There's a whole lot more to menu optimization than choosing the right menu items. This is especially true with your beer menu, where additional sales are exactly the kind of low-hanging fruit you've been searching for.
Use these 11 ideas to make the best beer menu you can and immediately start driving up your average check size.
1. Include beer descriptions so customers know what to order (and increase average check size)
This is by far the most important thing you can do, because it immediately impacts your sales numbers.
It's widely known that including item descriptions on menus leads to an increase in average check size. This is just as true for beers as it is for cocktails or food items.
This works because if you include descriptions on your beer menu, customers can learn about beers even when a bartender or server isn't there to talk with them. Then, once the bartender or server arrives, they're able to quickly order rather than chatting with the server, asking for a sample, etc.
This speeds up the entire process, which either frees your customers up to have an additional beer before their visit is through or helps turn tables over more quickly. Either way, it helps your bottom line.
How to do it? If you make your menu manually, your best bet is to search Google for beer names, navigate to either BeerMenus, Untappd, RateBeer, Beer Advocate, or the brewery website, copy the description you find, then paste it into your beer menu.
Alternatively, you can use BeerMenus to make your beer menu. You'll automatically include the brewery's beer description on your menu.
2. Sort beers by flavor profile so customers can quickly get to the section they'd like
This is especially important if you have a big, balanced craft beer selection. Some people love IPAs and nothing else. Other people won't touch an IPA, but are interested in your full selection of pilsners and lagers.
Organizing your beer menu by style helps these folks find the beers they're looking for quickly. And if they order quickly, they're more likely to have another beer before the end of their visit.
How to do it? You can do it manually by creating sections in your menu doc for either specific styles (e.g. an "IPAs" section) or style groupings (e.g. a "Hoppy" section which would include all hoppy styles like IPAs, pale ales, etc.).
Alternatively, you can use BeerMenus to make your beer menu, which allows you to automatically organize your beer menu according to style groupings.
3. Do what you can to never give guests an out-of-date menu
If you have a rotational beer program this is obviously tough to do, but it's worth doing everything you can to try and do it.
We've all been there before (likely on both sides of the bar): a customer orders a beer that's plainly on the menu, but the bartender has to say "sorry, we actually kicked that keg, what else would you like?"
It's frustrating for everyone involved. But more importantly it slows down the ordering process. That customer has to spend time figuring out what else to order, that bartender has to help them choose, etc. All of it adds up to wasted time that the customer is not drinking and spending money.
How to do it? Doing this manually is tough, and that's why so many businesses don't keep up with their menu. If a keg kicks Friday night, the menu might not get updated til Monday. This is because no one really has time to go into the office, delete the beer that's gone, add the new beer to the menu, look up it's info (where the brewers are from, the ABV, the description, etc.), and copy and paste all that into the menu before checking that the sizing still works (e.g. it's not running onto an additional page), and finally pushing print.
But with BeerMenus, you can make that update in seconds, and you can even do it from your phone. All beer information will automatically be included, so you'll be handing out up-to-date menus before the manual updaters are even done typing out the new beer's name.
4. Use tap numbers to make ordering easier
Sometimes craft beer names are a mouthful. Sometimes it's loud at the bar and hard to understand customers when they order.
How to do it? Assign a number to each beer on your menu doc. You can also do this by using BeerMenus to make your menu. Using BeerMenus allows you to easily drag and drop your menu items into the correct order.
5. Include beer pairing/food pairing ideas in item descriptions
Pairings can help drive up your average check size, especially if you're savvy about which beers you recommend.
Don't know where to start? There are general guidelines you can follow, but you can follow your own tastebuds. For example, you wouldn't pair an imperial stout or barleywine with tacos, right? No, of course not. That calls for a solid Mexican Style Lager. Pair a lambic with a pretzel? No way. That calls for a German Dunkel or an amber ale.
How to do it? Identify the beers and food items you'd like to try to sell more of. Pair them (in your mind), and then append "Pairs well with [food item]" or similar to the beer description. Note that this is yet another reason you should include beer descriptions on your menu.
