How to Add Frozen Cocktails to Your Menu
Adding an entirely new section to your menu is a lot of work, and that work can easily be doubled when that section has the word "cocktails" in its title. However, frozen cocktails have an incredibly high profit margin of 65 to 70 percent1, so it is no surprise that more bars and restaurants are looking to add these beverages to their menus. Whether you are starting your bar program from scratch or adding frozen drinks to your current bar selection, we can help you get started.
If your business already has a bar and all that entails – the liquor license, liability insurance, and alcohol certification for your servers – you may want to skip down to Plan Your Menu. However, be aware that some liquor licenses only cover certain types of alcohol, so you may need to speak with your local regulatory authority before you add to your menu.
Table of Contents
- Learn About Licensing
- Get Insured
- Train Employees
- Plan Your Menu
- Get the Right Equipment
- Promote, Promote, Promote
Learn About Licensing
The most important step to take when adding frozen cocktails to your business is to do your research. Liquor laws vary widely by region, state, county, and city, which means you may need to do some digging to find out exactly what you need to do to become licensed. Generally, you will need to pay a fee to apply for the license, and of course there will be paperwork to fill out. You will also usually need to be a resident of the area, have a clean criminal record, and complete a training course.
There will often be several types of licenses to choose from, and the one you need will be determined by a number of factors, which may include what you will be serving, how often you will be serving it, and where you will be serving. For example, an art studio that will occasionally serve wine at a gallery opening will almost certainly need a different license than a night club that will be serving cocktails nightly. Because some municipalities may also restrict the number of licenses that can be issued in a particular area, usually determined by the population, be sure to check that your local government is actually issuing licenses before putting too much work in.
While trying to obtain your liquor license, it's important to remember that it probably won't happen quickly. The government may take anywhere from a month to a year to approve your application, a time frame that can be extended if any local residents protest the licensing. Start the process long before you plan to actually start selling, and while you wait, you can look into your insurance options.
If your foodservice operation is in business, you should already have general liability and worker's compensation insurance. If you plan to start serving alcohol, you will need to add liquor liability insurance to your policy. That's necessitated by what is known as 'dram shop laws' which are, in short, laws that allow bar owners to be held liable for any damage, injury, or death caused by someone who became intoxicated in their business.2 For example, if a person became drunk at your establishment, then went on to drive and was in a fatal accident, the victim's family could sue you or your business. Due to these laws, most states require bars and restaurants that will be serving alcohol to carry liquor liability insurance that will cover damage costs, injuries, and any legal costs including court fees and civil or criminal damages.
Be sure to speak with your insurance agent so you can learn exactly what your liquor liability policy will and will not cover. For example, most policies will not cover instances that involve the sale of alcohol to a minor. You likely want your policy to cover assault and battery allegations, as these accusations commonly arise from drunk patrons escorted out of the building or removed from the property.3
Although you should always carry a liquor liability policy when serving alcohol, of course you want to avoid any incidents occurring. A large part of this is making sure your servers and/or bartenders are properly trained to handle any situation they may encounter while serving alcohol. Training and certification is often required by states or local government, and some states even offer this training for free. Speak with your local regulatory authority before making any decisions on training.
As part of their training, your employees will learn the liquor laws of your state, county, or city. This includes what they can serve, when they can serve it, and whom they can serve it to. One of the most popular certification programs is ServSafe Alcohol®, which is run by the National Restaurant Association. This program also covers how to check identification, evaluate intoxication levels, and how to deal with various situations that may arise while serving alcohol.4
Plan Your Menu
There are many factors to keep in mind when planning your frozen cocktail menu, but the most important one to start off with is your target demographic. Who are your customers and what do they want? If your business is active on social media, the answer to these questions may come by simply asking what your customers would like to see on the menu. The spending ability of your customers is important, too. If you have pricey drinks that many of your customers cannot afford, you will have disappointing sales. Likewise, if your establishment tends to serve customers that value quality over price, serving sub-par alcohol in order to cut prices will quickly earn you a poor reputation.
