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How To Run a Successful Bar in 2024 (16 Tips)

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Running a bar isn’t a walk in the park. It involves crafting a unique concept, obtaining licenses, and competing in the bar industry.

This article guides bar owners on achieving success, covering essential aspects like concept creation, licensing, and industry competition. Whether launching a new pub, wine, or sports bar or managing an existing bar, these insights will help you navigate the challenges and thrive in the competitive bar industry.

how to run a bar - people in a bar

If you’re considering starting your own bar or currently exploring a restaurant small business, remember that success in the bar industry requires a blend of skills, expertise, and personal qualities.

These include:

  • culinary creativity, 
  • business acumen, 
  • customer service excellence, 
  • adaptability, 
  • a knack for marketing

Starting a bar can be an exciting venture, but beginning with a solid business plan is crucial.

 As a future bar owner, you should start by writing a comprehensive bar business plan outlining your goals and strategies for launching a thriving establishment. This roadmap is essential for aspiring bar owners looking to realize their dreams.

Several key factors contribute to the bar’s success. Let’s have a closer look at them.

1. Unique bar concept and ambiance

Creating a unique bar concept and ambiance is essential for standing out in the competitive bar industry. From catchy bar names to innovative themes and decor, a distinct identity can attract customers and keep them returning. 

Implementing creative bar promotion ideas, such as themed events, specialty cocktails, and interactive experiences, further enhances the overall customer experience and fosters loyalty. 

how to run a bar - bar decor

2. Choosing the best location and target market

Choosing the right location is vital for a bar’s success, as it can significantly impact foot traffic and visibility. Identifying the restaurant’s target market and catering to their preferences is crucial, ensuring the bar’s offerings resonate with the local community. 

Utilizing the expertise of a seasoned real estate agent can help identify prime locations with reduced competition or unique selling propositions, particularly in areas saturated with many bars. 

how to run a bar - bar location

3. Customer experience

The other important factor is excellent customer service, which is essential for a bar’s success. It enhances the overall experience and fosters customer loyalty. 

Bar owners should prioritize creating a welcoming atmosphere and ensuring patrons feel valued and satisfied with their visit. 

how to run a bar - customer experience

4. Menu and beverage selection

A diverse menu and an extensive beverage selection are essential for a bar’s success. 

Offering a variety of cocktails, beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages caters to different tastes and preferences, attracting a wider customer base. 

Regularly updating the menu with seasonal specials and unique drink offerings keeps customers loyal.

5. Bar marketing and branding

Effective bar marketing is essential for driving success. It encompasses strategies like implementing a restaurant loyalty program to cultivate repeat business and using an online ordering system to streamline customer transactions. 

Additionally, strategic bar menu pricing ensures competitive offerings, while creative bar promotion ideas help attract new customers and keep existing ones engaged. 

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16 Tips About How to Run a Bar

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to assist you in successfully operating your bar.

Tip 1. Highlight your bar concept

To run a successful bar, it’s crucial to highlight your unique bar concept, setting your establishment apart in the competitive landscape of restaurant businesses. 

Whether it’s a speakeasy-inspired ambiance, a craft cocktail focus, or a themed bar experience, clearly communicating your concept to patrons can attract new business and foster customer loyalty.

Get inspired with these bar ideas and concepts.

how to run a bar - sports bar interior

Choosing a bar concept should be preceded by visits to bars in your area. Visit each one, place an order, and spend some time absorbing the atmosphere. Pay attention to what you enjoy and what turns you off. Compiling two lists can help in selecting a concept for your bar, with the added benefit of getting acquainted with your competition.

The second consideration is financial. Can you secure funding for your small business and cover the startup costs? Do you have personal assets or savings, or do you require alternative financing to ensure the long-term success of your business? 

Here, you’ll find information on how to open a bar with no money.

how to run a bar - customers in a sports bar

Tip 2. Provide excellent customer service

Outstanding customer service is paramount for running a thriving bar.

Bars can enhance the overall customer experience by keeping track of customer preferences and training bar staff to provide attentive and friendly service.

how to run a bar - customer service in a bar

Tip 3. Listen to your customers

Ask the bar’s customers for their opinions to ensure satisfaction with customer service. 

