With the festive season in full swing, pubs, bars and restaurants are looking for ways to bring in some extra holiday revenue to make up for this tough year. And because alcohol makes up between 20 and 25% of a restaurant’s income, it’s important to find new ways of moving it - especially in times like these.

While alcohol delivery services are nothing new, they're more important now than ever. Just to give you an example, in the UK there's been a 30 to 49% increase in online alcohol orders since the pandemic. And demand for alcoholic beverages is only expected to grow in the coming month... For who doesn't like a good drink during the holiday season?

In this article, we'll help you get alcohol delivery right with some tools and tips. We'll discuss licensing, technologies you can use, packaging essentials, and ideas to promote your alcoholic beverages.


#1 Make sure you have the licenses you need


Before you begin delivering alcohol, you’ll want to make sure you’re in compliance with local laws. Check with local authorities which off-premises alcohol sales and consumption rules apply to you, and obtain any required licenses and signage. Better safe than sorry!

For selling alcoholic beverages via online delivery or for click and collect on premises, a business needs a license from their local council. UK restaurants, for instance, will need a premises license as well as a personal license - which most restaurants, pubs and bars will already have. In the United States, most US jurisdictions also divide licenses by on-premises consumption (bar and restaurant) and off-premises (bottle) sales.

When applying for these licenses for the purpose of selling alcohol online or setting up an alcohol delivery service, in some countries, states or provinces you must clearly outline to the relevant authorities the steps you will take to make sure your products don’t end up in the hands of anyone under the legal drinking age.


Various liquor brands


#2 Invest in technology for operational efficiency


There are different ways of going about implementing alcohol delivery, depending on the nature of your business.

In a year of sweeping market fluctuations, restaurateurs, publicans and bar owners have had to embrace new technologies to adapt themselves to shifting customer habits. Having advanced and efficient technology at your fingertips can drive your business forward.

If you’re looking to set up an alcohol delivery service, you’re going to need the tools to get it right.


Wine ready to be boxedDelivery or takeaway directly through your POS

Operators can avoid third party fees from delivery platforms by taking alcohol orders for delivery or click-and-collect directly through Lightspeed Order Ahead. Not only does the platform save you money with commission-free ordering, it helps you adapt to the changing habits of your customers and meet them online.

It’s an efficient system that seamlessly integrates within existing workflows. Online orders are sent directly to the merchant’s Lightspeed Restaurant (L Series) point of sale, which means restaurants can manage orders without extra training on a new platform.

And because it’s seamlessly integrated, restaurants can make menu changes that update in an instant, ensuring their online order menu is always accurate.


Aggregate your third-party orders onto one tablet

If you’re looking for a straightforward way to aggregate orders from different delivery platforms onto one iPad, then try Lightspeed Delivery powered by Deliverect, whose platform lets you upload your drinks menu to third party delivery apps which will then direct orders made on different delivery platforms onto your POS.


In-house vs. third-party - which is better?

You may be asking yourself which of the above is the best option. Each has their pros and cons and will be right or wrong for your business depending on its capacity and individual needs.

The biggest advantage of third party delivery platforms is the ability to quickly get set up and outsource the entire delivery process with little or no upfront investment.

Delivery courierAlthough it’s a highly competitive environment, businesses also benefit from exposure to the platform’s audience of patrons. What a business gives up for access to that audience is a portion of their profit margin which, for many pubs, bars and restaurants, are already razor-thin.

Offering your own alcohol delivery service presents a fundamental tradeoff between control over the delivery process in terms of speed, service, and quality, and the fixed and variable costs of running it yourself.

Many customers prefer to cut out the middleman and order directly from businesses. But if you deal with a high volume of delivery orders, providing an in-house delivery service means a big upfront investment in staff and vehicles and means operating a completely different type of business with more logistical considerations.

So for a busy pub, bar or restaurant, operating your own delivery service on top of day-to-day operations is a drain on time and resources. But it allows you to have complete control over the customer experience, from the order coming in, to when the customer receives it.


Why not try both?

While it’s a useful exercise to list out the pros and cons of each model, the reality for many restaurant owners is some kind of hybrid model in which they offer their own delivery service alongside using one or more ordering apps.

This might sound even more complicated and there is a risk that it becomes a complete mess. But set up in the right way with the right tech stack, this model could give you the best of both worlds: the reach and capacity of the larger platforms at busier times and the ability to offer a personal touch to those that want to order directly.


Cocktails bagged for delivery or takeaway


#3 Use appropriate packaging


When delivering to customers, it’s important to give them peace of mind that their alcoholic beverages are fully safe to drink. The easiest way to do this, especially if you’re offering something like pre-mixed cocktails, is to package their orders with tamper evident labels.

If you’re delivering wine or beer by the bottle, make sure the glass is wrapped in protective material like bubble wrap. The last thing you want is for a courier to arrive at your customer’s door with a soaked delivery bag and a load of broken glass. This one’s a no-brainer.

Lastly, don’t forget to add some branding to your alcohol packaging. Even if the alcohol comes from a different brand, adding your own insignia to the delivery bag or takeaway cup can make your brand memorable and keep you in the mind of customers, increasing the chance of repeat business.


#4 Promote your alcohol


Like any other product, any alcohol that you put up for delivery will need a little bit of promotion. If your online customers aren’t excited about buying alcohol from you, they’ll simply look elsewhere.

Special Christmas drinkDraw customers in with special package deals, like an After-work Special with finger food and drinks, a Weekend Brunch Deal with special brunch cocktails, or a Holiday Special with mulled wine or eggnog. You could even create an online happy hour, setting discounts for drinks during the high-demand hours.

You could even collaborate with other local providers. The #supportyourlocals movement nowadays is huge. People today are inclined to buy local, supporting their neighbourhood businesses instead of multinationals or big chains. Mix things up and work with other companies in your area to create a hyper-local, limited-edition novelty drink. You could look into ingredients like organic honey, fruits or vegetables, or even flowers to spruce up your cocktails and other drinks.

Your obligations for promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol are stated under your alcohol licenses and apply online as much as they do in your physical premises. Consider this deciding how best to promote your alcohol products.


Alcohol delivery is here to stay


With delivery services booming in the era of COVID-19, it’s likely that online ordering and delivery of alcohol will continue to grow in popularity. That means that this extra revenue stream is here to stay, so why not join the trend?

December 1, 2020 by Lightspeed

For 14 years, Lightspeed has empowered independent retailers and restaurateurs with the tools and information they need to launch, manage, market and grow their business.