When you are planning your frozen cocktail menu, visit nearby restaurants and bars and pay attention to what the customers are ordering. Frozen margaritas, daiquiris, piña coladas, and sangrias generally sell well, but you may also want to consider house or seasonal specials to keep your selection fresh and exciting for your regulars.
Look up frozen drink recipes online to see what may fit in with your restaurant, keeping cost in mind as you compare recipes. Mixes are available that require you only to add alcohol and ice, or you may prefer to craft your own drinks from fresh fruit, juice, and syrups. Almost any cocktail can be turned into a frozen drink, so experiment a little – you may end up creating a signature frozen drink that your customers can only get from you.
Get the Right Equipment
Once you have an idea of what you will be serving, you can start shopping for the best equipment. Having the right bar supplies can have a huge impact on how smoothly your bar runs and how quickly your customers get their drinks, which of course can have a direct effect on your profits.
- Ice Makers: Ice is an essential ingredient in any frozen drink and getting the right ice maker is important. There are several ice shapes that commercial ice makers produce. Nugget ice is generally considered the best for making frozen cocktails, but crescent or half-cube ice can also work. Larger ice types, such as cube or gourmet ice, can wear down your blender faster and are more likely to leave chunks of ice in the finished product.
- Blenders: In order to make frozen cocktails, you will need one or more blenders to crush the ice and mix the drinks. These are especially important if you will be incorporating fresh fruit into your drinks, which cannot be done in a frozen drink machine. Basic blenders are available with single push-button operation, while others allow you to pre-program timed blending programs. Also available on many models is a sound enclosure, which makes for quieter operation, essential if your blender will be installed near customers.
- Frozen Drink Machines: A frozen drink machine is a great idea if you will be using a mix for one or more of your high-volume drinks. These keep the drink frozen and mixed, and make dispensing easy. Some are a utilitarian stainless steel design, while others have clear polycarbonate hoppers made to showcase brightly-colored drinks. For drinks with high-volume sales, a frozen drink machine can save the time and labor that would be spent blending, making service faster and customers happier.
- Back Bar Coolers: If you will be using fresh ingredients or mixes that need to be refrigerated, you will need a back bar cooler. These are small coolers that either have a workspace on the top or will slide under a counter. They can be as small as one section or as large as three sections, and may have glass or solid doors.
- Drinkware: This is one of the most important things you will shop for when stocking your bar, as it is what will ultimately end up in your customers' hands. Because presentation can play a large role in perceived value, buying the right drinkware can directly impact your profits. Depending on which frozen drinks you decide to offer, you may need hurricane, martini, and/or margarita glasses. These are all available in glass or plastic, so you can decide which is best for your business.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Once you are ready to sell your frozen cocktails, it's time to promote them. After all, you can't sell drinks that people don't know you have. Announce the new drink menu on social media and consider running a special on the drinks when they first arrive. Advertising a Happy Hour online or on the sidewalk with a sandwich board is another great way to bring in new customers. A printed cocktail menu with available options at each table or included in your food menu can also increase sales.
Seasonal specials, like fruity beach-inspired drinks during the summer, or a 'drink of the week' can keep your menu fresh and allow new opportunities for promotions. Themed drinks based around local events can also be big sellers; for example, if your establishment is located in a college town, a drink that uses the team colors can be promoted on game weekends. Keep track of which drinks and promotions work the best and use that information to improve your frozen cocktail program over time.
1. Chilly Profits. Coffee Talk. Accessed January 2016.
2. Dram Shop Laws Hold Bars Responsible For Alcohol Injuries. Lawyers.com. Accessed January 2016.
3. What is Liquor Liability Insurance and Why Do I Need It? Greenwood Insurance Group. Accessed January 2016.
4. ServSafe Alcohol Training and Certification. ServSafe. Accessed January 2016.