your menu is a billboard. It’s a crucial marketing and branding tool. So, it can be embarrassing when there are typos and other issues on your menu.

If you don’t want to proofread it yourself, or you just want to engage your guests, put a “bounty” on misspellings and grammatical errors on your menu. Watch how quickly any mistakes are found, if any exist.

March 14: National Potato Chip Day

Housemade potato chips are among the best appetizers and sides. If your kitchen team is up for it, consider housemade chips as an LTO side. Think about making them a permanent (or semi-permanent) addition to your menu if all goes well.

March 18: National Sloppy Joe Day

So, it’s March 18. Some people may have gotten after it pretty hard for St. Patrick’s Day. They need comfort food.

If your kitchen team can make delicious Sloppy Joe’s from scratch (maybe served with housemade potato chips), they may be just what the doctor ordered.

March 19: National Poultry Day

Does your restaurant or bar serve dishes featuring poultry? Guess what you should do on this day…

March 21: World Vermouth Day

The days of low-quality vermouth are gone. For a few years not at least, people have discovered that premium vermouth makes a great cocktail base. This holds particularly true for low-ABV drinks, like reverse cocktails.

March 22: National Goof Off Day

This year, National Goof Off Day falls on a Friday. Really, that timing couldn’t be much better.

Encourage your guests to set aside their responsibilitiesas long as it won’t get them firedand goof off at your bar.

March 29: Smoke and Mirrors Day

When a cocktail is served with smoke, people take notice. Often times, when one is served, people watching the show want one of their own.

This is the perfect holiday to show off your smoking cocktails. To really embrace the holiday, smoke and serve them in a glass and chrome smoker box. By the way, these boxes work well when it comes to smoking food items, too.

March 31: National Tater Day

Much like poultry day, I bet you can figure out what to do on National Tater Day. Celebrate the potato! Tater tot nachos? Done. Sriracha French fries? Awesome. Fully loaded potato skins and baked potatoes? Classics.

Get creative. The humble potato is a fantastic canvas for enticing dishes.

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The Fourth Member of Your Team

The Fourth Member of Your Team

by David Klemt

Black puzzle piece slotting into illuminated puzzle

When looking at your organization, it’s crucial to realize ownership, leadership, and staff aren’t the only members of the team.

There’s another key member, and their input is among the most valuable. And you rely on them for the success of your business. They’re your guests.

It may seem painfully obvious that your guests are integral to the success of your business. After all, your registers won’t ring without guests coming through your doors, placing orders online or via phone, and spending their money at your venue.

When they become regularsparticularly vocal regulars who tell others about your great businessthey transform into unofficial brand ambassadors. That’s fantastic marketing that tends to cost you nothing.

However, their importance goes beyond the monetary. Further, it’s more than just free marketing.

Menu Streamlining

Do your guests provide you with feedback? Actually, scratch that; let’s start again.

Do you provide your guests with a simple, convenient way to give you feedback? And do you seek more than a thumbs up or thumbs down for their experience at your restaurant or bar?

It can be difficult to streamline your menu, particularly if you’re unable to look at every item objectively. There are operators and chefs out there who get attached to their personal favorite menu items. That’s fine, until it’s not.

Perhaps a dish took a long time and a lot of work to get just right. Maybe it was a family thing and you’re proud of it.

But if you’re too proud of it and it’s not selling, it’s just costing you money. Keeping it on the menu hoping it will become a hit is bad for business.

A while back, when Bar & Restaurant Expo was Nightclub & Bar, Chef Brian Duffy shared a simple method for streamlining a menu. You run a product mix report, then separate them into three categories: rock stars, solid performers, and dogs.

The former are your top-selling items, and the middle category perform consistently. But the latter…they don’t sell. Worse, if they require ingredients that you don’t cross-utilize to make other dishes or drinks, they aren’t just stagnant, they’re costing you money.

If an item isn’t selling, that’s your gueststhe fourth member of your team—letting you know they don’t want it. Removing such items is an easy way to begin the streamlining process. Some of the best bars and restaurants in the world audit their highly anticipated menu launches a few months after their release. Items that aren’t selling are refreshed or removed.

So, when you encourage your guests to give your feedback, ask them what they think about your menu. Also, ask your staff what guests are telling them about your food and drink.

Your Vision

If you’re anything like our clients (or you are one of our clients), you’ve spent a ton of time envisioning your perfect restaurant, bar, cafe, eatertainment concept, nightclub, or hotel.

With that comes a hypothetical but informed vision of the guest journey. You’ll have an idea of how your guests will use your space.

Well, what if your guests turn that idea on its head? How will you react if guests see your vision in a different way?

On today’s episode of the Bar Hacks podcast, guest James Grant says something that I have also been saying for quite some time: like me, he sees guests as an integral member of the team. They do, to a degree, have influence over your concept.

To paraphrase, Grant says guests are half of the reason people open and operate restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, hotels, etc.

As an example, we have a client who saw their space a certain way. We helped develop their bar concept with their vision in mind. However, not long after opening, our client’s guests showed that they had a different perception of the bar. Our client adapted, and the bar team and guests are happy.

The brand didn’t change. Neither did the space, physically. Nor did the cocktail program. However, one key element did change, as far as the type of bar it was intended to be.