Customer feedback is invaluable for identifying areas for improvement and gauging overall satisfaction. Implementing feedback-driven initiatives demonstrates a commitment to meeting customer needs and fostering a positive experience.

Tip 4. Monitor your inventory

Regularly monitoring your inventory levels is crucial for maintaining efficient operations and preventing shortages or overstocking. 

Implementing restaurant inventory management software or systems can streamline this process, helping you track stock levels, identify trends, and make purchasing decisions to optimize profitability.

Look for software that integrates with the best POS systems. This allows you to seamlessly manage inventory and sales data in one system, gaining comprehensive insights into your restaurant’s performance and enhancing overall efficiency.

how to run a bar - using POS system in a bar

Tip 5. Train bartenders to upsell

To operate a successful bar, training your bartenders in upselling is crucial, as it’s an effective strategy for increasing revenue. This involves suggesting additional products to accompany customers’ orders, such as offering nuts or chips to go with their beer.

Another approach is introducing specialty drinks based on customers’ choice of alcohol, adding novelty to your menu. You can also recommend pairing specific dishes with complementary drinks, enhancing the dining experience.

It’s essential to provide thorough training to employees so they can confidently recommend wine pairings for various snacks or desserts, as well as suggest which beers complement certain additives.

how to run a bar - a bartender making a drink

Tip 6. Regularly monitor your cost of goods sold (COGS) and pour cost

Monitoring your cost of goods sold (COGS) and pour cost is essential for running a successful bar. Regularly assessing these metrics ensures that you maintain healthy profit margins and identify areas where costs can be optimized.

Use menu engineering techniques to analyze the profitability of each item on your menu, adjusting prices or offerings as needed. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your menu based on this analysis to maximize revenue and streamline operations.

If you offer to place orders online in your bar, don’t forget to enable upselling recommendations to boost your restaurant sales.

Tip 7. Keep all the necessary permits and licenses updated

Keeping all necessary permits and licenses updated, including the liquor license, is crucial for the smooth operation of your bar. Ensuring these documents are current and compliant with regulations helps maintain legal standing and avoids potential fines or closures. 

In our guide to opening a bar, we listed all the permits and licenses required for running a bar. 

Protip

Liquor licenses authorize the sale of alcohol, dictating the types sold and operating hours. They are vital for regulating alcohol sales and operations in your establishment.

Tip 8. Keep your bar stocked

You certainly don’t want a scenario where the bartender apologizes, saying, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have gin.” Such an occurrence would leave guests dissatisfied, likely prompting them to leave and potentially never return. To prevent this, you must ensure you have all the necessary ingredients for every drink listed on your menu.

Moreover, tracking your customers’ drink preferences and the types of alcohol in high demand is essential. For instance, if beer is a popular choice, it’s imperative to keep it stocked. Similarly, if mojitos are frequently ordered, you must have an ample supply of fresh mint, limes, sugar, and rum readily available to meet demand and maintain customer satisfaction. 

Keeping popular ingredients well-stocked ensures you can consistently deliver high-quality drinks that keep loyal customers returning for more.

how to run a bar - a bartender making a drink

Tip 9. Create signature drinks

While many guests order popular drinks like the Cosmopolitan, Mojito, or Aperol Spritz, crafting a unique drink will give your bar an edge. Additionally, creating your own cocktails allows you to price them higher than traditional drinks, thereby increasing your profit margin on sales.

Since no other establishment offers your signature cocktail, you can promote your bar through social media, informing customers about your unique offering. This strategy will attract more guests and enhance your profits.

how to run a bar - signature drinks

Tip 10. Reduce overpouring

Consistently overpouring high-end spirits like cognac, tequila, or single malt whisky can result in significant financial losses for bars. This costly practice is a leading contributor to the closure of many establishments. 

Training your staff to use measured pourers and jiggers effectively is crucial to combat this. 

Additionally, employing special corks designed for alcoholic beverages can further aid in precise portion control, minimizing waste, and preserving profit margins.

how to run a bar - jiggers

Tip 11. Keep your menu simple

Have you ever faced a drink menu spanning several dozen pages, feeling exhausted just trying to make a selection? This is precisely the situation we aim to prevent. 

