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Strategies for Business Success

This program talks about managing your bottom line, and about managing your practices for alcohol service. You will be asked to think about factors like the types of beverages you promote, your pricing structure, your food menu, your image with the patrons and the relationship between your staff and the people they serve.

In this section you will review:

  • Alcohol Service in Changing Times
  • Strategies for Business Success

An Important Perspective
This program talks about managing your bottom line, and about managing your practices for alcohol service. You will be asked to think about factors like the types of beverages you promote, your pricing structure, your food menu, your image with the patrons and the relationship between your staff and the people they serve.

You will be looking at your overall business plan, and at a specific plan for responsible alcohol service.

Your Responsible Alcohol Service Plan should interlock with your Business Plan. This program provides a unique opportunity to stand back, examine your operation, and set new directions, as needed. These directions will benefit your business, your clientele and the people your clientele interact with after visiting your establishment.

Changing Liquor Liability Risks
A significant development in the industry is an increasing number of successful liability suits against licensed establishments. If an individual is served alcohol and then injures or kills someone while under the influence, courts are deciding that the establishment serving the alcohol shares some of the blame in many of these situations. Settlements often are for large sums of money. Your investment in this program for yourself, and others in your organization is a step towards reducing your liability in these situations.

Many factors make this a frustrating problem for owners and managers. However, while arguments rage over the fairness and sensibility of the whole issue, smart operators are taking action to reduce risk. That is the goal.

You may not be able to eliminate risk but you can take effective steps to manage and reduce the chances of a lawsuit against your staff and your business. Fortunately, this action will also reduce the risk of your customers being involved in mishaps and accidents.

Alcohol Service in Changing Times
The business of selling alcohol has changed in the past few years. You see it in your bookkeeping, and in the volume and types of alcohol sold. You hear it in your customer’s comments. They talk about health issues, impaired driving and have made changes in their beverage choices. Different establishments in different locations will feel it in varying ways, but the net result is the same. The times are changing, and the successful operator will adapt to, and take advantage of, the changes.

Consider the following changes:

  • Profits are dropping due to a trend of reduced alcohol consumption.
  • The public is focusing on alcohol-related problems, particularly drinking and driving.
  • Young people are more aware of alcohol-related problems and taking action to be more responsible (Safe Grads, Designated Driver Programs, etc.).
  • A more health and weight-conscious public is changing eating and drinking preferences.
  • Establishments and servers are increasingly being held responsible for injuries related to intoxication.
  • Liquor Laws and regulations have been amended in response to the changing environment.
  • Costs are rising: taxes, overhead, insurance.
  • Which ones have affected your business the most? How have you taken steps to address them?

Strategies for Business Success
One of the managers consulted in the development of this program put it this way… “You just can’t sit back any longer and expect alcohol sales to automatically keep your bottom line in good shape”. Even in a bar where alcohol sales are now 90% of the revenue, there is a need to be in tune with the new trends, and to be innovative in marketing. The good news is that industry people are finding a large number of profit-generating strategies that are in harmony with the goals of avoiding over service, intoxication and the risks of impaired driving and liability.

This section looks at a number of these strategies. Managers are using new approaches to attract customers and to increase profits while achieving responsible service. Take a few moments to think about what you are currently doing, as well as what could be done in the future:

  • Promote lower alcohol products.
  • Some establishments carry brands of wines, spirits, and beers of lower alcohol content.
  • Make the drinks appealing by introducing a touch of the exotic to both their names and ingredients.
  • Promote alcohol-free beverages such as non-alcoholic beers. Promote food alternatives.
  • Have staff suggestively sell food items, or have a food menu visible to guests. Food slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. It thereby produces a lower ‘peak’ amount of alcohol in the blood than if the guest were to drink on an empty stomach. Food must be attractive, well-priced and well-marketed.
  • Using new strategies to increase sales of specific products and serving sizes with a higher per unit profit (Up-selling to Premiums. Train your staff to suggest and sell).
  • Replace bar or ‘rail’ brands with brand names or ‘call’ liquors.
  • Offer more expensive wines.
  • Dry and imported beers are becoming more popular.
  • Carry premium and select brands of spirits.
  • Upgrade standard drinks such as a Bloody Mary by going to a larger presentation or using an interesting garnish. The presentation affords the customer a higher perceived value for the product. You charge more, increasing the margin of profit.
  • Adjust pricing policies. Review your pricing and determine necessary adjustments to maintain profitability.
  • Sell better wines by the glass. Your margin of profit will increase for each glass sold.
  • Publicize a safety and/or health conscious point of view. This can be done by displaying policies about your commitment to responsible alcohol service. Include this on your tent cards, menus and billing systems.
  • Promote special events that provide interest and entertainment for certain customer groups.
  • Get staff input and encourage them to become involved in planning, as well as, execution.
  • Develop theme nights, celebrity nights, or invite ‘celebrity servers’ with a special drink named after them.
  • Dance, trivia, dress to look like, and other contests (but not drinking contests).
  • Host fashion shows or work with a local charity to stage an event that exhibits your social and charitable support.
  • Darts, shuffleboard, pool and video games are popular. Introduce backgammon, crib, scrabble or other games that may catch the imagination of your market.
  • Select new beverages and promote taste. Provide a variety in products and stay up to date on consumer likes and trends.
  • Organize a wine-tasting event for new products and have a knowledgeable wine expert discuss the products.
  • Imported beer tastings can be accompanied with food tastings to suggestively sell your food menu as well as the new beer.
  • Have a visible control point at the main entrance. It sends the message ‘This establishment cares who its patrons are and what they do’.
  • Promote a professional atmosphere with courteous, efficient and knowledgeable staff and managers.
  • Publicize a Designated Driver or Safe Transportation plan. Contact the Manitoba Hotel Association or Manitoba
  • Restaurant Association for more information about the Designated Driver Program for operators. Post the signage throughout your operation and ensure your staff knows their role in promoting it.
  • Build these strategies into the orientation and training sessions for your management and service teams.
  • Develop in-house policies and plans using the tools at the back of this manual.
  • Recognize and thank staff members who demonstrate their duty of care and reduce the risk of liability.
  • Share the details of the situation with other staff, who can learn from their coworkers.


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