6. Make your menu stand out—make it a different size from your other menus
If you use several separate menus, it's important to make your beer menu stand out. There are several ways to do that, but one of the easiest is to just make it a different size. Half sheet, legal size, even tabloid size. The key is to just make it a different size than the menus you want it to stand out from.
How to do it? If you make your menu manually, simply change the paper size of your doc in whatever program you use to make it (Word, InDesign, Google Docs, etc.). Of course, you'll then need to adjust your layout, column width, font sizes, etc. accordingly.
If you make your menu with BeerMenus, you can simply toggle between different paper sizes in your menu settings and then click one button to re-size everything to fit appropriately.
7. Create special eye-catching sections
Instead of just "On Tap," "Bottles," and "Cans," include a section like "Staff Favorites," "Discounts!" or "Top Sellers."
Whether it's because you're having trouble moving them, because they get you a great margin, or because you're excited to serve them, this will help these beers move much more quickly.
How to do it? In your menu doc, create a separate menu section and name it accordingly. Of course, you'll have to move the rest of your menu around and re-size it accordingly. You'll want to keep the items in this section on a rotation, since regulars will notice if the same things are always showing up there.
You also want to make sure you add some styling to the section so that it stands out.
Doing this with print menus from BeerMenus is no doubt faster. You can create sections in seconds and then drag and drop them where you want in your menu. The rest of your menu will adjust accordingly, meaning you can get this done in under 2 minutes.
8. Use your menu header to message social media, happy hour, etc.
Instead of just having your menu header say "Beer" or "On Tap," you should use that valuable space. It's like free marketing, and you should take advantage of it.
How to do it? It's best to create an image for your header because it's a lot easier to get things exactly the way you like them than just using alignments on a word processing doc. Type in whatever you'd like—like "Happy Hour 4-6, 1/2 off taps and apps!" or "Beer tasting every Sunday afternoon"—and then add it to the top of your menu.
If you make your beer menu through BeerMenus, you can have a professional graphic designer create your menu header image for you for no additional fee.
9. Include more than just beer
You obviously want to include all your different beers on your beer menu. But you could also include other items, especially if you're considering the pairing idea explored in idea number 5.
For example, it could absolutely be beneficial to include your appetizers on your beer menu—people who might not think to look at a food menu might be inclined to actually order an appetizer if their eyes run into it on the beer menu.
How to do it? Add a new section to your menu doc and include the non-beer items there. Of course, you'll need to adjust the rest of your menu spacing, sizing, and design to accommodate the new section.
Adding this new section with BeerMenus is simple. You can create new menu sections in seconds and then drag and drop them where you want in your menu. The rest of your menu will adjust accordingly, meaning you can get this done in under 2 minutes.
10. Combine a TV Menu with your Print Menu to speed up ordering at the bar
David Hayden, who runs a chain of arcade bars called Up - Down, has said that the combination of Print Menus (where customers can read about the beers and decide what they want) and TV Menus (what customers order from once they get to the bar) is responsible for thousands of dollars of additional sales at each of his locations every weekend.
It makes ordering easier and faster, so busy bartenders don't have to leave any customers waiting.
How to do it? Honestly, a DIY TV Menu is almost certainly not worth the time it would take to make. BeerMenus has helped thousands of businesses get custom TV Menus up and running, so if you're interested in that, you can check out more about our TV Menus here.
11. Use a QR Code menu so you don't have to print all the time (because it's always up-to-date)
Of course, this came out of necessity during the height of COVID, but many bars and restaurants are sticking with their QR Code Menus going forward because it means they never have to mess with their printer again.
How to do it? If you're doing this manually, you'll need to keep your beer menu on your website updated so that your QR Code (which you can find for free online) goes to the correct place.
Of course, this can be problematic, since your website's beer menu is likely not easy to keep up-to-date.
BeerMenus can help solve this in one of two ways.
First, we can install an auto-updating menu on your website. This way, whenever you update on BeerMenus (in just a few seconds), your website menu will be up-to-date.
Second, you can use our QR Code Menu product to send folks to a customizable menu URL. This menu includes all relevant beer information (where it's from, the ABV, the description). Learn more about our QR Code Menus.