November 25, 2013

What Type of Alcohol Licensing is Best?

Q: Is it better to have a full liquor license, a wine and beer only license, or none at all?

A: Years ago when I was traveling a lot, Todd King, a VP for Green Mills in Minnesota, told me to always have a full liquor license if possible. Originally, I came from a fast casual restaurant in which a customer would order at the counter, take a number and we would bring the food out to them. We also had only about 12 beers on tap and a very small selection of wines. Out of my total sales at that restaurant the wine and beer I sold only accounted for about 8 percent of it. My restaurants now are full service establishments with servers, bartenders, mixologists, a full bar and an extensive wine program. Today, alcohol accounts for 28 to 42 percent of my sales, depending on the location. At first I didn’t fully comprehend what Todd King had told me. But after looking back at my first restaurant and seeing my restaurants now, I understand. Having a full liquor license brings you more than just a full-bar atmosphere. It brings perks to your staff and restaurant originally unavailable to you, increases your total sales and marketability and makes you more appealing to the public. If you have the choice of a full liquor license I recommend getting it.

Q: Can your original model adapt and change with the industry?

A: I will never forget my brother’s restaurant, Pyzano’s. There was one oven, no sauté and no fryer. We wanted to increase our menu and include pastas and various appetizers, but we were not able to because we were locked into a location and set kitchen. If we had started out with more than one oven, a stove with burners and a fryer, we could have adapted when the industry began to change. An investment of $20,000 today in a kitchen able to adapt to change could end up being a $100,000 investment down the line. When you first plan your restaurant you want to build around your kitchen and not the other way around. One of the worst things is to build a restaurant with a kitchen that can’t keep up with an increase in volume. The flow of your kitchen is imperative to having a well-run restaurant. You want to build your kitchen for tomorrow and not for today. If you have any dreams of expanding and growing your business you want to make sure your kitchen can keep up. The restaurant industry is constantly changing and evolving and you want to make sure your concept and restaurant can change with it. I recommend starting out with two ovens that can set at two different temperatures so as to be able to accommodate a larger, more expansive menu.

Respecting The Craft

Is a new column featuring World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento. Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.