How to run a profitable bar

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Bars are a notoriously tricky business. This business model has one of the highest failure rates of any industry, and for good reason. Margins are tight, the competition is fierce, and customers can be fickle. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to run a successful bar. It just takes a little bit of know-how, and a whole lot of hard work. In fact, with the right mix of ingredients, you can create a winning formula for success. If you’re a bar owner or manager, and want to learn how to take your venue to the next level, here are a few tips on how to run a profitable bar.

15 tips to running a bar successfully

Inventory management

One of the most important aspects of running a bar is properly managing your inventory. You need to know what you have on hand at all times, and you need to be able to order more when you’re running low.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when managing your bar’s inventory:

  • You need to find great suppliers that will make running your bar a piece of cake. They should be able to provide you with quality products at a fair price, and they should be able to deliver quickly when you need it.
  • You need to keep track of your liquor and food consumption so that you can order the right amount of each product. Too much or too little of any given item can lead to lost profits.
  • You need to stay organized. A well-organized bar is a efficiently-run bar, and that means more profits.

In this regard, using a tool that helps you understand things like how often to take inventory can be a game changer for your venue. Point of sale (POS) systems can also be very helpful.

Bar management app 


Get personalized recommendations on bar and restaurant inventory management.

Finding good vendors

It’s important to have good relationships with your vendors. After all, they’re the ones who provide you with the supplies you need to run your bar – everything from glasses and mixers to bar stools and signage. Bar managers need to find vendors who are reliable and who provide good quality products at a fair price. Once you find vendors you’re happy with, stick with them; building long-term relationships is key in the hospitality industry.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere

Another important aspect of running a successful bar is creating an inviting atmosphere for your customers. This starts with decor; make sure your space is clean and well-designed so that it’s welcoming and comfortable for your guests.

You should also train your staff to be friendly and accommodating; everyone from the bartenders to the bouncers should make sure that your customers have a good time while they’re at your establishment. Finally, a little trick that not many bar owners think about is creating a great playlist. Music sets the tone for any space, so pick tunes that will get your guests up and dancing (or at least tapping their feet).

Promotions and events

When it comes to promoting your bar, there are a few tried-and-true methods that always work. First, take advantage of social media; create a great profile for your venue on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to post regularly. Additionally, you can advertise your bar by holding special occasions or themed nights. This is a great way to attract new customers and get existing ones to come back more often. Word-of-mouth is always one of the best forms of marketing so make sure your regular customers are always happy… they’ll do the rest for you.

Managing your finances

Oftentimes, bar owners and managers have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to finances. However, if you’re managing a venue, it’s crucial to be on top of your numbers. This means everything from understanding your costs to tracking your revenue, and being mindful of your margins at all times. For example, what are your food costs? Are you using a bar inventory software to keep track of how often you’re placing orders?

By having a clear picture of your finances, you can make better decisions about how to run your business and where to invest your money. For example, if you’re able to save in certain areas, you might be able to increase the quality of products you serve at your cocktail bar, which will result in more loyal customers.

Know your audience

Another crucial step to running a profitable bar or restaurant is to know your audience. Are families, professionals, or college students your primary audience? Each of these groups has different drinking habits and preferences so it’s important to tailor your bar to appeal to your target market to increase profits. Once you’ve identified your usual crowd, you can design your space and menu to cater to them specifically. 

For example, if you’re targeting college students, you might want to have a pool table or darts while if you’re aiming for young professionals, you might want to focus on craft cocktails. No matter who your target market is, always remember that providing quality service is key. If your customers have a good time at your establishment, they’re sure to come back – and they’ll probably bring their friends along with them.

Visibility is key

Another important factor to consider when opening a bar is location. You want to choose a spot that is convenient for your target market and that doesn’t have too much competition. Additionally, you want to make sure that your bar is easily accessible and visible from the street.

There’s not a lot you can do regarding your location once you’ve opened your bar but you can definitely improve its visibility by investing in some good signage. A well-designed sign will help attract attention to your business, and it can also be a great way to show off your branding. Another thing you can do in this regard is creating a strong brand. From getting a logo to revamping your venue’s vibe, there are a number of things you can do to make your bar more recognizable and more profitable.

Offer a healthy variety of drinks

While it’s important to have a specialty or signature drink, you also want to offer a variety of drinks in your cocktail menus to appeal to a wider range of customers. Be sure to have a good selection of beer, wine, and liquor, as well as non-alcoholic options for those who don’t drink or are driving.

Oftentimes, customers will come into a bar with a specific drink in mind. If you don’t have the particular menu item they’re looking for, they may just leave and go to another establishment. By having a good variety of drinks, you can make sure that your customers always find something to their taste and that they’ll keep coming back for more.

Bonus tip: make sure to have food ready, too! Selling food at your bar could increase your profit margins by quite a bit.

Promote happy hour specials

Happy hour is a great way to attract customers and boost business during slow times. Offer discounts on drinks and appetizers during happy hour, and be sure to promote the specials both inside and outside of your bar. This tip for running a profitable bar works especially well in combination with your social media presence. If you let your followers know about your happy hour deals ahead of time, they’re sure to come in and take advantage of them.

Keep your bar clean and organized

No one wants to drink in a dirty bar so it’s important to keep the place clean at all times. This includes everything from wiping down tables and sweeping floors to cleaning bathrooms regularly. You should also have a system in place for dealing with spills quickly and efficiently.

Invest in quality staff

Your bartenders and servers are the face of your business so it’s important to invest in quality staff. Hire friendly and outgoing employees who will make customers feel welcome and comfortable. Additionally, be sure to provide training on customer service and alcohol safety.

Decorate wisely

Your bar’s decoration should reflect the overall atmosphere you’re trying to create. If you want things to be more upscale, invest in quality furniture and fixtures. If you’re going for a dive bar feel, don’t spend too much on fancy décor items. Again, music can play a huge role here. Make sure to choose your playlist carefully because it can really affect how your bar feels.

Make use of technology

Technology can be a great asset for any business. There are a number of ways you can use technology to run a more efficient and profitable business. For example, you can use POS systems to keep track of inventory and sales, or you can install TVs to show big games or sporting events.

Give your employees a voice

Allowing staff members to make anonymous suggestions is a terrific method to give them the confidence to speak up and feel engaged in the bar management process. You can set up a Google form where staff members can anonymously submit suggestions, or you can go the traditional route and use a physical suggestion box. Following that, you can provide suggestions during pre-shift meetings. 

Establish proven systems

Having a well-organized team is essential for success. Your bartenders will always know where certain items are if your back bar and rail are consistently organized. The same holds true for maintaining order in your storage space. On a busy night, not only will it be simpler for your staff to locate the products they require, but ordering and inventory management will also be substantially more straightforward and effective. You can always train your employees better if you have systems in place, too, which will result in happy customers that come back to your venue on a regular basis.


Running a successful bar takes hard work, but it’s certainly not impossible. By following these tips on inventory management, finding good vendors, and creating a welcoming atmosphere, you’ll be well on your way to running a profitable venue that your customers will love spending time in.

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