How Some Bars Reign at Retail

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“I don’t think we are getting rich selling tiki mugs. But since we have them, we might as well sell ’em. Generally the problem with lots of retail is taking the time out of service to get and pack the item for the guest,” says Morgan Schick of San Francisco’s Trick Dog.

Schick points out that making drinks and retail sales are two very different jobs, though they both involve hospitality. But some bars manage to make it work. While it would seem larger bars would have more capacity and staff to sell souvenirs, tiny Amor y Amargo in New York sells about $7,000 worth of bitters and barware every month, according to Beverage Director Sother Teague.

The small bar has shelves wrapping around 50 percent of the room, with bitters and bar tools on display. Teague says they keep just a few of each item on the shelves and under the register, plus a few more in the basement. When they need to pull from the basement inventory, Teague says he knows it’s time to order more stock. And he says because the bar is so small, he can take drink orders from customers while continuing to pack retail items for others.

Beachbum Berry’s Pearl Diver glass, sold at Latitude 29 in New Orleans.

Thanks to chains like Trader Vic’s, bar patrons expect to see a retail counter at tiki bars, but so far Jeff “Beachbum” Berry of New Orleans’ Latitude 29 has kept his selling subtle. Berry partnered with barware company Cocktail Kingdom to produce a small line of glassware and bar tools, yet the menu only lists one glass for sale, plus the option of buying the menu. In reality, the entire line is available for purchase, including a few of his books (on display at the bar), barspoons and other glassware. Berry says they don’t try to push sales on customers, but when asked, the servers will let them know they’re available to take home.

But is it worth the effort for the profit? Berry says, “We actually sell some of the stuff for less than (Cocktail Kingdom’s) retail; slightly above cost. Books and barspoons we sell at retail and do okay on. It’s an item by item basis.”

He continues, “It’s great that people enjoyed themselves to the point at which they want a souvenir. We think it’s cool that someone wants to buy a little piece of the restaurant.”

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