Successfully Serving Sober Guests
Keeping barstools occupied when an entire generation is drinking less
More millennials are questioning—often publicly via social media—their relationship with alcohol. A 2018 study by consumer behavior agency Streetbees, in fact, showed one in two millennials of drinking age had lessened their drinking since 2017. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sell your establishment. It may be time to roll with the times.
“The industry hasn’t thought about non-drinkers or people on the far end of the sobriety spectrum; (they’ve always been) just people beyond their reach,” says Chris Marshall, founder of Sans Bar, the first-ever sober bar concept in Austin, Texas. “That’s something that’s going to need to change.”
It is essential to view your guests not partaking in alcohol as real consumers with real purchasing power, he says.
“The conclusion was always ‘well, if they’re not drinking, they’re not gonna want to pay,’ and that’s not the truth,” stresses Marshall, who is sober himself.
What they are willing to pay for are EANABs, an acronym coined by Stanford University, that stands for Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages. That means replacing the tonic and lime standby with a beautiful NA cocktail, using quality ingredients they are happy to pay for—and post on social media for their followers.
“As a consumer, I can say ‘I’m here, I’m just like everyone else.’ In fact, I have a more visually appealing drink than most people,” says Marshall. “Of course, I’ll pay $8 to $10 for that.”
That doesn’t mean bartenders need to spend hours in the back of the house prepping syrups and dehydrating garnishes to be sober inclusive. There are plenty of products available now that can simply be subbed out for liquor.
“I love the idea of an elevated drink with the exotic, you know, picked-from-the-Andes rare flower,” explains Marshall, “but people also need to just be able to pick something up and drink it.”
Taking EANABs seriously should attract a loyal following of sober guests to your establishment. “It offers people the opportunity to still be social in the traditional bar scene and have an elevated experience,” says Marshall.