Top Ten Tips for Running a Successful Bar


Running any type of food and beverage business can be a challenge, and bars are certainly no exception. Finding the right bar supplies and equipment is only half the battle, and there are generally more stories of failure than there are of success. The following tips offer a few fundamental suggestions for those looking to beat the odds and run an efficient, profitable bar business.

Be responsible.

Running a bar operation is a risky business, not only because of the nature of the business but due to the potentially dangerous product. Alcohol affects all people differently, and all bar staff should be aware of how to serve it responsibly, as well as how to cut someone off when needed. Take time to learn the local laws and licensing requirements as well to keep your operation legally sound. Caring for customers, following the law and being responsible with product are important, not only for your reputation but for your customers’ health and safety. » Learn more about serving alcohol

A bartender keys in a drink order

Train your staff.

A well-trained staff is essential to your business. Bartenders who know their craft inside and out will be more likely to help your bar stand out above the rest. Beyond training them to be skilled behind the bar, your bartending staff must be personable, friendly and generally able to converse with customers.

Use a POS system.

Few contemporary bar businesses can run successfully without an electronic point of sale (POS) system. Busy nights with lots of people require a system to help organize orders and account for transactions. A POS system is ideal for keeping track of transactions as well as analyzing sales. » Learn more about point-of-sale systems

Create a signature drink.

Creating a signature drink is important to developing a unique vibe and identity for your bar. Putting your own spin on your drink menu gives customers a special reason to visit your bar instead of the one down the street. » Learn more about how to create profitable signature drinks

Organize the back bar.

Unless your bartenders’ work space is well organized, bartenders will be bumping into each other and wasting time running back and forth to fulfill orders. Organize your back bar area so that the major drink-making stations are in the same areas. For instance, group your beer taps together so that a bartender filling an order of beer will not have to run from one end of the bar to another to pour two different brews.

Market your drink specials.

Marketing can be as simple as word-of-mouth, or you may have a strong, financially-backed campaign to reach more people in the area. Even a well-constructed happy hour menu and a few table tents can provide some good marketing for your bar. » Learn more about happy hour marketing

Run a clean operation.

Many bars claim to want to achieve the atmosphere and vibe of a neighborhood dive bar, but dive bar and dirty bar are not necessarily the same thing. Customers notice things like dirty restrooms and a sticky bar top, which would turn anyone off. Make it a priority with your staff to keep the place clean so your customers feel comfortable. » Learn more about contracting a cleaning service

Beer Taps and Glasses

Keep an eye on pour levels.

One of the quickest ways to lose inventory in the bar is inaccurate pouring. When bartenders pour improper amounts, not only does it affect the inventory you have on hand, but the customer receives an inconsistent product from day to day or from bartender to bartender. Train thoroughly, test frequently and use jiggers or measuring pourers for less experienced bartenders.

Keep bar equipment in working order.

When your bar equipment is not working correctly, chances are that your entire operation is thrown off track. Be sure that you maintain and update your beer draft system, dishwashing set-up, back bar coolers and ice machine in order to keep your business running smoothly. » Learn more about maintaining a problem free tap system

Change the drink menu periodically.

This is generally true of most restaurants, but offering a variety is especially important for a bar. Try switching up the draft beer you provide every few months, and bring in new wines from different wineries to offer your guests something new. You may even offer a new cocktail with the seasons, offering your staff a chance to be creative and mix something new. Changing your menu, or at least parts of it, keeps customers interested and gives you the opportunity to do away with items that are not selling.


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  1. Thanks for sharing all of these tips for buying a bar! I had no idea that pour levels could have such a huge impact on a bar– it seems like those measuring pourers would definitely be a good idea for an inexperienced bar owner. In fact, this is advice I should probably keep in mind since I have dreamed of running a bar for a very long time. I’ll be sure to remember to get those jiggers, and I should probably also learn how to maintain the equipment while I’m at it!

  2. thank u very much for your reliable information,i think this will help me figure out what not and to do to keep customers happy and always regard me as the best stop over facility.i also run a bar in Zim and its very challenging economically but i now find it easy to adjust using your script.

  3. I agree, a signature drink can really help to establish a brand to your bar. My favorite cocktail bar does this and it is great. My appreciate goes out to the author for taking the time to post.

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