Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.


Bottomless Drinks: A Favourite For Customers, But Are They Viable For Hospitality Venues?

Bottomless Drinks: A Favourite For Customers, But Are They Viable For Hospitality Venues?

Just a few short years ago, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what a bottomless brunch was. Fast forward to today, and the bottomless drinks phenomenon has spread far beyond the humble brunch–with venues offering bottomless drinks alongside lunches, dinners and special events. 

Unsurprisingly, bottomless drinks are hugely popular with customers. 

Data from our recent Hospitality Insights & Dining Dynamics Report found that customers ranked bottomless drinks as their second preference, only after sustainable food sourcing, when asked what they’d like to see most from venues in 2024.

Despite free-flowing alcohol being an obvious hit with customers, bottomless drinks are costly for venues. With this in mind, we explore the sustainability of bottomless drinks and whether they’re realistically a viable option for venues. 

Is it simply a case of everyone else is doing it, so we need to remain competitive, or can the offering be profitable and sustainable in the long run?

Let’s dive in.

Free download: 2024 Hospitality Insights and Dining Dynamics

A survey of over 500 hospitality operators and more than 1,000 consumers reveals in-depth insights on dining trend and what to watch in 2024.

What are bottomless drinks?

Bottomless drinks typically refer to alcoholic beverages offered in unlimited quantities for a fixed price within a certain time frame, usually at cafes, restaurants, bars, or special events. The term “bottomless” implies that there is no limit to the number of refills you can get during that period. 

Bottomless brunch started as a niche offering among cafes, initially used to increase bookings during the slower period between breakfast and lunch. 

However, the bottomless brunch quickly became a roaring success, particularly in cities like Sydney, London, and New York. As a result, other venues embraced the trend to draw customers in for social gatherings and celebrations – no matter the time of day.

The evolution of bottomless drinks

Rewind five years and bottomless brunches offered good-value simplicity to customers looking for a bargain. They usually ran for two hours and consisted of a single brunch-style dish per person paired with bottomless mimosas for around $50.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll struggle to find a bottomless drinks package for less than $90. While inflation and increased demand have played into this price increase, the bottomless experience has evolved into a more elaborate dining and drinking event.

Bargain to bougie 

From multiple courses to dining themes, banquet-style dinners, dessert add-ons, and an extensive drinks selection, you’ll now be hard-pressed to find a bottomless brunch that simply offers one brunch item with mimosas. 

Once seen as an easy way to encourage budget-conscious customers through the door, bottomless drinks are now a mainstay of the hospitality menu, with high-end venues also incorporating bottomless drinks into their offerings. 

For example, Luke’s Kitchen, fronted by acclaimed one-hatted Australian chef Luke Mangan, offers a bottomless brunch starting at $145 for five courses accompanied by bottomless cocktails. Customers can also opt for the bottomless Tattinger package for $205.

Trends over time

Through the capabilities of Google Trends, we can observe how the popularity of people searching for ‘bottomless brunch’ in Australia has grown over time.

If we dig a little deeper into our two biggest cities, we can also see how the search terms ‘bottomless brunch Sydney’ and ‘bottomless brunch Melbourne’ have grown over the years, with notable dips occurring in 2020 and 2021 during lockdowns. 

What are the benefits of offering bottomless drinks?

As the above graphs show, there’s an ever-increasing appetite for bottomless brunch in Australia, which means there’s an opportunity to capitalise on if you aren’t already offering this option. 

But what benefits can you expect from adding bottomless drinks to your menu?

1. Increase new customer visits and revenue

Bottomless drinks promotions can attract more customers, particularly those looking for value deals or a social dining experience. Plus, after a few drinks, guests may stay longer after the bottomless package has come to an end, potentially increasing overall spending on food and other items.

Plus, when done well, bottomless drinks can become a unique selling point (USP) that draws in groups, parties, and events, making your venue a go-to spot for social gatherings.

2. Competitive differentiation

The hospitality industry is more competitive now than ever, with inflation and a cost-of-living crisis increasing pressure on venues. Therefore, it’s crucial to always have an edge over similar venues in the market.

While you shouldn’t always follow the mentality of, well, if everyone else is doing it, we should too, it is essential to understand what’s popular among customers and if the latest trend is here to stay.

