Revolutionary Marketing Strategies for Your Bar Operation

Set Goals for Strategic Bar Marketing

Posted by Michael Elkins the 2 January 2018

Bar operations face all the traditional marketing challenges of restaurants, but they have some unique problems that involve the risks of promoting excessive drinking and serving inebriated guests. Bars also have to negotiate serving food in an environment that's often crowded, boisterous and disconnected from the kitchen.

You need to be very careful when selling alcohol not to run afoul of local wine, beer and liquor laws. Many jurisdictions limit your ability to advertise or to offer drinking incentives and "happy hour" prices. However, there are many responsible work-arounds such as offering discounts on "top shelf" liquor, signature beverages employing molecular mixology techniques and discounting food items to complement beverage purchases.

Define Your Marketing Goals

Ultimately, your goals are increased sales and bigger profits, but hazy, generic goals are difficult to monitor and achieve. You goals in marketing your bar might be to increase alcohol sales, create social buzz for your business, attract key demographic segments--such as millennials--or get people to stay longer and spend more money. You might want to introduce a new menu or a signature line of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. You might want to transform your bar into an entertainment venue. Setting some trackable and measurable goals is a sound policy for any marketing or business plan.

Regardless of your goals and strategy, you need to research any local alcohol-related regulations so that you don't get into legal trouble. Remember that not all promotional ideas are appropriate for every type of bar. For example, organizing a vintage wine tasting event might be inappropriate for a neighborhood bar and grill. You should always tailor any bar promotion to your targeted customer, available space and pricing profile, but the following suggestions should trigger some creative marketing ideas:

Embracing Social Media

Social media platforms now connect people with similar interests in unparalleled ways. Millennials often build an active social life by connecting with people who live nearby through social media. Social media marketing ideas for bar operations include the following possibilities:

  • Social-Members-Only Incentives

    Advertising specials for specific social groups can broaden your social profile and extend your reach.

  • Incorporating User-Generated Ideas

    You can host a user-generated competition on various social sites to solicit ideas for new foods, snacks, beverages and themes.

  • Cultivate Community Groups

    Social media are the ideal platform for promoting your bar's space for community groups, fundraisers, casino nights to raise funds for charity and other events.

  • Engage with Local Celebrities and Influencers

    Your can use social media to contact local celebrities and influencers and persuade them to promote an idea, cause or product at your bar.

  • Create Relevant Posts

    Post photos, articles, Tweets and videos that showcase your bar's concept and clientele.

  • Organize Impromptu Events

    You can encourage your customers to invite their friends for impromptu gatherings by holding an informal contest to see who can get the most fellow employees, team members or friends to drop by.

  • Encourage Sharing

    Encourage your guests to share photos of your food, appetizers and colorful drinks. You could share these posts on a digital sign or big-screen monitor.

  • Incorporate User-Generated Content in Your Marketing

    Sharing user-generated photos, reviews, karaoke performances and other content can attract favorable publicity, encourage referrals and strengthen customer loyalty.

  • Enlist Your Staff

    Your bar staff members depend on tips, so each server is naturally invested in your success. Encourage your employees to share information about your bar's events, food and beverages on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. These posts don't need to be complex--servers can just state that they're working and the bar is running a great special.

bar beverages cocktails

Using Creative Culinary Trends to Attract Customers

Both bars and restaurants are generating publicity and attracting customers by adopting ideas from molecular gastronomy and mixology. The molecular mixology movement was first named and introduced in Spain in 2003 by chef Ferran Adrià. Initially, Adrià developed a technique of spherification, which turned liquids into colorful, solid spheres. These spheres could add an artistic touch to cocktails and often deliver a powerful flavor enhancement.

Other techniques have become common for creating foams, layered drinks, gels and drinks that change color as you drink them. Mixing drinks has become an art in the competitive world of bar promotion, and bar owners can attract millennials and urban hipsters with drinks that incorporate alchemical magic and artistry. Special equipment for trendy bars now includes liquid nitrogen, dehydrators, candy-making tools, blow-torches, ingredient molds and whipping equipment. Creative mixology often features foams, jellies, edible cocktails, infused flavors and liquids that can suspend solid ingredients.

Design Issues that Affect Bars

There are several interior design issues that affect bars, which savvy owners address to make the facility more comfortable and attractive for customers. Decorations for special occasion are important, and bars often choose to install refrigerators and short-order preparation areas to speed preparing food for bar customers. It’s also important to locate the bar area near restrooms. Lighting is usually dim. If you plan to have karaoke or entertainment, it’s helpful to install the infrastructure for creating a stage and broadcasting sound.

GPS Marketing

Mobile location-based marketing is a powerful tool for bars and restaurants. One UK survey found that 66% of marketers now believe that location-based marketing offers the most promising advertising promotional opportunities for using digital technology. You can target people at a nearby theater or sporting event as they're leaving and invite them to stop by for a cocktail, dinner or snack.

The key to success is offering a personalized message at the right time to people who are nearby. People willingly share their location data on their mobile devices, and you can send custom messages based on where they happen to be such as:

  • Messages in their own language
  • Timely suggestions for extending their evening's entertainment
  • Special incentives for responding to your message
  • Mobile booking of a table or tables for a large group
  • Targeting prospects based on age
  • Encouraging people to unwind after a hectic day of shopping

Tasting Events

Social business drinkers, upscale couples and beverage aficionados enjoy all sorts of tasting events, and these can include beer, wine, signature drinks, nonalcoholic beverages and even coffees and teas. You can get a lot of promotional mileage by hosting a beers-from-around-the-world tasting event or a craft beer tasting. If you carry craft beers, promoting them can attract millennials, beer aficionados and people who are curious about the craft-beer trend.

These tasting events can have a theme--such as a particular spirit, country of origin, festive holiday beverages and other creative concepts. Menu-driven food tasting events can also draw a convivial bar crowd where guests can sample different foods, appetizers and drinks. Consider the attraction of getting an invitation on your phone to have a cocktail while sampling tapas right when you're walking past the bar that's making the offer.

Sponsoring Local Sports Teams

Most bars depend heavily on repeat customers, and people can be very particular about the bar's atmosphere and their fellow patrons. One of the easiest ways to attract regular customers that share an attitude is to sponsor a local sports team. You can choose professional, college or even school teams, and you might invite the team members for a free meal or drink after a local game.

There are many promotional possibilities for local teams that include branded merchandise, game pools, live broadcasts, sports merchandise and silly sports contests. Your bar could also host virtual sports teams and leagues--especially for championship events.

Generating Publicity with Events and Stunts

Successful bar-promoting events include bar crawls, scavenger hunts, contests, holiday events and entertainment. Guerrilla marketing events--such as posting signs on abandoned buildings, cleaning up graffiti in the city and costuming staff members for Halloween or a tie-in with a blockbuster movie or sports championship can generate lots of publicity on the Internet and in the traditional media.

Living Large with Instant Ordering

Bar profit is often concentrated in just the few hours that precede and follow midnight. That means it's critical to accelerate service, take orders quickly and still have time to engage customers and assess each patron's clear-headedness. A mobile and simple interface--such as the affordable POS system offered by Waiterio--can speed sending drink orders to the bartender, reduce mistakes and free time for servers to connect with customers.

In today's connected world, bars face extreme competition to attract trendy singles with high disposable incomes and business people who want to royally entertain their clients. Bar operations face competition from hotel lounges, raves, privately hosted events and pop-up clubs. However, developing creative ideas that resonate with your targeted audience can ensure a steady clientele, boost profits and establish your bar as a popular local hangout for your targeted customer demographic.