As another example, friends of mine opened a bar years back. The space was meant to be an upscale cocktail bar with a relaxed and sophisticated vibe. That vision was achieved, but influential guests added an element: the bar became a high-energy after-hours spot.

At first, my friends weren’t sure about this change or if they should encourage it. But when they saw that revenue and profits were up, well…sometimes change is a good thing.

Adaptation

You may be very proud of items you have on your menu. Along those lines, you may have a very specific vision for your F&B programs that tell the story of your brand and space.

If an item here or there doesn’t catch on, it doesn’t make you a failure. It can be disappointing if your personal favorite turns out to be a dud with guests; don’t take it personally. It’s just business. The items on your menu should earn money, not lose it.

And if a guest reads through your highly curated cocktail, beer, or wine menu and then orders something “basic,” that shouldn’t be seen as a personal affront.

Now, guests deciding your concept is something you never intended it to be is something else. If this happens, it requires looking at the experience, service, brand storytelling, and even the design with a critical eye.

That said, if none of that is “off,” and if your team is happy and profits go up because your guests see your business in a different way, it may be smart to adapt. This is particularly true if your team is making more money and the unexpected new direction is safe.

Operators have usually been creating their concepts in their minds for years. It can be a shock for guests to transform the business into something else.

But if the business is successful because of how guests decide to use it, is that a bad thing?

Only you can answer that question. It may be best for you to identify the “why” behind the possible concept disconnect and stamp it out. However, it may be best to lean into the unexpected new direction.

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Update Your Margs with Mezcal and Sotol

Update Your Margaritas with Mezcal, Sotol, and More!

by David Klemt

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal bottle on a drinks tray

We all know how to make a classic Margarita, so for this National Margarita Day we want to put some new recipes and ingredients on your radar.

The cocktail recipes below swap out the tequila for mezcal and sotol.

For a quick refresher, all tequila is mezcal in a technical sense. Mezcal is made with agave plants. Tequila producers use a specific agave plant, Blue Weber. Further, tequila must be produced in one of five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas.

Then we have sotol. You may have seen sotol thrown in with agave spirits on cocktail or spirits roundups. To clarify, however, sotol is a typo of shrub known as the desert spoon, and it’s not an agave plant.

So, all tequila is mezcal, mezcal is agave, and sotol is…sotol.

Swap Out the Tequila

Being National Margarita Day, you certainly need to have a classic Margarita on your menu. It’s all the better if your bar team makes them so well and so consistently that really, your top-selling Marg is one of your signature cocktails.

That said, it’s also a good idea to play with classics to give your guests new drinks to discover. The two recipes below are two great examples of riffs on the classic Margarita that should get your and your bar team’s creative wheels turning.

Allow me to introduce you to Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal and Nocheluna Sotol, if you’re not already acquainted.

Contraluz lays claim to the title of “world’s first cristalino mezcal.” Made from 100 percent espadín agave, this is a crystal-clear, small-batch reposado mezcal. On the nose, expect aromas of agave, along with citrus and floral notes. You may also detect smoke, cedar, and honey. In terms of flavor, Contraluz delivers notes of vanilla, clove, cacao, and cooked agave, with a sweet, long finish.

The second cocktail below is made with Nocheluna Sotol, which is crafted using 100-percent wild sotol from Chihuahuan desert. This particular sotol is the result of a collaboration between a fourth-generation master vintner, and a master distiller.

A unique spirit, Nocheluna delivers a delicate balance of sweet, herbal, dried fruit, and mineral notes. These notes come through via both the aroma and taste, although you may detect oak and smoke as well. Interestingly, Nocheluna says the finish may include a taste of pecan wood, along with wet earth.

 

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But Wait, There’s More!

Along with Contraluz and Nocheluna, you’ll see three bottles that may be new to you below. The Light and Soul cocktail calls for Alma Finca Orange Liqueur, Nixta Licor de Elote, and HAGAVE Spiced Nectar.

The first is an orange liqueur produced by the same company that makes Montelobos Mezcal. The second liqueur, Nixta Elote, is essentially liquid elote seasoning, and it comes in a fantastic corn-shaped bottle. Finally, HAGAVE is exactly what it says on the label: a premium, spiced agave mixer.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely plan to get my hands on each of these bottles. Just imagine what you can do to engage with your guests by introducing them to a crystal-clear, artisanal mezcal, an expertly crafted sotol, and liquid elote in a corn bottle.

Cheers!

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal, Light and Soul cocktail

Light and Soul

  • 2.0 oz. Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal
  • 0.5 oz. Alma Finca Orange Liqueur (or a triple sec or different orange liqueur if unavailable)
  • 0.5 oz. Nixta Licor de Elote
  • 1 oz. Lime cordial
  • 0.5 oz. HAGAVE Spiced Nectar

Place a large ice cube or sphere in a rocks glass. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared rocks glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.

Nocheluna Sotol cocktail, the Sotolita

Sotolita

  • 1.5 oz. Nocheluna Sotol
  • 1.0 oz. Triple sec
  • 1.0 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. Apple juice
  • Apple slices to garnish
  • Chiltepin salt for rim (sea salt blend with chiltepin peppers)

Prepare a rocks glass by adding quality ice and rimming it with chiltepin salt. Add ice to a shaker, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake well, then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an apple-slice fan.

