8 ingredients for a successful bar

Posted on 20 april 2018

You may have found the right neighbourhood for your target market and checked out the local hospitality scene. Conquered the maze of permits and regulations, and it’s time to fine tune your bar’s formula, branding and ‘personality’.

Or you may want to discover your bar's formula, branding and 'personality' before you scout the neighbourhood for the perfect location.

In short, how are you going to attract customers and keep them coming back for more?

Keeping your target market in mind is crucial because you can’t please everyone, and that’s a good thing. Bland and uninteresting is a real no-no in the bar business. Having a strong focus will guide your furniture, layout, colour palette, style and all the details that will make your neighbourhood’s favourite hang-out appealing, individual and special.
 

1. Emphasis on staff

Interpersonal skills are key to keeping your clientele engaged and happy, therefore careful selection and training of bar staff is particularly important. Check out the personal presentation of applicants, and in the early days, be prepared to supervise staff carefully.

Have clear policies in place so staff understand your standards and expectations. As your business grows, you may want to hire a proven, strong manager whom you can trust.

If it suits your venue, make sure staff understand the different characteristics of grape varieties and how vineyard locations subtly affect wine flavours. Knowledgeable wine service is impressive, and let’s staff build better customer rapport. The same applies to knowledge of all your beverage offerings.

Arrange some first aid training in case of emergencies and ensure staff are trained on how to recognise and deal with drunken and disorderly behaviour.
 

2. Create a theme

Consider a 'theme': What will your bar be known for? Whisky and cheese tasting? Local craft beer? Sketch classes? Folk music? Putt-putt golf? Speed dating? Great snacks? Comedy acts? Chess boards? A jukebox? Pet-friendly area?

Activities that create a welcoming, inclusive and entertaining environment will encourage your guests to stay longer and they will be happy to spend more. A novelty factor can help attract new people to your bar. Review and refresh activities to maintain interest.

Make the food easy to consume in small portions and include some carb heavy options (but don't forget gluten free and vegan choices as well).
 

3. Local partnerships make great PR

Good bars are an asset to the local retail community. Social venues such as bars encourage area visitation and the chance for other retailers to benefit. Check out your neighbours and invite them in to have a drink; chat to them about getting the word out that you’re open for business.

A recent game changer for bars has been the rise of social exercise classes taking place at the local watering hole. Think spin and gin classes, barre at the bar, and beer yoga. Don’t limit yourself – if it’s fun and quirky you will attract all sorts of new clientele!
 

4. Good housekeeping counts

Make sure toilets are kept clean and replenish consumables regularly. You wouldn't invite people to your home and expect them to use a dirty bathroom with no soap or toilet paper, so don't expect customers to put up with that either when they're out. If you expect people to respect your property, then take the lead and respect it yourself first.

Cleaning lots of fiddly items can end up being costly or time consuming, so it’s best to avoid having too many unnecessary decorations, fixtures and fittings. Creating atmosphere is important, but failing to clean properly will create odours and turn people off.
 

5. Set the mood with lighting and music

Don't cut corners with lighting! Well-designed lighting and the right music mix are critical for creating an atmosphere where people want to hang out. Leave plenty of dark spaces - don't overlight it.

Remember that smaller wine bars can appeal to an older demographic. People in their forties, fifties and older enjoy bars, but they want to be able to have a conversation without having to shout. Music is always important, but don’t have the volume too loud if you are targeting people who want to chat.
 

6. Recognise loyalty

There’s nothing worse than going to the same place many times over and the bar staff don't even acknowledge that they know you! There are apps available now such as Rewardle that let you build loyalty with customers. Use them to reward loyalty. Encourage people to start tabs - this gives you access to their name for future re-marketing and a reason to talk with them.
 

7. Be connected

Start an e-newsletter, set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account where you and others can post photos of events at your bar. These are fantastic ways to grow your audience. One way you can maximise exposure for your venue is by making sure people can 'check in' to your bar on Facebook – maybe you could encourage them with a chance to win a free drink? Or go one step further and set-up a photo booth at your venue occasionally so people can post images online and tag your bar.
 

8. Create a variety of options

If you are open during the day, consider selling coffee for the extra cash flow and have a few interesting mocktails on the menu for non-drinkers or designated drivers.

Have a good selection of wine, cider and champagne available 'by the glass' and be aware of emerging new drink or cocktail trends. Add something a little retro like a Brandy Alexander or malted milkshake with a twist.
 
You’ll have to go through a lot of steps behind the scenes to successfully make your bar the neighbourhood’s new favourite hang-out, however, if you keep these eight steps in mind you’re on the right track for a successful venue.