As the data from our report shows, bottomless drinks are a huge attraction among customers, and the trend has only grown in recent years. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that introducing bottomless drinks to your offering will ensure you stay abreast of the latest dining trends and appeal to what customers are looking for from hospitality venues. 

3. Customer experience and loyalty

Bottomless drinks can be an excellent hook for encouraging new customers to visit your venue, especially big groups celebrating certain occasions.

If you provide great service and excellent food and drinks, customers will really feel like they are getting value for their money, enhancing their overall experience and making your venue memorable.

The initial bottomless offer entices new people through your doors, yet your amazing food and service will encourage repeat visits, foster customer loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations.

4. Marketing and publicity

One of the biggest advantages of introducing bottomless drinks to your menu is the marketing opportunities that come along with this type of offering. 

A simple hashtag search on Instagram reveals over 465k posts for #bottomlessbrunch and thousands of posts for #bottomlessbrunchmelbourne and #bottomlessbrunchsydney.

Launching your new bottomless package on social media and capitalising on these popular tags is a great way to generate extra buzz for your venue.

Additionally, by creating aesthetically pleasing dishes and drinks for your bottomless menu, you’ll encourage customers to take photos at your venue and post them to their social media. This is a great way to generate authentic user-generated content (UGC) and advertise your venue through your customers’ social media accounts. 

5. Operational benefits

Regular promotions make it easier to predict how many guests you can expect and what they’ll spend. In turn, this makes it easier to forecast inventory levels so you don’t overorder and allow for better staff scheduling – both of which can have a positive impact on your bottom line. 

Mehrere Leute die anstoßen

What are the main barriers to venues adopting bottomless drinks?

As with any new promotion, it’s important to understand the potential barriers or disadvantages that might arise along the way. 

1. Regulatory and legal constraints

Liquor licensing laws are a big consideration for those looking to implement bottomless drinks, especially if your venue doesn’t yet have a liquor license. 

If you do have one, the next thing to consider is the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) requirements. Venues must comply with RSA guidelines to prevent overconsumption and ensure guests drink responsibly. Offering unlimited drinks can make it difficult to adhere to these guidelines as there is a risk that customers may become overly intoxicated, leading to potential health risks and increased liability for your venue.

2. Financial concerns

Offering unlimited drinks can be costly for venues, and the promotion is not guaranteed to be profitable. You’ll need to balance the cost of providing the drinks with the price charged to customers without pricing yourself out of the market. Essentially, the long-term sustainability of bottomless drinks offers can be questionable if they do not generate sufficient profit margins.

3. Reputation and brand image

This is an important factor to consider before proceeding with bottomless drinks. While bottomless drinks are popular, it’s important to note that not all venues will find that this type of promotion aligns with their brand image or target market.

If your venue falls into this category, then pressing ahead with unlimited drinks may impact your brand image, and negative perceptions associated with excessive drinking might deter certain clientele.

How to make bottomless drinks work for your venue

We’ve explored the key barriers and benefits of incorporating bottomless drinks into your menu. If you think this promotion could work for your businesses, here are a few best-practice tips to make the most out of bottomless drinks for you and your customers. 

1. Crunch the numbers

Before diving headfirst into a bottomless offering, it’s crucial to analyse your business metrics to determine whether it’s a viable option for your venue. From peak and slow sales times to high-profit dishes and drinks, take the time to understand what will work best for your bottomless offering.

2. Analyse market trends and customer behaviour

Trends in the market and customer behaviour can also impact the success of your bottomless brunch, so it’s important to also analyse current trends and patterns before deciding on your offering.

Beer vs cocktails

Adrian Osman, Co-founder and CEO of me&u, sheds light on specific drinks trends from me&u data.

“We’re seeing beer get hit pretty hard at the moment,” comments Osman in Lightspeed’s Table Talks event earlier this year. “You’ve seen all the media about $15, $16, $17 pints. So it makes sense that on a Wednesday, people are going around to their friend’s house now and buying a six-pack for what they view as five times cheaper experience.”

While going out for a midweek beer might be losing its appeal, food and cocktails are proving to be a significant drawcard for customers–both of which go hand in hand with a bottomless offering.

“Food and cocktails, which are things that people aren’t as good at doing at home, tend to be drawing people out for experiences,” explains Adrian. 