Images provided by LaFORCE

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Did This Beer Win Super Bowl LVIII?

Did This Beer Win Super Bowl LVIII?

by David Klemt

A pint glass overflowing with beer

Now that the Super Bowl is over, behavioral insight platform Veylinx is revealing the impact on brands that advertised during this year’s big game.

If Veylinx sounds familiar to you, you may be a regular KRG Hospitality news reader. Last month we looked at their dive into alcohol-free canned cocktails. Last year, we shared a Veylinx report with a focus on whether Super Bowl ads really work on consumers. And in 2022, Veylinx wondered if the interest in zero-proof drinks was all hype or worth leveraging.

This month, Veylinx is at it again. This time, however, they’re revealing which brands—those that advertised during Super Bowl LVIII—saw the biggest ROI. For context, a 30-second spot during the big game cost approximately $7 million this year.

That’s a ton of cash to shell out in the hopes of seeing a sales increase on- and off-premise.

Speaking of on-premise, Veylinx’s findings should be of interest to operators. The beer that Veylinx says “won” the Super Bowl will likely be top of mind among your guests who watched the game and the accompanying ads.

So, it stands to reason that they’ll either expect to find that beer on a menu. Likewise, they may be swayed to order the beer if they see it when scanning a bar’s taps, menu, or fridges.

With that in mind, operators may want to watch their sales of Michelob Ultra.

Study Methodology

For their latest report, Veylinx used similar methodology to their Elixir non-alcoholic canned cocktail study.

A mix of 50 percent men and fifty percent women participated in the study. All 1,604 participants were US residents aged 21 or older. Looking deeper into the participants, the age breakdown is as follows:

  • 21 to 27: 30 percent
  • 28 to 43: 25 percent
  • 44 to 59: 25 percent
  • 60 and older: 20 percent

Like the Elixir (a fake brand invented by Veylinx) study, participants bid on products with their own money. The auction mix consisted of products that advertised during Super Bowl LVIII and those that did not advertise during the game.

Study Results

Among all viewers of Super Bowl LVIII, brands that advertised during the game saw an average lift of 16 percent.

However, those brands saw the biggest boost in demand—24 percent—among men. Gen Z followed, with demand in advertised brands growing by 11 percent. Among women, brands that advertised saw just a nine-percent boost in demand.

While Doritos Dinamita was the number-one brand among all viewers in general, and men and Gen Z in particular, Michelob Ultra is a close second. Interestingly, the beer brand was the top-performer among women in terms of demand growth.

For those wondering, no alcohol brands were among the top three performers for Gen Z.

So, operators who have noticed in uptick in Michelob Ultra sales may have Super Bowl LVIII to thank. If that’s the case, if sales of Michelob Ultra have increased in bars and restaurants since this year’s big game, it appears that yes, Super Bowl ads still work on consumers.

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The Batching Superpower of Sūpāsawā

The Batching Superpower of Sūpāsawā

by David Klemt

A bunch of limes and lemons

One of our favorite products from WSWA’s Access LIVE 2024 event in Las Vegas can save operators and bar teams time and money.

Access LIVE, the annual Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA) event is always chock full of notable items. However, this one in particular stood out to me and my colleagues.

Coming out of Deluxe Distillery in Belgium, Sūpāsawā Seriously Sour Cocktail Mixer is here to make lives easier.

Of course, it’s not surprising that this mixer is so impressive. Sūpāsawā is produced alongside high-quality stablemates, after all: Blind Tiger Handcrafted Gin, Mary White Premium Vodka, and Yusibi Honey Based Aperitif.

 

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In short, this innovative mixer can replace citrus. Importantly, it’s also widely available around the world. Speaking to the core of our audience and clients, it’s available in Canada and the US. When I asked about availability in the US, I was told it’s in 30 states currently.

Operators in the UK, Europe, Australia, and many more regions should also be able to get their hands on Sūpāsawā.

So, what is this magical mixer, exactly? It’s a simple and clean stand-in for expensive and time-consuming citrus.

Deluxe’s super sour mixer is distilled water, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, phosphoric acid, and succinic acid. The liquid is crystal clear, aroma-free, and an incredibly convenient substitute for lemons and limes.

Real-life Scenario

Consider the following real-life hypothetical that shines a light on Sūpāsawā’s real-life benefits.

Let’s say someone hires an operator for a catered event. Included in this event is bar service, and involves more than pouring wine and beer.

Along with a handful of calls, the client and their guests expect a signature cocktail. Well, batching a cocktail or two ahead of the event would be a smart move.

However, we all know what that means: purchasing and juicing citrus. And we also all know what else that means: labor costs for all that prep.

What if one bartender or bar back could batch a cocktail in less than five minutes? Yes, I’m talking under five minutes for the entire batching process.

That scenario is nearly identical to Deluxe Distillery’s Access LIVE 2024 situation.

Deluxe showed the convenience and superpower of Sūpāsawā at their booth via batching. According to the bartender and ambassador who prepared the standout cocktail, he added all the ingredients—including the super sour mixer—to a jug, shook it, and it was ready to go in less than five minutes.

Real-life Benefits

Does this mean you’ll never have to buy lemons and/or limes again? For the vast majority of bars, no. However, the more drinks you can make with Sūpāsawā, the more you can plan for and control the cost of citrus.

