Expert Advice on Hospitality Topics

Pricing Your Drinks: The Need for a Structured Approach

Posted by Nick Kaoukis on Wed, Jul, 13, 2011 @ 11:07 AM
pricing drinksBy Chris Parry
Atlantic Publishing

Structuring a Price List


Guesswork just won't do in today's corporate world. Figuring that if your scotch costs you $14 a bottle you can sell a shot for $3, is just a little hit-and-miss when you take in all the other potential costs, like rent, insurance and wages, that your establishment has to cover over the course of a month. It's possible you might be able to charge less than $3, but it's also possible you should be charging way more. Take these factors into account when making your next price list adjustment:

  • Market positioning. Take a look around at what your competitors are charging. Figure out if you need to undercut them or match their level. Does your establishment give added value enough to increase your prices and still draw a good crowd? Are you a level above them in terms of services and product? Are you evenly matched? Are you looking for a more "low rent" crowd? Price accordingly.
  • The competition. They're not always right, but if they've been around a while, your direct competitors probably have a good gauge of what your local customers are prepared to pay for a drink. Take the time to look around and take particular note of any specials they offer on certain nights.
  • Customer demographics. Are your patrons blue-collar workers? Are they white-collar? Do they have families to get home to or are they likely to stay all night and spend every penny? Are they young adults or senior citizens? These all impact what you can charge without losing clientele, and you should have the information already from your market research.
  • Embrace simplicity. It's far better for your customers and staff to have to deal with a simple pricing structure as opposed to forcing them to break their brains over an intricate maze of differently priced products. Set across- the-board levels of prices; for example, well spirits might cost $3, middle-shelf $3.50 and top-shelf $4. Of course there's always going to be the occasional variation, but for the most part, a three-tiered system gives you flexibility in pricing without your staff continually needing to check a price list or hand out handfuls of change.
  • Include tax in your pricing. There's nothing worse than getting $0.84 change from a five- dollar bill on every drink you buy and getting home with a pocket full of silver and copper. If you're going to set your prices at a round level, include the tax in that price so you can use price levels to your advantage. If your alcohol tax rate is 10 percent, the non-tax price for a shot that costs your patrons $3.50 would be $3.18 ($3.18 plus tax of $0.32 equals $3.49). Let your accountant do the math, not your bar staff. Sales tax is a complicated matter that varies dramatically from state to state. Prior to estab­lishing the net price inclusive of tax, discuss the issue with your accountant and state Department of Revenue. Don't find out later in a five-year audit that you've been calculating the tax incorrectly.



This article is an excerpt from the Food Service Professional Guide to Bar & Beverage Operation, authored by Chris Parry, published by Atlantic Publishing Company. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to:

Atlantic Publishing Company

Topics: bar business, Bar drinks, Bar Management, Liquor cost, alcohol cost, drink recipe