Everything You Need to Perfect Bar and Restaurant Accounts
Bars and restaurants consistently rank among the top clients for promotional products distributors. And it makes sense, when you think about it. Picture one of your favorite restaurants. I’m sure you’re seeing printed menus, signage, T-shirts and uniforms for the workers, branded drinkware behind the bar, paper and plastic bags for to-go orders, etc. Aside from what we actually see in the restaurant itself, these establishments also have events where they give away items to customers, or team-building days where the employees can win free stuff (and maybe wear some fun T-shirts—we always did at our restaurant jobs in high school).
To take a look at the current state of promotional items in the bar and restaurant setting, we spoke with Alan Tabasky, vice president and general manager at BEL Promo, Medley, Fla.
Start with the Drinks
Let’s revisit that restaurant we told you to envision in the first paragraph. By now,
you’re sitting at the table. What’s the first thing the waitstaff asks you? That’s right, drinks. Tabasky says that drinkware is a great place to start for the distributor looking to sell to a restaurant customer, too.
“For us, [the most popular item] is glassware,” he said. “We sell thousands of beer [glasses], mixing glasses and shot glasses each day—not just including wine, champagne, margarita glasses, etc. Glassware is used over and over again, day in and day out. The logo on a glass product is seen over and over by the bar or restaurant customer, further branding the experience to the consumer.”
Because of glassware’s ability to boast a logo on a daily basis, some states have passed laws that forbid companies like breweries to give restaurant customers free drinkware. Florida was the latest state to find itself in this battle over branded drinkware. As of April, Florida was one of the states that required bars and restaurants buy branded glassware at a wholesale cost. This allowed the smaller companies, like craft breweries, to compete with the bigger players in the industry, like Anheuser-Busch, which was the main proponent of changing that law.
The debate came about when the Florida Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a bill that would allow companies to give away drinkware for free. For companies like the aforementioned Anheuser-Busch, the cost of drinkware is minor, but for a smaller, fledgling brewery, that’s a bit more of a problem.
How to Approach the Customer
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, one of the first things you learn is how to talk to a customer. If you work in a gimmicky chain restaurant (like some of us did in high school), that usually meant there were a few key phrases that you had to include when you welcomed the customer. From there, you usually learned how to upsell things like drinks, talk a customer into buying dessert and just generally keep them happy throughout their time. Being a distributor and working with restaurant clients is no different. You need to know how to talk to them and maximize your sale.
“The best way is to be a customer first,” Tabasky said. “When approaching the establishment with the view of a customer, you can speak to them as to what is important—how can the customer leave after a memorable evening with positive thoughts of the restaurant or bar? What can you offer the manager or purchasing agent as a consultant?”
And, just like the waitstaff is trained (and quizzed) on the establishment’s menu items so they can answer any and all questions the customers may have, distributors need to be well-versed in their offerings and be able to solve any need their client may have.
“Remember, the best way to elevate the services you provide is to be a promotional products consultant,” Tabasky continued. “Consultants are paid on their experience and expertise, not just on selling a mug. That is how you grow and cultivate a relationship. Offer something the average distributor does not.”
While going above and beyond in the restaurant world can earn you a fat tip, it unfortunately doesn’t in the promotional products world. Still, being a lousy server can cost you a tip, and lousy service can cost a distributor a job. (But again, no tips, unless you really have some generous clients.)
Go Above and Beyond
While you can’t expect an extra 20 percent of your sales volume after closing a deal, Tabasky said that distributors should never settle for just the bare minimum.
“They leave money on the table,” he said, speaking metaphorically, not about tips. (No one is getting tips!) “Maybe they walk in and have a discussion on selling glassware, maybe they leave with an order. I can guarantee you that the consultant that drops by tomorrow will be building a brand recognition and customer retention strategy for the restaurant that will include printed glassware, promotional napkins and coasters, apparel for the staff, glow sticks for ladies night on Wednesday, etc. It is not just about the one-product sale. It is about a cohesive, brand-building experience for the restaurant or bar.”
Sign the Check
So, in our hypothetical dining experience, what is the last thing you do? That’s right: Sign the check. And what do you use for that?
“Don’t forget pens,” Tabasky said. “Every check that is delivered to a table comes with a pen. This is a great item to encourage the restaurant staff to leave with the customer. Printing a special on that pen, like ‘One free [drink] on Thursday night when you bring back this pen’ can be a successful and fun promotion for everyone.”