Whether you’re an independent promoter, a talent buyer, or the owner of a venue, you know the score: The real measure of a show’s success is measured in bar sales. On your bad days, you might wonder if the entire live music industry is just a subsidiary of Big Alcohol.
Like it or hate it, concessions keep the lights on. While beer, wine, and spirits will never go out of style, these creative bar offerings will boost your bottom line and spark conversation amongst your fans. Millennials, in particular, love strange or unusual food and drink products: The more creative a concession is, the more likely your younger fans will talk it up on social media. That alone can be a major factor in driving sales.
Use these ideas to expand your bar’s offerings — and earn your venue some added character.
Kombucha: The nonalcoholic, tangy beverage millennials love
Kombucha — fermented black or green tea, often flavored with fruit — is possibly thousands of years old, but you’re forgiven if you hadn’t heard of it until a few years ago. It’s one of the fastest-growing beverages in the U.S. market, spearheaded by health-conscious millennials but rapidly gaining traction among the general population.
Because it’s brewed like beer, it makes an excellent beverage to serve on tap. Unlike beer, it’s legal to serve to customers of all ages — at any hour. (As long as its alcohol content never rises above 0.5%, that is.)
Nightclubs take note: Serve kombucha to thirsty clubbers even after alcohol sales are closed!
Food trucks: Win-win partnerships for popular shows
The numbers don’t lie: Food trucks are more popular than ever and continue to gain ground. From 2011 to 2016, food trucks’ industry revenue grew at an annual rate of 7.9%.
You might not have considered serving food at your shows before since many venues don’t have kitchens — and those that do don’t always want to deal with the hassle and expense. But food trucks abound, even in small urban areas, and can help fans grab a quick bite before or after the show.
Partnering with a local food truck brand is an easy win, especially for sold-out shows where strong crowds will convince them it’s worth parking nearby. As a bonus, many popular food trucks have large, dedicated followings on social media. These trucks often announce pop-up locations on social media day-of, so partnering with them will earn new eyes on your venue and shows.
Yerba maté: Natural, caffeinated cocktail mixer and alternative to energy drinks
Like kombucha, yerba maté is a beverage with thousands of years of history that you might never have heard of until recently. It’s made from the dried leaves and twigs of a certain species of holly plant, brewed into an earthy-tasting tea, and has historically been consumed widely throughout South America.
Lately, it’s made a splash in the United States, gaining ground as a natural, highly caffeinated alternative to energy drinks like Red Bull. Several brands even brew it as a sparkling beverage, like Guayaki in the U.S. or Club Mate, a cult favorite import from Europe.
Yerba maté is also becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in cocktails and mixed drinks. Would I pay $13 for a maté-mezcal concoction while watching a beloved band? I certainly would — and I’m not alone.
Natural wine: Funky, hip, organic wine that appeals to younger demographics
What is natural wine? That’s a tricky question — it depends who you ask — but essentially, natural wine is wine produced with organically grown grapes, with no intervention or added chemicals during the fermentation process.
In practice, natural wines are funky, strange, unusual tasting wines, rich with individual character and more than a bit of punk-ish attitude. In other words, they’re exactly the kind of wine that showgoers and music lovers would love to sample, even if they aren’t yet familiar with the trend.
The natural wine market is small, but growing rapidly — and some argue it’s the future of the wine industry. Rest assured that if you’re the first on your proverbial block to serve natural wine, fans will be talking about it.
Shrubs: Hand-made, nonalcoholic fruit syrups for craft cocktails and sodas
No, not bushes, but handmade vinegar syrups infused with fruits or herbs: Shrubs are an excellent way to add upmarket non-alcoholic beverages to your bar offerings.
First developed as refreshing drinks in 18th century America, shrubs have staged a serious comeback thanks to the craft cocktail movement. But they’re not strictly cocktail mixers: Because they’re made from a vinegar base, they’re non-alcoholic and make an excellent base for hand-crafted sweet ‘n sour sodas.
Generally, shrubs aren’t commercially available, so you’ll need crafty and creative bar staff inclined to infuse their own. But that also means they’re great revenue drivers: Handmade products sell for premium prices.
Looking for additional ways to appeal to young fans and stand out from the pack? Read How to Craft Live Music Experiences for Millennials at Your Venue.