How To Run A Successful Bar

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"How do I run a successful bar?" is a question many bar managers may ask themselves if their establishment isn't profitable. Running a bar is more than just serving customers flavorful cocktails. Bar managers are responsible for keeping their bar stocked with essentials, finding ways to attract more customers, providing great hospitality, and making sure their business is profitable. We've created this detailed guide to help you gain an understanding of how to manage a bar.

Visit Other Bars To Get Ideas

Make a list of local bars that you've had great and awful experiences in. Go to each establishment and take notes on how barkeepers interact with patrons, how they serve beverages, the setting of the bar, and anything else that catches your attention. Review your notes and find the similarities and differences between each establishment. This allows you to see what you don't want your employees to do and how to run a successful bar.

Provide Great Hospitality

Providing customers with a poor experience will have a negative impact on your business. Patrons will remember how barkeepers served them the wrong drinks, how they were poorly treated, or how long they waited for beverages. This causes customers to not come back to your bar and talk poorly about your establishment.

Instead, you want to provide guests with a great experience so they visit your bar on a regular basis and say positive things about your business. To provide patrons with a memorable experience, it's important to train your staff to:

  • Always greet customers
  • Be positive and smile
  • Be personable
  • Learn the menu and assist guests
  • Quickly and accurately serve drinks
  • Write "thank you" on checks

Train Your Staff To Upsell

A simple way to boost profits in your bar is by upselling customers. Upselling involves your staff suggesting that patrons try a more expensive item or add it to their order. For example, if someone orders a scotch on the rocks, you want bartenders to inform them about how great the new scotch is. Employees should be descriptive when describing the new scotch. This lets guests know that your staff is knowledgeable which will likely lead to them spending more money.

Keep Your Drink Menu Simple

If your menu has 30 pages, customers won't know what to order and feel overwhelmed. It also forces you to spend more money on liquor, garnishes, soda, and other drink ingredients which causes your inventory and potential for waste to increase.

If you're using a specialty ingredient, finding ways to repurpose it across multiple cocktail recipes plays a big role in reducing food cost and waste. For example, if you plan on making a jalapeno margarita, you should also consider adding a martini with jalapeno-infused simple syrup to your cocktail menu as well.

Create A Signature Drink

While many guests will order popular drinks like mojitos or daiquiris, creating a drink that is unique will give your bar an edge. There won't be another establishment that serves your signature cocktail and it may generate a lot of buzz around town or on social media.

When trying to create a signature cocktail, you need to consider your customers. Find out what drinks sell the most at your bar and how you can add a unique twist to them, such as serving them in labware glasses

Measure Your Liquor

Consistently overpouring rum, bourbon, or other drink ingredients cost bars thousands of dollars and is one of the most common ways bars go out of business. It's important to train your employees on how to use measured pourers and jiggers so they can effortlessly approximate portions to help eliminate waste.

Host Happy Hour And Special Events

Hosting a happy hour during the week is a great way to draw customers into your establishment. They'll be able to enjoy delicious drinks at a discounted price which benefits your bar in a variety of ways. For instance, guests may enjoy your establishment so much that they decide to stay past happy hour and pay full price for drinks. They may also tell their friends, family members, or co-workers about your specials which may provide you with more business during the week.

Another way to draw patrons to your bar is by hosting events. These events can be a one-time thing or something that occurs on a regular basis. For example, you can make every Wednesday a karaoke night or host a big trivia event once a month to draw a larger crowd. It's important to advertise happy hour specials and events on social media, posters outside the establishment, or signs around town.

Keep Track Of Transactions

Every successful bar you visit has an electronic Point Of Sale (POS) system. This system organizes orders and transactions to keep every establishment running smoothly. Your staff will be able to keep track of customer tabs and you'll be able to see the sales made on a daily basis. You also want to make sure you've added options into your POS system that allows you to ring in the appropriate upcharges for rocks pours, martini pours, and other drink modifications to ensure guests are charged accordingly.

Keep Your Bar Stocked

The last thing you want your employees to tell customers is, "sorry, we're out of whiskey." This makes guests unhappy and they won't want to visit your bar again. That's why it's important to have speed rails and back bar coolers filled with all the drinking ingredients you have on your menu.

