COVID and Alcohol Sales: What Your Bar or Restaurant Needs to Know

When the COVID pandemic hit, the ever adaptable and enterprising restaurant industry immediately began making the change from dining room service to a takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup service model.

As this change took place, homebound diners welcomed the opportunity to support their favorite restaurants, but one important thing was initially missing: alcohol.

Be it craft beers, wine, margaritas, or other favorite cocktails, alcohol is an important part of a meal for many consumers, and it can account for a large percentage of any restaurant’s revenue stream. And, of course, for bars, breweries, and wineries, the consequences of going without alcohol sales are exponentially more impactful.

As a result, states and cities across the country, from New York to Illinois to Texas and California declared soon after restaurants were allowed to re-open that establishments with an existing liquor license would be temporarily permitted to sell alcohol to go (for some locations, such sales must be in conjunction with the purchase of a meal).

Restaurant owners and consumers alike rejoiced—and promptly began celebrating the decision by having their beverage of choice delivered directly to their homes.

Of course, each state and locality have imposed their own set of regulations and restrictions on this alcoholic amnesty, so it’s vital that anyone planning on capitalizing on the opportunity keep up to date on the details of local statutes to avoid running afoul of the law (we’ve conveniently compiled them here for you).

But for those who haven’t taken the dive into online/takeout/delivery of alcohol, here are a few ideas, considerations, and logistical details to consider as you fine tune your process.

Online ordering

For many, the first, hardest step was to set their restaurant up for online ordering/delivery/takeout in the first place.

For those establishments already operating with that service model, adding alcohol to the mix was simply a matter of adding alcohol options to theirs. For others, it was suddenly vital that they get their menus online and establish an easy way for customers to place their orders.

Those restaurants without a sales-capable web presence required third party delivery platforms. These, like DoorDash and Uber Eats, allow operators to easily add alcohol to delivery or pickup menus.

OneDine also provides a contactless solution, to help restaurants make safe and secure ordering and curbside pickup as painless as possible for both restaurant owners and customers.

When it comes to alcohol, an important feature of OneDine’s solution is its built-in alcohol ID check capabilities that allow the system to limit your liability risk by screening customers’ IDs before clearing any alcohol sales, as well as to track their consumption over the course of their session at your establishment.

What to sell

Making the switch to alcohol to go is not as easy as simply pulling a pint or mixing a cocktail and handing it into the customers’ cars. If you’re selling mixed cocktails or other single-serving beverages, you’ll need some sort of takeout container (after verifying that such items are allowed by COVID-19 local regulations). This is why many establishments are limiting their alcoholic offerings to select bottles of wine or other closed containers. Craft brewers can sell cans or bottles as well as growlers filled from the tap.

Whatever your choice, and whatever local regulations allow, you’ll certainly want to put some serious thought into what types of beverages are logistically right for you to offer, and whether you want to deliver or limit such offerings to curbside pickup.

Tell them about it

But of course none of this makes any difference if no one knows that you’re serving alcohol to go. If you want to sell it to them, you’ve got to tell them about it.

Get your website updated, and make sure it’s mobile compatible. Studies show that over 80% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on their mobile device. That’s a number that’s undoubtedly growing as a result of COVID quarantine guidelines.

Perhaps most importantly, up your social media game. The longer we spend locked up in our homes inventing new recipes to share in online photo essays, the more time will be spent scouring Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. for pictures of other peoples’ food (or simply for social connection).

It’s just a small step from there to searching for a place to order real food or a cocktail, and it’s then that you’ll want to be ready with a social media presence that’s welcoming, informative, effective, and fun.

Go get ‘em. You got this.