Bottomless Drinks — Effective Marketing or Potential Liability?

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“How can giving away mimosas to thirsty brunch goers be anything but financial suicide?” The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explores whether promoting bottomless drinks is effective for a restaurant’s bottom line.

Thompson explains the promotion works for restaurants long-term, as long as the drinks are good, and adds that the real benefit of bottomless drinks are the power of the word “free” over the consumer and marketing — not the money.

Because restaurants make up for that in what patrons spend on food and drinks from future visits.

Bottomless drinks are what is called a “loss leader” — something a business expects to take a loss on in hopes of return business. Thompson cites Gillette as an example, and notes that while Gillette may lose money on its razors, it makes money selling you its blades.

According to the restaurateurs Thompson interviewed, the most common reason for bottomless drink promotion was peer pressure.

Since other restaurants were already doing it, bottomless drinks were considered the price of admission into the so-called “boozy 20-somethings market” who are looking for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.

The second reason is the power of “free.” Because Thompson believes we are fundamentally, maybe even unreasonably, attracted to anything we can get for free.

In marketing studies, consumers consistently prefer getting something for free as opposed to receiving something at a discount. “It might not make economic sense, but it does make emotional sense.”

Thompson points out that the third reason, or economic rationale for bottomless drinks is marketing or advertising. Restaurants don’t make money from serving infinite mimosas. But they do make money on food and beverages ordered when someone returns in the future.

Bottomless drinks may be an attractive marketing strategy for some, but I question the wisdom in terms of the possible liability if a drunk driver kills or injures someone after downing endless free drinks.

In one recent New York case, the parents of a 26-year-old man killed by a drunk driver, are suing the downtown Cortland bar the drunk driver patronized on the night of the incident.

The bar was hosting a promotional party for “Sweet Revenge Liqueur” that night, according to the lawsuit. Promotional vendors, known as “shot girls,” were handing out free sample shots of “Sweet Revenge,” which is a blend of sour mash whiskey flavored with fruit syrups.

The lawsuit alleges that the bartenders and/or “shot girls” at Beer Goggles were unlawfully giving drinks to patrons who were obviously already intoxicated.

In another case, a lawsuit claims a Mississippi casino served so much alcohol to a man taking powerful prescription painkillers that he died on the floor of his hotel bathroom. The lawsuit against IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi seeks damages of $75 million.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper
Spence Cooper

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