How to Make an Open Bar Profitable
Open bars–long the bane of the industry–were once labeled profit potholes and left alone. But one open bar in Washington, D.C., is making a splash–and profit–by hosting a weekly all-you-can-drink sundown special.
“We are always concerned with over-serving, as we should be, because that would be a big detriment to the success of this program,” says Myca Ferrer, sales and marketing manager at Ping Pong Dim Sum. “This is our first foray into [the open bar] sector.”
Ferrer calls the open bar advantageous for a multitude of reasons, from creating repeat business to fully marketing a beverage program.
“If you have things you want people to try, let them have the opportunity to test as many of your signature drinks as they can, because that’s what’s going to bring them back,” he explains. “Maybe not at that particular time, but they can be talking about it as a brand ambassador a lot more feverishly when they’re exposed to everything.”
To control the program, dubbed SUMdown Open Bar, Ping Pong hosts the open bar for $25 only on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 11 p.m., and patrons’ open bar privileges are capped at two hours.
“We’ve been fortunate so far that most of the guests at our restaurant, whether it be late-night happy hours or this type of thing, have a good time with it in a controlled way,” Ferrer says.
He says Ping Pong is one of the few, if not the only, restaurant or bar he is aware of that hosts an open bar. Though it is a risk, the unrivaled nature of the program ensures Ping Pong stays fresh in guests’ memories.
“I always think that if we don’t stay on the top of peoples’ minds, how are we going to be able to continue sustaining business? Because there’s so many new restaurants opening up in D.C.,” he explains.
Dim sum by definition refers to bite-sized, small plate Chinese dishes, which Ferrer says lend themselves to sharing. The menu features dumplings, baked puffs, Asian rolls, and rice dishes, with the average price being $5.50 per plate.
With so many dish varieties, “We want people to be able to try as many of our food offerings as possible,” Ferrer says. “But, you don’t really get to necessarily experience the entire beverage program in a sitting, because, why would you?”
The SUMdown Open Bar, still in soft launch, has been serving for four weeks and already is resulting in repeat business. It is also gaining social media buzz, with diners Tweeting pictures of their food and drinks.
Ferrer calls it a good investment.
“People seem to love it. It’s an organic way for us to see people–the same people–each and every Tuesday night. The hope is that we’re going to have a nice base of regulars week-in and week-out.”
By Sonya Chudgar