With the advent of a new year, comes new year’s resolutions. This often includes a healthier diet, hitting the gym, and “dry January.” Dry January is the commitment to stay abstinent from alcohol for the entire month. For the restaurant and bar industry, dry January and the unprecedented pandemic could leave restaurants struggling financially.
Megan Dean, 25, is the general manager of Hart’s Table and Bar, located in southwest Edmonton. As a former bartender and server, she says that “January traditionally has some of the lowest sales, which I have noticed at multiple different concepts and locations.” In December, the hospitality industry sees a significant peak in liquor sales due to the holidays, followed by individuals taking a step back from drinking in January.
For Hart’s, this means January is their slowest month for liquor sales. “Of course the pandemic is a whole other entity of curve balls we need to go through,” Dean says. To keep sales consistent with other months, Hart’s has added all of their liquor to their third-party ordering systems such as Doordash and SkipTheDishes in an attempt to move inventory. They have also lowered all of their alcohol prices in an attempt to compete with surrounding liquor stores in the Edmonton area. “This is difficult for us to do,” Dean says.
Hart’s is also catering to those who are making an effort to avoid drinking as a New Year’s resolution. They offer nonalcoholic beverages such as alcohol-free ginger beer on their takeout menu. “We have done custom non-alcoholic cocktail kits for orders,” Dean says. “We have accommodated people who aren’t drinking and have come up with some fun ideas for them,” Dean says.
The impact of the pandemic and dry January has affected small restaurants such as Hart’s, but the managers have been creative in their sale strategies. “We have constantly gone back to the drawing board seeing what else we can come up with,” Dean says. Dean’s advice to any restaurant during this time is “that we have to keep fighting. Fighting to prepare for reopening, and fighting for every sale.”
Her heart goes out to restaurants in the industry that have shut down, and she is grateful for the support Hart’s has received during these difficult times.
Although the restaurant industry has been able to come up with some innovative ideas to keep sales afloat, it may be more difficult for the bar industry. Austin Elgie, 30, is the regional manager for The Pint Public House. Elgie has seen a drop in sales during the first few weeks of January every year for the decade he has spent in the industry. “It’s a combination of everyone getting their Visa statements from Christmas shopping and New Year’s resolutions,” Elgie says.
The Pint has taken the initiative by selling merchandise, hockey promotions, and “packages” to keep sales up. “We find that trying to give a deal and selling food packages works out for us,” Elgie says. “We are relying on our regulars.” Elgie urges restaurants to get creative with promotions and to support local businesses.
Although the start of the new year has been difficult for the restaurant and bar industry, local restaurants remain hopeful and optimistic about their future sales in these unusual times.