The hospitality industry has been put through the wringer lately. In the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 became a serious issue in the United States, the hospitality industry lost nearly $120 billion.
Restaurants that gain a significant portion of their revenue from alcohol sales have been hit the hardest, with many social distancing regulations calling for a ban on alcohol sales indoors. Thought restrictions lifted temporarily over the summer; many places are still prohibiting indoor alcohol consumption.
While curbside pickup and delivery operations were able to hold many different restaurants over, for the time being, the ban on indoor alcohol sales was a little trickier to get around.
Enter: Alcohol to-go
While this hasn’t always been an option, many states have begun allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to-go to help restaurants recuperate some of the sales they lost out on during the first few months of COVID.
Now, many restaurants that offer alcohol are jumping on this trend. Even more surprising, restaurants that haven’t sold alcohol previously are now choosing to get liquor licenses so they can provide alcohol to-go.
Here’s how you can cash in on this trend:
State Regulations Vary
Most states have begun to loosen restrictions on alcohol sales, and many are beginning to allow the sale of alcohol to-go. However, the regulations aren’t entirely uniform across the board for how restaurants can offer this service.
In places like Arizona, restaurants can offer alcohol with food orders for pickup, delivery, and drive-thru. Whereas in Hawaii, laws are a little different. Wine, beer, and spirits can be sold to-go, but for the sales to be legal, the container must be opened and then resealed prior to being provided, even if no actual product has been consumed.
In Nebraska, on-premises liquor license holders may sell alcoholic beverages in the original package to go; however, they are only temporarily permitted to sell mixed drinks. Still, places like Minnesota, Montana, and Pennsylvania don’t permit the sale of alcohol to-go.
Bottom line: before making any decisions, it’s important to check with your state.
Most states are allowing some form of alcohol sales. However, the regulations aren’t uniform
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If Your State Allows Alcohol Sales
You now have the opportunity to get creative.
This is the time where you begin to strategize. If you have a license to sell alcohol, it may be easier to implement alcohol to-go. If you do not have one yet, you’ll need to—again—check with your state and see what the process is for obtaining a liquor license.
You also need to think about logistics. Is your software set up to manage pickup and delivery for alcohol sales? Do you offer your own delivery service, or will you need to integrate with a third-party? If most of your alcohol sales prior to COVID were primarily on-premises, you might need to do a bit of restructuring and reorganizing.
The Right Tech Will Be Instrumental
There are a few solutions you’ll need to look into to make sure that your alcohol to-go operations are fast, efficient, and profitable.
For restaurants that are new to online ordering, this is a must-have in the age of COVID. Online ordering helps keep customers safe while offering a new convenience. Online ordering can easily be integrated with the rest of your restaurant technology so that orders can be sent directly to the POS as soon as they are placed. This solution helps cut back on the time it takes for your employees to take orders and gives you the benefit of leveraging automated upselling prompts.
If you haven’t already implemented a delivery service, now would be the time to do so. Many bars have never had the opportunity to offer delivery services and are now taking advantage of the new liquor sale laws.
By implementing this solution, you can keep track of your drivers, offer mapping to find the quickest route, and manage which driver covers which orders.
This is a good idea for delivery and curbside pickup. ID scanning ensures that identification cards that customers are using aren’t counterfeit while speeding up the age verification process. Since many states are just now beginning to loosen the laws surrounding alcohol sales, it’s important to make sure you are doing everything by-the-book. Just one sale to an underage customer can land you with hefty fines.
To fully gain the benefits of offering alcohol to-go, it’s important that you strategize. Review data from your POS system and see what types of drinks customers ordered, and what they were ordered in combination with.
If your regulars often ordered margaritas during happy hour on Taco Tuesdays, this is a prime opportunity to promote specialty margaritas to-go when customers order tacos for delivery on Tuesday evenings. The same goes for mimosas for brunch. You can re-create the same favorites your customers loved when they dined on-premises, but adapt them for to-go orders.
How It Can Save Your Restaurant:
Alcohol to-go offers a wide array of benefits, from helping you stay connected with your customers to helping you stay competitive by offering a new service that customers greatly desire.
Since customers are unable to do many of the things they used to, like going out to grab a drink with friends at your restaurant, it’s important to try to meet them where they are. Providing services like these shows to your customers that you understand their desires and are willing to adapt your restaurant in order to meet them, which not only helps you stay competitive, but profitable as well.
Offering alcohol to-go can help you survive the pandemic and continue thriving afterwards. These trends were already in the making. COVID-19 just spurred it along.
Focus POS offers restaurant management software that can assist you in offering alcohol to-go. For more information on what we can do to help your restaurant succeed, contact the experts at Focus today!