A case study in how one team revitalized the drinks menu at Omni Hotels & Resorts.
Problem: Time to Beverage Evolution
The national beverage program for Omni Hotels & Resorts is rolled out on a bi-annual basis, with the same menu and mandates across all properties. As the chain has grown to include larger and more unique properties, they wanted to evolve the existing beverage program to include more unique and specialized offerings that are regionally- and property-specific.
Our objectives were to help develop an up-to-date national beverage and pool program that would incorporate current trends while also being sensitive to operational restrictions. We worked with the property food and beverage teams, along with the architecture and design teams when appropriate, to develop property-specific beverage programs for new hotels. As part of this, we needed to create a beverage training program that included on-site training for the bartenders to coincide with the new menu rollout and opening. We provided on-site support before and through Grand Opening events.
Our Strategy – Diverse Menu, Sourcing & Training
We started with conversations with Omni's president and vice president of food & beverage to fully understand their vision for the program as well as give them ideas. As our plan took form, we worked with contractors and designers to ensure that proper equipment was ordered and that the layout of the bar would be efficient, while maintaining the intended design and atmosphere.
“La Reserve” Whiskey Bar
For our first endeavor, a whiskey bar in Omni's Houston hotel called La Reserve, we researched local craft spirit companies in Texas and beyond to create a diverse, whiskey-heavy cocktail menu that included drinks for the novice whiskey drinker as well as offerings for whiskey connoisseurs. We also built a creative list of whiskies from around the world, organized by region on the shelves.
After our initial concepts for glassware, bar tools, unique garnishes, and interactive elements were approved, we developed sourcing guides for glassware, equipment, supplies, and ingredients, and then worked with local distributors to obtain product and supplies for training purposes. Our training materials included a Master Bar Book for the bartenders, complete with signature recipes, tabs for other spirit categories with 100 cocktails, prep recipes, and opening / closing checklists.
We developed a whiskey-specific training class that detailed mash bill make-up (the ingredients in each spirit’s mash) and tasting notes for every whiskey. Our on-site training included heavy educational content on all spirits, distillation, bar tools & techniques, bartenders’ lexicon (how to engage with guests), the cocktail recipes (and beyond) and Hospitality 101: The Guest Experience. We followed up with a check-in trip three months later to make adjustments and address any operational hiccups.
The Results – Epic Tasting Journey
By equipping the bartenders with this depth of knowledge, they were able to speak intelligently and guide guests through their tasting journey. This produced excellent results for the hotel, including:
- Beating forecasted sales numbers by 30% + in the first six months.
- Positive feedback from bartenders and staff that inspired them to excel and learn more about the craft of bartending.
- Additional opening engagements at other Omni properties, including Barton Creek, Louisville, Nashville, and Atlanta Braves Stadium.
La Reserve is considered one of the “gems” in the Omni portfolio of craft cocktail bars.
Kim Haasarud is a consultant with Strategy Solution Partners and a nationally recognized mixologist and beverage consultant, working with hundreds of liquor brands, restaurants, and hotels across the country in helping to create successful cocktail and bar programs. Her expertise and skills include bar design consultation, drink development, training, trend analysis, to-go programs and menu design. In addition to consulting with groups such as PF Chang’s, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Aimbridge Hospitality and Darden Restaurants, she has worked with dozens of beverage and alcohol brands. Kim has been a judge on Iron Chef America, as well as doing guest appearances on the "The Today Show" and CBS' "Early Morning Show.” Kim is the author of the best-selling "101…" cocktail series with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Most recently, she was elected as President of the United States Bartenders Guild.