La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza is located in the center of downtown, with its grab-to-go window still available and front doors wide open. The new changes made to the restaurant are unnoticeable just from first glance. However, not only are there new safety renovations inside, but a new addition to the menu as well.
La Fiamma has started selling mixed drink kits in Bellingham for buyers during the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” order. Anyone over the age of 21 is now able to enjoy an assortment of alcoholic beverages, such as margaritas and mimosas, with their order of food.
Andre Carrao, a shift lead at La Fiamma, said the idea to sell mixed drink kits began March 24, 2020 once the state law restrictions changed, allowing restaurants to sell closed container alcoholic beverages.
Restaurant license holders can sell closed, manufacturer-sealed, bottles or cans of beer, wine and spirits, according to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Daniel Purdy, a senior instructor for marketing at Western, said that to-go options at restaurants is a marketing tactic that focuses on the need for safety that people have right now. Due to a lack of sales, restaurants will be using many new marketing tactics to make up for lost sales.
“Alcohol sales make up, on average, between 20% to 30% of revenue,” Purdy said. “A breakfast place that doesn’t even carry alcohol would be 0%. Given that for many, a third of sales are lost without alcohol, it makes sense that these establishments would want to find a way to backfill some of those lost sales during the pandemic.”
Each to-go mixer must be ordered with food, Carrao said, and can be either delivered or picked up at the to-go window or inside.
“We have a custom made margarita mix that we make in house,” Carrao said. “We do tequila and then lime and salt with it.”
They are also now selling wine and beer at the pizzeria, and mixed drink kits can be made customizable if a customer wants a drink that is not on the menu with their new shipment of whisky that they recently got in.
Anyone who chooses to pick up items can stay safe through the restaurant’s new no-contact system, where people entering and leaving cannot go through the same door and have to stay 6 feet apart, Carrao said.
“Usually since the weather's nice, we leave the doors open so you don't have to touch anything,” Carrao said. “You're 6 feet away from any staff. We also only allow a certain amount of people inside.”
With the stay-at-home order, Carrao said business is not at its usual capacity. But with the half-off deals on pizza and new alcohol option, the restaurant has experienced a steady pace of business. He said the new business is attributed to regulars who still buy food to support La Fiamma.
“We've got a pretty good presence on Fridays and Saturdays,” Carrao said. “At night, we usually have a pretty full kitchen at any given time, wait times can actually get kind of long.
It’s not just the regulars who are interested in La Fiamma’s mixed drink kits. Madison Murphy, a recent graduate from Western, is also looking forward to trying the new menu options and a different food scene.
“I like the margaritas, but now that I know there are more I would probably do a different cocktail,” Murphy said.
Once businesses adapted to-go alcoholic drinks, Murphy said she began buying margaritas at Jalapeños downtown, but stopped because the drinks were too strong.
“I really like the kits, though. I think it’s a great idea,” Murphy said. “I’m glad they have more options now because I have a cocktail book but don’t have any of the stuff that you would need to make anything.”
Purdy said alcohol packs are a good marketing tactic because it gives people what they want, and marketing is all about doing what the people want.
“The idea is simply to focus on the needs and wants of your customer, using empathy to understand them and then seeking to fulfill those needs in a way that is sustainable and beneficial for both the business and the consumer,” Purdy said.
Murphy said she hopes the option will still be available for customers to buy the mixed drink kits after the pandemic.
“The alcohol to-go is a pretty popular thing, so I think we would probably include that if we're still able to do that,” Carrao said. “I don't know if the laws will change, but that's probably something we would keep.”