Cheers January/February 2013

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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2013 CHEERS BEVERAGE EXCELLENCE AWARDS BEST CHAIN OVERALL BEVERAGE PROGRAM HARD ROCK CAFE What makes Hard Rock's beverage program so great? The music-influenced dining chain boasts an exciting, evolving drinks offering that reinforces its global brand and incorporates products, promotions and tie-ins supporting the music industry. Hard Rock promises to give guests "premium beverage experiences that rock!" It's a mission definitely accomplished. "Every Hard Rock Cafe offers a unique experience, from specific memorabilia that pays tribute to emerging and legendary musicians rooted within the geographic region, to authentic, collectible merchandise that reflects the spirit of the city," says Cindy Busi, director of beverage for the Orlando, FL-based chain's 179 worldwide locations. Thanks to the concept's loyalty to its brands and innovative promotions, beverage sales increase each year. One contributor to growth is through the newly designed, category-driven drinks menu. "Keepers" include Hard Rock Cafe's line of signature drinks sold in souvenir, take-home glassware; "Classics & Favorites" is a collection of the chain's handcrafted, ever-popular cocktails and new concoctions; "Margaritas" offer guests six twists on the ubiquitous Mexican sipper; and "Alternative Rock" provides alcohol-free choices also served in souvenir take-home glasses. Beer lovers can peruse brews listed both by style and country of origin. Busi notes that Hard Rock Cafe takes both a global and local approach to selections. "From Belgium to Australia and from the U.S.A. to Asia, we make sure there are popular brands for loyal local beer drinkers, as well as selections for beer adventurists looking for something new and different." Hard Rock keeps its wine program exciting by aligning itself with music-inspired (and musician-produced) wines, Busi says. Hard Rock classics: Riders on the Storm, Caipirinha, Banana Berry Colada, Island Mai Tai and Hurricane. 16 | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 The 2013 Cheers Beverage Excellence Awards recognize the on-premise beverage alcohol industry's leaders in chain and multi-concept operations. Winners were chosen by beverage professionals and members of the Cheers editorial team based on program originality and its impact on overall profitability. The Awards will be presented by at the Cheers Beverage Conference in Dallas Feb. 12-13. For more in-depth profiles on this year's winners, visit or use a smartphone to scan the QR code above. Labels include Dreaming Tree from Dave Matthews, Drops of Jupiter and Calling All Angels from Train, and Wines That Rock—which boasts offerings like The Police Synchronicity and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon. Hard Rock Cafe evaluates and reviews its beverage program yearly to determine which products to add, and which trends to incorporate. "Our drink trends vary by country; we give them a Hard Rock twist to transcend them globally," notes Busi. The chain this year will focus on timeless libations such as the Aviation, Hemingway Daiquiri and Sazerac, tweaking the recipes slightly to be more in line with Hard Rock Cafe's global interpretation of how they should taste. During its "Chart Toppers and Show Stoppers" program last spring, Hard Rock Cafe featured Corona, Corona Light and the My-My Corona, a new Coronita-topped Margarita with a fiery rim. Other featured beverages included the Mosh Pit, with Bombay Sapphire, Absolut Citron, strawberries, basil and lime, and the Groupie Grind, an alcohol-free mango colada riff with a fresh strawberry swirl. "Our drink promotions focus on multiple styles of cocktails using fresh ingredients, made-from-scratch mixes and a variety of premium spirits to appeal to a wide variety of guests," says Busi. "We always feature drinks that fall into the sweet flavor profile as well as the savory profile." To assure team members provide a consistently excellent experience to all guests, Hard Rock trains employees to understand the overall brand culture. Corporate training and videos are supplemented with detailed instructions and drink recipes. An annual Beverage Specifications Guide provides staffers with information about beer, wine and spirits offerings. And each bar and point-of-sale system has a comprehensive and frequently updated drink Rolodex with bottle photos, winemaker notes, food-pairing recommendations, recipes and proper garnish techniques. Above all, employees strive to give guests what Busi calls "Kick-Ass-Service," which she describes as "a Hard Rocker consciously reading the guest, searching for an unexpected opportunity to seize the moment and to ultimately personalize the experience." The global, unparalleled success of the Hard Rock Cafe brand, she says, "is tied closely to our servers' ability to engage guests, and pair a quality libation that mirrors the moment." —Kelly Magyarics

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