Seasonal Menu Changes Build Loyalty, Interest & Profitability

Major wine and spirits distributor Southern Glazer’s suggests keeping things fresh and seasonal behind the bar and in the kitchen.


Once static and predictable, today’s beverage menus need to undergo more frequent changes to keep customers interested. That, at least, is what the largest North American wine and spirits distributor, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, has to say in their recently shared insights into fall wine and cocktail trends in both the on- and off-premise categories.

“It’s so important for a beverage program to be in sync with a seasonal menu strategy,” says Bill Edwards, senior vice president, On-Premise National Accounts for Southern Glazer’s. “As we enter the fall, cocktails and wines that match the flavor profiles of seasonal restaurant menus will be the focus. For example, brown spirits, or cocktails with dark spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, go well with culinary offerings. Sparkling wines and spritzes, which have become increasingly popular with consumers, will also continue to bubble up on restaurant menus.”

Seasonally changing cocktail menus, especially in the northern three-quarters of the country, have become a crucial marketing and loyalty tool, as well as a way to synch the bar to the kitchen in those restaurant bars where culinary changes throughout the year are important.

With limited space on the shelf and behind the bar, off- and on-premise beverage buyers must ensure their offerings and beverage menus are on trend and relevant with continually evolving consumer drinking preferences, Southern Glazer’s says.

While major distributors are sometimes more tuned into the largest suppliers and those who spend the most to support and promote their brands, most also carry a niche portfolio of smaller brands that are attractive to contemporary bars. Instead of the older model of flooding the fields with promotions, suppliers are focusing more on how their brands fit into occasions and the marketing calendar for the end sellers. In bars and restaurants, this means creating unique offerings that fit with upcoming fall holidays, as well as key daypart and mini occasions, like office holiday parties, says Southern Glazer’s.

Off-premise retailers not only feature traditional holiday promotions such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also occasions like football and tailgating season, points out the distributor. “This includes creating signature programs around international events that have become more mainstream and that appeal to the important multicultural consumer,” said Edwards. “Día de Los Muertos is a perfect example – and more suppliers than ever will be activating brands both on- and off-premise around this holiday.”

The key takeaway, says the distributor, is to use insights and data to drive on- and off-premise execution. Operators in many cases these days are more likely to turn to a distributor rather than a wine or beer or spirit producer to get useful information about trends within their own market.

“We have strategic alignments with our supplier base and can help our customers line up promotions to take advantage of big supplier initiatives,” says Edwards. “If you leverage a brand’s marketing spend with execution on the shelf or behind the bar, you can get a real multiplier effect to drive traffic and sales.”