Touting liquid assets
Buy-one-get-one-free happy hour promotions work to fill seats on slow days and remain a favourite. But as F&B gains in significance as a revenue stream within hotels, managers are looking at creative ways to increase revenue right through the week. Hotels starting to tap into the local market are finding there is a variety of methods to drive F&B revenue through creative promotions.
Segment to succeed
Standalone restaurants and bars have perfected this art as F&B is their bread and butter. Manchester United Café runs a promotion that ensures that fans will be present and paying whenever football is on. “Manchester United Café Bar offers a season pass that allows football fans to enjoy unlimited Indian manufactured foreign liquor during the 90 minutes of the match, no matter what other offers are going on. It is a loyalty programme in essence and covers the cost,” says Sonali Mullick, senior manager for operations and transition for Manchester United Restaurants, India, part of Mirah Hospitality. Match days notwithstanding, the bar has also taken care of slow periods during the day by hosting children’s parties.
“Between 4pm and 7pm, the adult crowd is limited so we brighten the lights and put on magic shows and activities to give children a good time. If the restaurant happens to also have tables with adults, we try and separate a section for the children,” she says. Weekday afternoons see the place transform into a corporate brunch hotspot.
Being in Palladium, Lower Parel, this is big business, considering the number of offices in the vicinity.
The lesson from this is to tap into a variety of market segments.
“The Westin, Gurgaon has been running ladies’ nights, branded as Pinky Nights, along with Bollinger sunday brunch that includes free-flowing champagne at its Seasonal Tastes restaurant. All the beverage promotions cater to a different audience sets,” says Faiz Alam Ansari, complex EAM for food and beverage at The Westin Gurgaon and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa.
Hilton Mumbai International Airport caters to different segments under one promotion. “We have introduced a new concept of ‘Liquid Buffet’ with bronze, silver and gold packages, each with brands to suit different preferences. Guests also have the option to opt for a beer or alcopops buffet,” says Jignesh Palan, F&B manager at the hotel.
Mullick says ManU even hosts theme nights. But “no more than once a month,” she cautions.
Themes work well as they offer a sense of value to the guest, according to F&B experts. ITC, for example, has a ‘Beyond Blue Blooded’ promotion for rare scotch whiskeys.
While pushing beverages, it makes good sense to put food into the equation. For instance, when ITC is promoting Japanese whisky, Cyril Nunes, beverage manager at the ITC Maratha, invites guests to experience Japanese food.
The fact that food is important is evident at ManU, which enjoys a 60:40 beverage-food mix despite being liquor focused.
Many hoteliers find that themes that promote bonding, whether between friends, family or colleagues, work best, especially in the case of all-day-dining restaurants. “At an all-day diner that caters largely to families, a Sunday brunch with free-flowing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be more of a crowd puller than mere happy hours,” says Ansari.
Sunday Brunches must include a non-alcoholic component and offering special rates for children is a smart move. “For our Sunday brunch, the price range varies between Rs500 for children, and Rs750 for unlimited food and soft beverages for adults and Rs1250 for unlimited food and IMFL,” says Mullick.
“Unlimited” tends to have an attractive ring to it and hotels have found and also covers their cost. “Unlimited beverage offerings work best as they offer the guest no ambiguity in price or brands on offer. Guests can then proceed to truly unwind since they do not have to bother about the final bill nor time barrier after which the promotion expires,” says Zubin D’souza, F&B director for Svenska Design Hotels.
A key draw in a themed promotion is that guests should feel like it is something rare. Out-of-the-Blue at Le Sutra hotel in Mumbai is running a promotion around Mexican cocktails. Note that instead of saying “Tequila promotion”, they are giving it a more exotic, interesting ring to it by saying Mexican cocktails.
Another good example of something unusual is the molecular cocktail promotion that will soon be held at the Westin Gurgaon. And ITC has held a Long Island Iced Tea festival.
Aurus, located in Juhu, Mumbai, believes in putting the onus for higher revenue on their staff. “Suggestive selling is the key to food and beverage sales,” says Ganesh Iyer, the restaurant’s corporate bar manager.
Saraj Bedi, general manager of Out of The Blue, says: “To make things move, goals must be set to measure performance. Incentives work too.”
Considering that the touch point with the guest is the serving staff, getting them to share ideas has its merits. “Ideas are accepted and appreciated whether it comes from someone fresh in the field, or a person who has been here for a lifetime. Should an idea materialise into a revenue-generating deal, the person whose idea it was is rewarded,” says Svenska’s D’souza.
According to Mullick of ManU, one of the best ideas to infuse energy into the outlet has come from the staff. “They came up with singing the Manchester United anthem, which is very well received by guests. It really excites them,” she says.
Partnerships with beverage companies are key to saving costs while earning good revenue. Palan says that the practice of procurement teams alone dealing with vendors is a thing of the past. “Today’s F&B managers maintain healthy relationships with suppliers to maximise sales,” he says.
Focusing on one brand or a specific beverage works as it becomes attractive to beverage companies that are keen to be supportive once they know the spotlight is on them. Oktoberfest, which promotes beer sales, saw packed houses wherever it was celebrated last month.
Promoting beverages that already have a buzz around them is a sure shot to a successful drinks promotions, and F&B managers may want to keep newly popular drinks in mind. In today’s context, all of these factors are more likely to succeed if coupled with new world wines, light refreshing drinks like Sangria or Kalimtoxo and infused spirits.
Superbly successful beverage promos
“Oktoberfest — Well planned and attractive beverage offerings accompanied by a host of delectable German Cuisine, which in itself is uncommon. Also, the promotion was communicated to both our in-house guests and external customers.
Bloody Mary Promotion — This themed promotion was successful because of its unique concept, which was not only different but very fresh, with different versions of Bloody Mary made right in front of the guest.”
Manchester United Café Bar
“Our Vh1 karaoke nights do pretty well. There was a need for karaoke in the market and we tapped into it. We get huge bookings from corporates and college kids for Karaoke. The audience is looking at place that offers them a great time together with a great dining experience.”
“Sunday brunch at Seasonal Tastes has done phenomenally well in the market. The most important reason behind this is the wide choice in cuisine along with a free flow of alcoholic drinks, such as Bollinger champagne, Columbia Crest red and white wine and Coronitas beer. It is priced at Rs3,000.”
Hilton Mumbai International Airport
“Mojito Magic at Lounge Bar did exceptionally well. The promotion was strategically planned over the summer.”