Per Deluxe, operators can expect to save 15 minutes per liter of citrus juiced. The distillery also says each bottle of Sūpāsawā represents 35 pieces of fruit an operator won’t have to purchase. On average, a single cocktail requires just 20 ml of Sūpāsawā, or 2/3 of an ounce. With each bottle coming in at 700 ml, that’s 35 individual cocktails per.

When I asked about unit cost at their Access Live 2024 booth, Deluxe said operators can expect a price of $9 per unit. People who do the math can see the benefit of getting their hands on Sūpāsawā for individual, kegged, and batched cocktails.

In terms of storage, the slim bottle can last for about two years unopened. After it’s opened, Sūpāsawā should last for up to a year. Compare that to the two- to three-day shelf life of lemon or lime juice.

Notably, using Sūpāsawā leads to consistency. Because it always tastes the same, drink consistency is improved. And, of course, using this super sour mixer leads to producing less food waste.

Click here to learn more about Sūpāsawā and what it can do for an operator’s bar program, catering, and bottom line. Oh, and click here for recipes. Cheers!

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor KRG Hospitality received compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Deluxe Distillery, WSWA, or any other entity in exchange for this post.

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WSWA Access LIVE 2024: Product Roundup

A Few of Our Favorite WSWA Access LIVE Things

by David Klemt

Sepulto Mezcal bottle

We attended WSWA’s Access LIVE 2024 event in Las Vegas, Nevada, and found quite a few products we think will pique the interest of restaurant and bar operators.

Agave spirits, perhaps unsurprisingly, seemed to dominate the floor. In particular, tequila was very well represented.

However, we also found notable vodkas, gins, whiskeys, sake, liqueurs, zero-proof beverages, and more. Below, several portfolios and items that really stood out to us.

Cheers!

Portfolio

Deluxe Distillery

This distillery, operating out of Belgium, has some of the most striking packaging I’ve seen in a while. I’m confident in saying that guests scanning a back bar would find Deluxe Distillery‘s bottles intriguing.

More importantly, of course, the liquid is just as outstanding. Deluxe produces three gins under the Blind Tiger label: Piper Cubeba, Imperial Secrets, and barrel-aged Liquid Gold. Their vodka, Mary White, pays homage to a famous bootlegger. And then there’s Yusibi, a honey-based aperitif in a unique bottle.

However, it’s Deluxe’s Sūpāsawā that really grabbed my attention at Access LIVE. This product, available in 30 states in the US already, makes batching not just a breeze but a more budget-friendly proposition. Cost per bottle should run around $9. The prebatched cocktail Deluxe Distillery was serving at their booth took less than five minutes to make.

As far as entire portfolios, Deluxe stood out the most to me.

Agave

Inspiro Tequila

This is clean tequila brand needs to be on your radar. There are currently two Inspiro Tequila expressions, Luna Blanco and Rosa Reposado. Both premium tequilas can be enjoyed neat, and Rosa is rested in rosé wine barrels sourced from France.

Inspiro is woman-owned, confirmed additive-free, certified Kosher, gluten-free, sugar-free, and zero carb. Oh, and the bottles are eye-catching.

Sepulto Mezcal Artesanal

This artisanal mezcal launched at this year’s Access Live event. And yes, this is another case of the bottle catching my eye and drawing me in.

Sepulto is aged for one year in glass, underground. As a result of the distiller’s cooking process, the complex notes of espadín, sahuayo, and papalote agaves come through with each sip. This is definitely a mezcal you’ll want to add to your super-premium agave spirits. In fact, it will be right at home on your back bar and menu next to your Don Julio 1942.

Vodka

Tenjaku Japanese Vodka

Don’t let the clean label fool you: Tenjaku is as fun a brand as it is a premium vodka. Click here to check out their packaging, which drives home my point.

Speaking of premium quality, Tenjaku Vodka is made from Yamada Nishiki rice, which is also used to make some of the best sake in the world. Further, the liquid is filtered not just through birch charcoal but also bamboo charcoal. The result is a vodka that tastes fresh and is delicate on the palate.

Herbesco Pepper Vodka

Looking for a great vodka that can serve as a spicy base for Bloody Marys and other hot cocktails straight from the bottle?

Herbesco Pepper Vodka is made with jalapeño, japones, chile de árbol, and bell pepper. Along with heat, expect herbal, fruity, and even chocolatey notes.

Gin

The Illusionist Dry Gin

Those familiar with Empress are familiar with what gives the gin its hue and color-shifting capability: butterfly pea flower. That botanical is also present in The Illusionist, which comes in a stylish, black Art Nouveau bottle.

Certified organic, The Illusionist delivers more than just visual impact. On the nose, licorice and citrus. Those notes are also present on the palate, along with fruity and floral flavors.

Whiskey

Yame Whisky

This Japanese whisky was introduced to me by Wine of Japan, an incredible portfolio of ultra-premium sake, beer, and spirits. Anyone who wants to add the highest quality sake from Japan need look no further. (In fact, I’ve been looking for a specific sake for over a decade. The VP or Wine of Japan knew exactly what I was talking about and had a sample at the booth. Amazing.)