Weekday vs weekend

There’s a lot of fear around, what you do with the weekdays.”

Another thing to consider is which day of the week to offer your bottomless menu. While some of your quietest periods might be mid-week, it doesn’t necessarily mean these days are the best option for a bottomless brunch.

“I think a lot of quality operators have battled with the optics of discounting,” comments Osman. “There’s a lot of fear around, what you do with the weekdays.”

“You can make great appealing offers that will build your brand, but you’ll either break even or be at a loss on those weekday nights to sustain that.” 

Don’t fall into the trap (albeit tempting) of simply offering a bottomless special on your quietest weekdays. In most cases, this won’t appeal to customers.

3. Create a special menu

Once you’ve crunched the numbers and dug into market trends, use these insights to craft a special food menu that’s only offered alongside your bottomless drinks. 

Only incorporate high-profit, easy-to-make dishes from your standard menu into your bottomless menu. You should also only include alcoholic drinks that are quick and easy to serve, which also have a higher profit margin.  

If you want to give customers a taste of your full menu, consider offering smaller share-style plates of your most popular dishes and limiting choices of high-cost items.

3. Limit your trading window

When offering a bottomless menu, limiting your trading window is important.

Work out when your slowest sales periods are, and only offer your bottomless menu during these periods. For example, if you’re a cafe that’s quiet between 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., you can offer bottomless brunch during these hours. Similarly, if you’re a restaurant that’s quiet between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., offer a bottomless late lunch during this period. 

4. Only accommodate pre-booked tables for a limited period

Don’t accept walk-ins for your bottomless drinks to ensure you have the most control over your costs and inventory. It’s also essential to ensure your bottomless bookings have a time limit, such as a maximum of 1.5-2 hours per booking.

Your booking policy should also state that the whole table must order from the bottomless menu to prevent sharing food and drinks amongst the party.

5. Manage the guest journey

Seamlessly managing the guest journey is the key to successful bottomless drinks. 

Ensure guests are seated quickly, and let the table know when their package starts and what time it is due to end. If you’re offering a multi-course or share-style menu, ensure a staggered food service is delivered so guests always have something to eat. 

Only refill drinks when glasses are entirely empty, so one glass per customer, and make drink refills discretionary. 

RSA plays an important role here. It’s crucial to monitor how intoxicated customers are, remembering that bottomless drinks can withdrawn at any time, and your team must ensure that all drinks are served within responsibility guidelines.

6. Always include non-alcoholic alternatives 

Add some low-cost mocktails and soft drink options to your bottomless menu to broaden your appeal and provide customers with an alternative drink if they don’t feel like another alcoholic beverage. You should also serve jugs of iced water and ensure these are topped up throughout each sitting. 

7. Don’t be afraid to tweak your offering

If something isn’t working, change it! 

Once you’ve run your bottomless menu for a month or so, analyse its performance. If it’s costing too much or certain dishes are taking too long to prepare, don’t be afraid to make tweaks to ensure it adds value to your business. 

Klassische Cocktails Sommer

Are bottomless drinks a viable option for venues?

Bottomless drinks are a loss leader, but they can also benefit hospitality businesses looking to broaden their reach. 

In short, it’s all about the marketing.

Bottomless drinks are a great marketing tool to get new customers through your doors to experience the incredible hospitality, drinks, and food your venue has to offer. Once you’ve provided this experience, you hope these happy customers will return for another meal or recommend you to their friends. 

While every venue is different, and there will be some profitable packages out there, bottomless drinks aren’t going to be the star of the menu that bulk up your profits. 

When looking at the viable economics of bottomless drinks, Derek Thomson, Business Editor at The Atlantic, argues that they are less about sales and more about strategic advertising.

Bottomless drinks really aren’t about the money at all. They’re about marketing,” Thompson says. 

“Restaurants don’t make that much money off of serving you infinite mimosas. But they do make money off of two other things: first, all the food you eat while you’re drinking, and second, and more importantly, all the food and all the drink you order in the coming months when you return to that restaurant because you had such a good time.”

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for all of your business news, updates, and stories. Just enter your email into the form below to keep yourself in the loop.

News you care about. Tips you can use.

Everything your business needs to grow, delivered straight to your inbox.

More of this topic: Sales & Marketing