Additionally, you want to keep track of the beverages your guests order the most and least. For example, if you notice margaritas are the most popular cocktail in your establishment, you want to ensure your bar has plenty of tequila and lime juice. However, if beer is the least requested beverage, you want to have less beer in your inventory. Keeping track of inventory and what guests order allows you to spend less money on alcohol that doesn't sell.

Have All The Bar Essentials

Stocking your establishment is more than just having liquor, beer, and wine. You also need to have these bar essentials to run a successful bar:

  • Bar napkins

  • Garnishes

  • Cocktail mixes

  • Bottle opener

  • Wine opener

  • Bar towel

  • Bar spoon

  • Blender

  • Straws and stirrers

  • Muddler

  • Cocktail shaker

  • Cocktail strainer

  • Ice bucket

  • Ice tongs

  • Jigger

  • Juicer/Reamer

  • Mixing glass

  • Speed pourer

Social Media Presence

Having a strong social media presence is a crucial aspect of running a successful bar in the digital age. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others provide a direct and engaging way to connect with potential and existing customers. By regularly updating social media profiles with appealing images of signature drinks, happy hour specials, and upcoming events, bar managers can generate interest and excitement among their target audience. Engaging with customers online by responding to comments and reviews humanizes the brand and fosters a sense of community. Encouraging patrons to share their positive experiences at the bar through user-generated content can create a powerful word-of-mouth marketing effect. A vibrant social media presence not only helps attract new customers but also strengthens brand loyalty and customer retention.

Employee Training and Development

The success of a bar heavily relies on the quality of its staff. Investing in comprehensive employee training and development is vital for ensuring exceptional customer service and operational efficiency. Bar managers should conduct regular training sessions on various aspects, including mixology techniques, cocktail preparation, customer engagement, responsible alcohol service, and conflict resolution. By empowering staff with the necessary skills and knowledge, they become confident ambassadors of the bar's brand. Moreover, offering opportunities for career growth and advancement within the establishment fosters a loyal and motivated team. A well-trained and engaged staff ensures consistent, high-quality service, leaving customers with a positive and memorable experience that encourages them to return.

Cleanliness & Ambiance

Creating a welcoming and inviting ambiance is paramount to the success of any bar. Bar managers should prioritize cleanliness and maintenance to create a positive first impression for customers. Regular cleaning and organizing of the bar area, tables, seating, and restrooms demonstrate professionalism and attention to detail. Carefully curating the ambiance with appropriate lighting, comfortable seating, and appealing decor sets the mood and atmosphere for patrons to relax and enjoy their time at the bar. Thoughtful touches such as soothing background music can enhance the overall experience. A well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing ambiance not only attracts new customers but also encourages them to stay longer, increasing the chances of repeat visits.

Offer Food Options

Diversifying the bar's offerings by providing a selection of food options can significantly impact its success. While alcoholic beverages are the primary draw, having a well-thought-out food menu can enhance the overall customer experience. Bar managers can consider offering a range of appetizers, bar snacks, or even full meals that complement the drink selection. Food options not only keep customers satisfied and encourage longer stays but also increase the potential for upselling by suggesting food and drink pairings. Additionally, catering to dietary preferences and accommodating various tastes ensures that the bar appeals to a wider audience. Introducing unique or themed food items can also become a talking point among customers, leading to positive word-of-mouth recommendations and increased footfall.

Cheers To Success

Running a successful bar goes beyond serving delicious drinks; it requires a strategic approach that focuses on various aspects of the business. By visiting other bars, gaining inspiration, and learning from their successes and mistakes, bar managers can refine their own strategies. Providing great hospitality through well-trained staff ensures that customers have a positive experience and keep coming back for more. A vibrant social media presence helps attract and engage with a wider audience, while a clean and inviting ambiance creates a welcoming atmosphere. Offering food options enhances the overall customer experience and increases revenue potential through upselling. By implementing these strategies, keeping the bar well-stocked, and tracking inventory, bar managers can create a thriving establishment that stands out in the competitive hospitality industry. With dedication, creativity, and attention to detail, your bar can become a go-to destination for patrons seeking memorable experiences and delectable libations. Cheers to your success!

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