Overwhelming customers with an excessively extensive menu does not benefit them. Moreover, a large drink menu necessitates stocking many ingredients, thereby heightening the risk of waste. 

A more effective approach would be to craft a drink menu that limits the number of necessary ingredients and incorporates repeated use of certain components. 

how to run a bar - bar menu

For example, a drink menu could feature cocktails like the “Margarita,” “Paloma,” and “Tequila Sunrise,” which all require tequila and citrus fruits as common ingredients. 

Another set could include the “Old Fashioned,” “Whiskey Sour,” and “Manhattan,” which all utilize bourbon or whiskey as a base spirit. 

Tip 12. Add food to your menu

Alcoholic beverages may be your primary product, but incorporating thoughtful food options into your bar’s offerings can significantly impact your success and enhance customer satisfaction. 

Consider including appetizers, bar snacks, or complete meals to enhance your beverage offerings.

Introducing a thematic menu based on specific ingredients, such as seasonal ones, and rotating it regularly can add excitement. 

Listening to your customers’ needs and accommodating their recommendations, especially regarding dietary restrictions, can boost sales and garner positive reviews, ultimately attracting more customers to your bar.

how to run a bar - bar snacks

Tip 13. Organize regular happy hour and special events

The biggest crowds will come on Fridays and Saturdays, but relying solely on weekends isn’t enough. How can you attract guests during the week? Host a midweek happy hour to draw in customers. Additionally, consider organizing themed parties or karaoke nights.

To effectively promote your special events, utilize social media and email marketing channels to reach your customer base and create buzz around upcoming happenings at your bar.

how to run a bar - karaoke in a bar

Tip 14. Partner with local businesses

Teaming with nearby businesses can help your bar grow by reaching more people and participating in the community. 

You can promote each other and attract new customers by working with local restaurants, breweries, or event venues. 

You can also partner with local suppliers or makers to offer special items, which will make your bar stand out even more.

how to run a bar - customers in a bar

Tip 15. Build a strong online presence

Establishing a strong online presence is essential for your bar’s success. Start by developing a professional website using a restaurant website builder. Your website should feature convenient options like online ordering so customers can place drink orders easily.

Explore these inspiring bar websites for ideas and inspiration.

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Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote events organized by your bar and effectively engage with your audience. 

Additionally, consider regularly updating your website with enticing content, such as upcoming events, special promotions, and new menu items, to keep customers informed and interested. 

By maintaining an active presence on social media and consistently updating your website, you can effectively build a strong online presence for your bar and attract both new and returning customers.

Tip 16. Use restaurant technology in your bar

Integrate restaurant technology to optimize operations and thrive in a competitive market. 

Invest in tailored solutions like a restaurant POS system, online ordering system, restaurant mobile app, and digital restaurant marketing tools to streamline processes and expand your customer base. 

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Adjusting offerings, accommodating customer preferences, staying adaptable to market shifts, and ensuring continued success in the dynamic bar industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Highlight your bar’s unique concept while providing exceptional customer service to create a memorable experience for patrons.
  • Efficiently monitor inventory levels while training bartenders to upsell, ensuring optimal resource utilization and maximizing revenue.
  • Keep all necessary permits and licenses updated to maintain legal compliance and smooth operations.
  • Keep your menu simple while incorporating food options to enhance the overall experience and increase revenue potential.
  • Organize regular happy hours and special events while partnering with local businesses to cross-promote and increase visibility.
  • Build a strong online presence and leverage restaurant technology to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and enhance the customer experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The profitability of owning a bar can vary significantly depending on various factors such as location, concept, competition, operating costs, and management efficiency. Typically, bars aim for an average profit margin between 15% and 30%. Here you can read more on bar profit margin.

Running a bar presents its challenges, requiring diligence and strategic management. Owners must oversee inventory, staffing, and customer service while navigating regulatory requirements and market competition. While not easy, owning a bar can be rewarding and profitable with careful planning and perseverance.

Picture of Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Digital content creator, passionate about helping restaurants to start selling online.

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