Two expressions were available to try at Access LIVE, the 10 Year and 15 Year. The 10 Year features a 100-percent barley mashbill and is very easy to drink, delivering notes of vanilla and citrus. Think an easy-sipping bourbon. I found the 15 Year to a bit more complex, delivering dried fruit and grain on the palate. However, I had also sampled quite a few sake before trying this whisky.

In other words, you’re going to have to reach out to Wine of Japan and get tasted on both Yame expressions.

Tenjaku Whisky

There are two Tenjaku Whisky expressions currently: Blended and Pure Malt.

The former is sweet on the nose, with a touch of smoke. On the palate, Tenjaku Blended delivers grain, dried fruit, and a bit of spice.

The latter, Pure Malt, has nutty aroma with herbal notes. Expect wood and vanilla on the palate.

Niche

Wheyward Spirit

I could include woman-owned, operated, and distilled Wheyward in the whiskey category, but it’s too unique for that. The two available expressions are produced by upcycling whey.

Wheyward Spirit, the original expression, can stand in for vodka, gin, rum, sake, and even blanco tequila. The brand itself explains this innovative spirit quite succinctly: “Wheyward Spirit is one of a kind and was designed to take the best elements of vodka, sake, gin, and rum to be both a versatile and sippable clear spirit.”

There’s also Wheyward Spirit Wheyskey. Now that you’re familiar with the original, you can probably guess that this is a whey-based alternative to whiskey. This expression is barrel-aged Wheyward Spirit, and, like the original, is additive-, grain-, gluten-, and lactose-free. When I tasted Wheyskey, it most closely resembled a rye whiskey to me.

Alcohol-free

De Soi

“Savor the flavor, lose the booze, put the ‘fun’ in ‘functionality,’ and embrace the pleasure of restraint,” says non-alcohol brand De Soi.

This range of zero-proof apéritifs is loaded with interesting flavors, such as sparkling Très Rosé, citrusy and herbaceous Golden Hour, and jammy and bitter Champignon Dreams.

Operators looking to add sophisticated and unique non-alcohol beverage options should definitely look into De Soi.

Sparkling Wine

Rozoy Picot

If the production of this French sparkling wine didn’t involve a unique twist, I’m told Rozoy Picot would legally be Champagne.

However, these sparkling wines are blended with terpenes, the aromatic elements of cannabis. (Remember, terpenes don’t contain psychoactive elements, so this product doesn’t get you high.)

There’s a white varietal, Rozoy Picot OG Kush, and a red, Punch Rosé. I can only say that these must be smelled and tasted to be understood fully. Additionally, I can see these performing well at nightclubs as a unique bottle service option.

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Taco Bell Reveals 2024 Marketing Calendar

“Thank You for Coming to My Taco Bell Talk”

by David Klemt

2024 Taco Bell menu item lineup

The showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers isn’t the only big news coming out of Las Vegas from Super Bowl LVIII weekend.

Of course, the game’s result is also big news. Congratulations to the Chiefs on their back-to-back world champion wins!

However, Super Bowl weekend kicked off with a unique event. On Friday, February 9, Taco Bell hosted their first-ever Live Más LIVE event.

As the event’s title suggests, Live Más LIVE was a livestream. And during that livestream, the undisputed Kings of the LTO did something they and their competitors simply don’t do. At Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell revealed their 2024 menu lineup.

Another way of putting this to illustrate the event’s significance is that Taco Bell just gave away their marketing calendar for the year.

Apparently, the inspiration for Live Más LIVE comes from Apple. The tech colossus has been hosting their annual Worldwide Developers Conference in earnest for more than 20 years. For the unfamiliar, Apple uses WDC to announce product news.

“I watch Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and I just had this moment,” said Taylor Montgomery, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer. So, I have to wonder if Live Más LIVE will become an annual or semi-annual event.

I’ll get to the items and opportunities Taco Bell unveiled in a moment. There’s a bigger point I believe operators should take away from Live Más LIVE.

A restaurant or bar’s menu is not just a list of items for sale. A menu is a powerful marketing tool. It’s a billboard. Arguably, the menu is the most powerful tool in an operator’s marketing toolbox.

QSR Innovation

Collaborations

While Taco Bell’s 2024 menu items are huge news, they’re not the only important revelation.

During Live Más LIVE, Taco Bell announced three emerging chefs who will launch the QSR giant’s TBX culinary program. Chefs Reuben Asaram, Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, and Lawrence Smith will first be tasked with reinvigorating the Crunchwrap Supreme.

The announcement that these three chefs will bring their unique styles to Taco Bell speaks to the overall theme of the Super Bowl weekend event: Innovation.

This year, Taco Bell is going hard with new menu items, and they’re entering into compelling new collaborations to do so. These partnerships include:

  • Beekeeper Coffee for Horchata Cold Brew Latte;
  • Cheez-It for the Cheez-It Crunchwrap, which features a Cheez-It cracker that’s 16 times (!) the size of a standard one;
  • Disha Hot for an exclusive sauce packet;
  • Salt & Straw for Ice Cream Chocolate Taco (think upscale Choco Taco), featuring cinnamon ancho ice cream;
  • Secret Aardvark for their Serrabanero sauce, which will accompany Nacho Fries; and
  • Tajín for an exclusive Taco Bell menu that will reportedly consist of a Tajín Crunchy Taco, Tajín Twists, and a Tajín Strawberry Freeze.

Having attended the Salt & Straw opening in Las Vegas (well, Spring Valley, but I won’t get into that further) I can say that I’m eager to sink my teeth into an Ice Cream Chocolate Taco.

On its own, these collaborations and menu testings are big news. However, Taco Bell’s event went bigger.

Menu Expansion

We all remember the Great Chicken Wars of the past several years. Well, Taco Bell has put their competitors on notice: They’re finally leaping into the fray.

According to Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s chief food innovation officer, the company is lacking when it comes to having their “fair share of chicken.” The planned Cantina Chicken menu aims to fix this oversight.

2024 Live Mas Live Taco Bell event

Along with oven-roasted and shredded chicken seasoned with pasilla, other chilies, and spices, come a number of ingredients appearing at Taco Bell restaurants for the first time. Among them are purple cabbage, an Avocado Verde Salsa sauce packet, and white corn taco shells.

Debuting soon (hopefully) are are the Cantina Chicken Burrito, Cantina Chicken Taco (available in soft or crispy varieties), Cantina Chicken Quesadilla, and Cantina Chicken Bowl.

Those aren’t the only new chicken-centric items coming to the Taco Bell menu. There’s also the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada, featuring marinated and slow-cooked chicken.

Oh, and chicken nugget lovers, rejoice! Crispy Chicken Nuggets, made by marinating all-white chicken in spiced jalapeño buttermilk and frying them in a tortilla coating, are on their way.

This year, Taco Bell will also offer the Cheesy Enchilada Dipping Taco (slow-roasted chicken), and Cheesy Street Chalupa, which is available with slow-roasted chicken or grilled steak.

On the sweet side, Taco Bell is launching MTN DEW BAJA BLAST Gelato, and Dulce de Leche Cinnabon Delights.

As one might suspect, some of these items will be permanent, some will come in the form of LTOs. And if my suspicions prove correct, I think we’ll see a secret, unannounced menu item at least once in 2024.

Image: Taco Bell

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Working with Local Influencers

Community Collaboration: Working with Local Influencers

by David Klemt

Photographer's hand holding DSLR camera by neon sign

One of the standout educational sessions from WSWA Access Live 2024 focused on finding and working with local influencers.

Natalie Migliarini, a.k.a. Beautiful Booze, and James Stevenson, a.k.a. Little Lane Media, presented “Successfully Engaging with Influential Content Creators in Your Community” in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week. The duo made the case for seeking to collaborate with influencers in your community.

“Local influencer” may give the impression of less popularity and less reach. After all, another designation for these people is “micro-influencer.”

However, there are several reasons why working with local or micro-influencers is a smart move for your bar, restaurant, nightclub, cafe, or hotel.

It helps to understand that some marketing experts categorize influencers by follower count:

  • Nano: 1,000 to 10,000 followers
  • Micro: 10,000 to 100,000 followers
  • Macro: 100,000 to 1,000,000 followers
  • Mega: 1,000,000-plus followers

I don’t know about you, but I think reaching a potential 10,000 followers local to my area of operation is an excellent value proposition. If you’re curious, Migliarini’s Beautiful Booze Instagram account falls into the macro category.

Of course, there are other appealing benefits as well.

Effective Marketing

What do You Want?

What are your goals when marketing your business? I’m willing to wager there are at least three:

  • To be discovered by new people.
  • Boosting traffic.
  • Increasing revenue.

And what’s one of your greatest concerns when it comes to your marketing efforts? I’ll bet that it’s budget.

Well, Migliarini and Stevenson believe local or micro-influencers (and I’d say nano-influencers, as well) can tick all of those boxes.

What do You Want to Spend?

Local influencers will likely be much more affordable than their macro or mega counterparts. There are celebrities—part of the mega-influencer category—that can make millions of dollars for a single promotional post. Macro-influencers can command five figures for just one post.

Now, think about social media. Depending on the platform (Migliarini and Stevenson favor Instagram), these pricey posts can have a lifespan as short as 15 minutes. That’s a lot of money to spend on marketing for just minutes or hours of relevancy.

Then consider engagement. According to Migliarini and Stevenson, engagement is more important than reach.

Who do You Want to Reach?

I’m sure the thought of people across the globe knowing your restaurant or bar is appealing. But would that really translate to more traffic and greater revenue?

Eventually, sure. But in the here and now, when building your brand and getting discovered, your local community is more important.

If you’re operating in the Chicago suburbs, will your revenue and margins improve because some social media users in Vancouver found your venue online? Or, would your business be better served by locals and people in the surrounding area visiting your spot on a regular basis?

I think you know the answer.

Well, this is where nano- and micro-influencers come into play. You want support from locals. Garnering that support via social media means you want influencers who are engaged with your community.

The partners you’re after are local influencers, not global (or national, until you’ve become a must-visit destination for tourists).

As Migliarini and Stevenson say, an influencer may be “micro” by follower count but “macro” in terms for their effectiveness in a particular market.

Effective Partnerships

How to Find Collaborators

The great news is that it’s not difficult to find local influencers. Let’s use Instagram as an example for finding collaborators.

When you pop open the app, you’ll see the search icon at the bottom of the screen. To make this very simple, it’s the magnifying glass to the right of the house icon.

Once you tap the magnifying glass icon, you’ll be able to search for basically anything in the search field. From this point, you’ll see several tabs to scroll through: For you, Accounts, Audio, Tags, Places, and Reels.

