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Matthew Krimmel

Are Bars Profitable? 10 Average Bar Profit Margin Facts

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The bar and nightclub industry is a huge, growing market and opening a bar can look attractive. But how much do bars make? And does that profitability trickle down into bar manager salary and how much bar owners make? Let’s figure it out.

First, we’ll look at the costs of opening and operating a bar, then at the average profit margin for a bar (the most important restaurant KPI).

Finally, we’ll cover how much bar owners make a year and whether or not opening a bar is a good investment.

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How Much Does Opening a Bar Cost?

The average cost of opening a bar is $420,000. The average cost of opening and running a bar for the first year is about $710,400.

These numbers consider the cost of both renting/leasing and buying and labor cost. They also include the cost associated with how to get a liquor license. They’re meant to give a ballpark figure regardless of how you secure a property and play a major role in your P&l restaurant statement.

How Much Does Operating a Bar Cost?

It costs about $24,200 per month in recurring operating costs to run a bar. It includes alcohol costs, staff wages, licensing fees, and rent or mortgage payments. This is also called the prime cost.

It's important to learn how to manage cost for restaurant business to succeed.

What’s the Average Profit Margin for a Bar?

The average gross profit margin for a bar is between 70 and 80%. That's enormous considering businesses like general retail and automotive are around 25%.

And that's mostly because of liquor cost. A beverage program with low pour cost is the beating heart of a profitable bar or restaurant.

The average net profit margin for a bar is between 10 and 15%. The gross profit margin is the difference between total restaurant sales revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS). The net profit margin is what’s left of the gross profit margin after all operating expenses have been taken care of.

This number depends on the type of bar you’re running, though. Let’s look specifically at wine bars, pubs, and bar and grills.

What Is the Average Wine Bar Profit Margin?

You can expect a net profit margin of around 7–10% for a wine bar- just a little less than a standard bar. But that can increase considerably if you open a wine bar and wine shop. On one side of the space, guests can drink wine. And on the other side of the space, they can buy bottles of wine.

The gross profit margin on a wine shop will be smaller than a wine bar, but the net profit margin will be a little higher. That's because you’ll likely be selling more wine bottles through retail than you’ll be serving at the bar.

Wine itself has a higher average pour cost than beer and liquor pour cost. But a wine bar has fewer overhead expenses and markup can be substantial for both wine by the glass and wine price. Read more about how to price a menu.

There’s no expensive draft beer system to maintain—and no having to calculate how many beers in a keg for inventory purposes—and less bar equipment is needed. Think a three-compartment sink, an ice bin, etc.

The wine industry is one of the brightest spots in the bar industry. The wine industry growth rate is substantial, and you can be forgiven for wanting to enter the space.

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What Is the Average Profit Margin for a Bar and Grill?

Food has a lower profit margin than alcohol. Restaurants typically fall between 3–5% net profit margin.

Food is not marked up as much as alcohol. And the overhead cost of maintaining a kitchen, licensing, and skilled food service workers are substantial. Using LTO (see LTO meaning) bar promotions like happy hour can increase this margin. Just make sure you know what happy hour is and the best happy hour times.

Subtracting the average restaurant net profit margin from a bar’s average net profit margin, the average net profit margin for a bar and grill is about 7–10%.

What Are Average Pub Profit Margins?

The profit margins on a pub stick pretty close to industry averages for bars, which is between 10 to 15% net profit margin.

Beer pricing and alcohol pricing are the sources of most pub profits. This is assuming your pub doesn’t serve food. If your pub serves food, that puts you closer to the profit margins of a bar and grill.

Also, if you serve food, another profit lever to pull is experimenting with different types of menus and limiting food cost.

So how much can a bar owner expect to take home?

How Much Does a Bar Owner Make?

The average bar revenue is $27,500 per month, which translates to an average of $330,000 annual revenue. Average monthly bar expenses are $24,200. That leaves about $39,600 net profit annually.

A bar owner's yearly salary will be drawn from, or be, the bar’s net profit margin. If a bar owner takes all the net profit, instead of reinvesting some of it back into the bar, the average bar owner makes just shy of $40,000 per year.

Those numbers are based on a 12.5% net profit margin, the average between 10 and 15%. And an annual revenue of $330,000. If revenue is higher, you can approximate the salary using these numbers.

Is Opening a Bar a Good Investment?

Yes, opening a bar can be a good investment. The average net profit of a successful bar is more than the average annual return from the stock market. Which is the best frame of reference for determining if an investment is good.

Over the last century, the stock market has returned an average of 10% on investments. You lose about 2.5% of your purchasing power annually due to inflation. That means you can expect an effective return of 7.5% annually from the stock market.

This does not take into account the large upfront costs opening a bar requires, though. This only takes into account annual profits once a bar is up and running.

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Pros and Cons of Owning a Bar

Reasons to Open Your Own Bar

  • Successful bars have a higher average annual return than the stock market.
  • You’ll be providing enjoyment and creating a safe neighborhood space where people can relax. That’s a net positive for humanity.
  • