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Behind the Bar: How to Make Drink Holidays Count

By June 2, 2022Connecticut, Top News

Bartender and guest columnist Khalid Williams. Photo by Winter Caplanson.

By Khalid Williams

I wake up. Clearly, the first thing I do is check Instagram. Some slick and stylish cocktail account with 100,000 followers has gotten thousands of likes because they’re celebrating a drink holiday. There’s a cocktail, smiling people and comments full of others who are just as excited that February 31st is Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day. I scroll through a few more posts before getting out of bed.

I think about how my bar could get in on this Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day action. Clearly, the entire world is marching to this beat and I am just now starting to hear the drums. I’m overcome with one part excitement, one part curiosity and a bunch parts of anger that I’m not involved in some way, plus confusion about who the hell even decided that today is Clarified Oak Aged Macadamia Nut Amaro Day. Then, and a frenetic rush to style my bar and social media to make it look like I’ve been celebrating it since it was first discovered, which I obviously have not.

It seems like I’ve been left out of a cool club. That yucky feeling, I call FOMOSTDEE, fear of missing out on something that doesn’t even exist in the first place. The wonderful world of made-up drink holidays is one that, if done correctly, can be a goldmine for bars and restaurants. But if not executed properly, it can result in a lot of wasted time, energy and resources — not to mention the FOMOSTDEE.

To avoid that, I present to you some ideas that will help solidify your establishment’s position around events. First things first: planning is everything. If you find out that tomorrow is National Margarita Day, you probably need to just sit it out this year. A classy and smart play is to wish those who are celebrating well in a post towards the end of the day: you show awareness to the world outside your establishment while not losing focus on what’s going on inside your own four walls (and the real-time experience is always the most important thing, no matter how large the metaverse looms.)

1. Download a calendar of drinking holidays. There are many sources and sites, but my annual calendar favorite is by Tara Fougner. Seek it out.
2. Figure out your holiday strategy for the season and plan new drink rollouts around them. The product should jibe with a future menu item and not be collecting dust in the liquor cabinet. Depletions are the ultimate goal.
3. If you’re going to do it, go all the way: Don’t hem and haw. If you’re celebrating National Chardonnay Day, every human in your building must know it. This is more important than dressing up the building or having 1,000,001 new items. Treat not knowing the feature as you would address staff not knowing the name of your bar: you wouldn’t let that happen. Go all in on a one-day reinvention, even if it’s only adding one showcased glass pour of wine.
4. Clearly define the roles of staff and brand reps in writing with dates of execution. These things take extra work, and it’s discouraging if your staff finds out at the last minute that they have to take down decorations after close.
5. Create specials only with product that is, or will be, available all the time.
6. Keep the menus digital and make goodie bags in advance: nothing should be left over. Not one piece of paper. Nary a koozie.
7. Post, promote and share — in advance and the day of. Incentivize staff to post with specific hashtags and verbiage (Mr. Algorithm likes a consistent message).
8. If any team says “I didn’t even know about this,” somebody messed up. Maybe whoever was in charge of planning and communicating. You?

Drink holidays are sort of like traffic: they’re annoying and they merge into your otherwise daily operations. They do also present opportunity to reroute for the day and make something new happen. There are a lot of less-than-perfect decisions to be made, but whatever you do, you’d better just go with it, change that lane and stay in it.

There will always be a gap in the perspective of drinking holidays within the team: the bar manager sees it as an opportunity for exposure and fun, the owner must calculate the risk of sinking resources into an underpromoted initiative, and the staff simply wants to be given purpose and be a part of the creative process. A consistent and intentional blend of wholesaler and brand support with staff excitement can take National (Insert Beverage Here) Day from stressful to profitable and from frustrating to fun.

Khalid Williams is a bar manager, spirits brand representative and program consultant specializing in marketing, engagement and data. His passion is for exploring the “why” behind consumer decisions. He loves Old-world wine, New-world rum and Connecticut beer. Follow him on Instagram @thebarrelage.


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