Of those fields, Tags will likely deliver some of the best results. Migliarini and Stevenson suggest following hashtags relevant to you and your business. From there, you’ll come across influencers local to your area of operation.

How to Select Collaborators

All engagement is not the same.

It’s going to be tempting to look for huge follower counts and tons of likes on posts. Well, Migliarini and Stevenson find a different metric far more effective in gauging an account’s engagement.

Instead of likes, look at comments. An influencer may have hundreds or thousands of posts. And those posts may have hundreds or thousands of likes.

Does that really mean much? If you use Instagram, think about your behavior on the app.

It’s likely that you scroll dozens of posts whenever you open Instagram. You probably hit the heart icon, liking a number of posts as you scroll.

Do you remember every post that you like? After liking posts, do you think about the account that posted it? Probably not.

Now, let’s say you liked a post so much that you felt compelled to take the extra steps of commenting on it. If that was a post about a dish or drink from a bar or restaurant, that comment may convert into a visit or delivery order.

When you’re looking for a local influencer and going through posts, look at the number of comments. Hundreds or thousands of likes with just a handful of comments may indicate there’s not much engagement. But dozens or hundreds of comments? That’s a great sign.

Of course, you should also sift through the comments. Doing so can show you if the posts are mostly attracting bots. Further, you want to make sure the comments are positive.

How to Engage Collaborators

It’s important to remember that this is going to be a professional relationship.

Stevenson says there’s nothing wrong with sliding into a potential marketing partner’s DMs. However, it’s wise to share your business email address when reaching out. This way, the conversation moves to a more professional platform, and important messages likely won’t get lost.

Once the conversation has turned to the business at hand, both sides need to be crystal clear regarding expectations. How many posts are expected? When will the influencer post them? What’s the budget? What will working on site look like?

Be as detailed as possible to avoid confusion, frustration, and disappointment; both sides will benefit when every expectation is understood.

There’s another key to these collaborations that Stevenson wants operators to understand. Social media influencers aren’t salespeople, they’re marketers. This is a marketing exercise; you’re paying them to communicate and help people discover your business.

Going deeper, there’s another difference. There are influencers, and there are content creators. An influencer is paid to influence, and a content creator is paid to create content for others.

Another way to look at it: Influencers are in front of the camera, content creators are behind the camera. The distinction is very important.

In their partnership, Migliarini is in front of the camera, operating Beautiful Booze. Stevenson is behind the camera, running Little Lane Media. Both partner with restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, and brands. However, they do so in different ways.

Now that you know what to consider, go forth and find your local influencers.

Image: Max Bender on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality marketing support. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Pizza Today Reveals Top New Cheeses

Pizza Today Reveals Top New Cheeses for 2024

by David Klemt

Cheese pull from cheese pizza

Pizza Today‘s informative 2024 Pizza Industry Trends Report is full of useful information, from top styles and toppings to new cheeses guests can choose.

Two weeks ago we did a deep dive into the top eleven pizza styles going into 2024, per Pizza Today. Click here to read that article.

Last week we checked out what the pizza publication had to say about top pizza styles by region. Additionally, we looked at the top toppings nationally and regionally. You can read that article here.

Now, we’re going to talk about what Pizza Today has learned about the top cheeses operators are putting on their menus.

Top Pizza Styles, Nationally and Regionally

Before we jump into the cheeses, a quick recap of the top pizza styles in America.

  1. New York
  2. Traditional American
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Neapolitan / Napoletana
  6. Chicago Thin / Tavern-style
  7. Detroit
  8. Grandma
  9. California / American Artisan
  10. NEOpolitan / Neo-Neapolitan and Chicago Thick (tie)

And now, the top trending pizza styles.

  1. Detroit
  2. Deep Dish and Grandma (tie)
  3. Sicilian
  4. New York
  5. Chicago Thin

Finally, the top pizza styles by region. For a more detailed explanation of each region, click here.

The West

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. California/American Artisan
  4. Sicilian
  5. Neapolitan

The South

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Neapolitan

The Midwest

  1. Traditional America
  2. Chicago Thin
  3. New York Style
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Detroit

The Northeast

  1. New York Style
  2. Sicilian
  3. Traditional America
  4. Neapolitan
  5. Grandma

Top Pizza Toppings, Nationally and Regionally

We’re almost to the cheeses. First, a recap of the most popular items to put on top of cheese.

Well, unless we’re talking a stuffed pizza. Click here and scroll to Deep Dish to see what I mean.

Now, the top toppings across the US.

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra Cheese
  5. Bacon
  6. Chicken
  7. Onion
  8. Red/Green Bell Pepper
  9. Ham
  10. Black Olives
  11. Meatballs
  12. Canadian Bacon
  13. Jalapenos
  14. Pineapple
  15. Beef
  16. Basil
  17. Banana Peppers
  18. Fresh garlic
  19. Tomatoes
  20. Spinach

Below, how toppings break down regionally.

The West

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Chicken
  5. Bacon

The South

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra cheese
  5. Bacon

The Midwest

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Bacon
  5. Onion

The Northeast

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Mushroom
  • Extra cheese
  • Bacon

Top “New” Cheeses

Okay, so we’ve reviewed top pizza styles. We’ve done a recap for toppings.

