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Keeping beer and wine family-friendly

bartender pour beer

Question:

How do I ensure that adding beer and wine to my small pizza shop will not cause headaches with people viewing us as a “bar” as opposed to a family-friendly establishment?

– Patrick Russell, Owner, This Guy’s Pizza, Johnston, R.I.

Answer:

I probably don’t need to tell you that if the license to serve alcohol is reasonably priced, you will have a nice additional revenue stream. Your question is whether adding alcohol into your sales mix will alienate your core guests.

First, I think it’s important to remember that there is nothing inherently family-unfriendly about serving beer and wine. Many casual-dining restaurants and even QSRs that welcome families also provide limited or full bar service.

To be sure, your decision may alienate some guests who refuse to patronize establishments that serve alcohol. Without knowing your community, I suspect this will be a small minority of guests compared to the many who—like me—think the deliciousness of pizza can only be improved by washing it down with beer or wine.

Still, there are some things you can do to minimize the bar atmosphere and keep your concept intact if that’s important to you:

  • Don’t have a bar but restrict alcohol sales to table service and carryout (if allowed in your area).
  • Train all employees in responsible alcohol service and strictly enforce responsible alcohol service guidelines (carding, over-serving) to make clear to guests that this is a place to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, not a place to recreationally drink.
  • Keep lighting bright and keep the dining room clean and well-maintained.
  • Price beer and wine above your competitors to position it as a convenient and delicious enhancement to the meal rather than a main selling point.

Finally, if you are still anxious about the decision, conduct some simple market research of existing guests (or partner with a business or hospitality school to do the work) to see how they feel about the move. My prediction is you’ll see an increase in check average and repeat guests that will outweigh any lost business.

More on adding a liquor license here.

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