So, what are some of the top “new” cheeses going onto those pizza styles and being covered in all those toppings?

It may seem odd the refer to the cheeses below as “new.” In this context, “new” means, “not mozzarella” or “not provolone,” for the most part. Or, if you’re in St. Louis, “not Provel.”

  • Ricotta
  • Cheddar
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Goat Cheese
  • Parmigiano Crema
  • Cotija Cheese
  • Scamorza
  • Vegan Cheese
  • Blue Cheese
  • Feta

Guests love personalization, and they love the opportunity to try new foods and new takes on foods they know.

Scamorza

For the most part, you’re likely familiar with all the cheeses above. However, if you’re like me, you may be unfamiliar with scamorza. If that’s the case, I looked into it for both of us.

Like mozzarella, scamorza is made from either stretched cow or water buffalo milk cheese curds. This cheese originates from Italy and comes in two styles: scamorza bianca or and scamorza affumicata. The former is white or natural, while the latter is smoked and brownish in appearance.

Further, bianca is a mild, somewhat sweet cheese. Affumicata, being smoked, delivers a more savory and, as one would expect, smoky flavor.

Vegan Cheese

If you aren’t offering vegan or plant-based cheese for your pizzas, you may not know what brands to use.

Well, don’t worry. I’ve also done some legwork into this topic.

Brands to check out are Violife, Diya, Chao, and Miyoko’s. As plant-based alternatives become more commonplace and expected by guests, I expect more commercial vegan-friendly cheeses to become available. Perhaps we’ll see some at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show.

Image: Pablo Pacheco on Unsplash

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: February 2024

5 Books to Read this Month: February 2024

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our inspiring and informative February book selections will help you and your team transform your operations, business acumen, and F&B programming.

This month, we look at books covering an array of topics: design; learning to negotiate better; learning cocktail balance and build techniques; and finding your inner chef.

To review the book recommendations from January 2024, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life

This book was co-authored by the late Stephen R. Kellert, one of the developers of the biophilic design methodology. To learn more about biophilic design, click here. Then, pick up this book.

From Amazon: “This book offers a paradigm shift in how we design and build our buildings and our communities, one that recognizes that the positive experience of natural systems and processes in our buildings and constructed landscapes is critical to human health, performance, and well-being. Biophilic design is about humanity’s place in nature and the natural world’s place in human society, where mutuality, respect, and enriching relationships can and should exist at all levels and should emerge as the norm rather than the exception.”

The Cocktail Balance

Written by Stanislav Harcinik, The Cocktail Balance is about more than building cocktails. Readers will learn about the role senses play in cocktails and balance, along with presentation and service.

From thecocktailbalance.com: “My work isn’t focused solely on experienced bartenders, students are part of the target group. By including potential new bartenders, this book wishes to push the upcoming students into a broader, more creative mindset. The book itself is divided into 3 main sections – theory, practical part and legacy from the best bartenders in Slovakia. Theory, contains the basics and building blocks that allow the development of a professional approach, it also focuses on how to present yourself and how to take care of guests. Whereas in the practical section, readers will be able to learn to price a cocktail and to effectively go through a structured creative process. Other chapters also include gastrophysics and neurogastronomy. In other words how an aroma, a physical characteristics, a sound as well as visual stimulation affect the final flavour of a cocktail, and create a comprehensive and unforgettable experience for guests.”

Pick up your copy today.

Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science

Some bar professionals and guests like to understand the “why” behind what they consume. Why does this taste good? Why and how do certain processes affect spirits? Kevin Liu’s book answers these questions, and more. On top of that, there are 65 recipes to try.

From Amazon: “In Craft Cocktails at Home, you’ll embark upon a one-of-a-kind journey as you learn how to make some of the world’s most innovative, unique, and delicious cocktails. Taste scientists, engineers, and talented bartenders with decades of experience all contributed their expertise to create this must-have guide for novices and professionals alike. Ever wondered what makes water taste good? Curious about what really happens during the barrel-aging process? Interested in which “molecular” ingredients have the best texture? These questions and more, answered inside.”

Order the paperback here.

The Forgotten Chef

Simply put, this book is intended to inspire younger generations to pursue cooking as a career. If you know someone who has an interest in cooking but hasn’t taken steps to become a chef, this is the book you should gift them.

From Amazon: “The book moves quickly through food stories, tips and techniques to inspire and ignite the passion of its targeted reader. Through anecdotal food related stories, the book covers important topics such as the right mindset for cooking success, quality over quantity, kitchen organization (mise en place), kitchen tools (the Dirty Thirty), the celebrity chef conundrum (why people get discouraged in their cooking journey), introduction to knife skills/care, cookbook basics, food preservation and safety and other fun chapters such as saving Grandma’s recipes from extinction, the lost art of sharing (food), and the new-old method of cooking, sous vide.”

Click here to order the paperback.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Everyone needs to know how to negotiate. It’s a valuable skill not just for business but for life in general. Getting to Yes is a how-to manual that teaches you the art of negotiation, a skill you’ll need to develop if you’re an entrepreneur, aspiring business owner, or professional looking to progress in their career. And, as I’ve already said, it will help you in situations you’ll find yourself in outside of business.

From Amazon: “Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.”

Get it today.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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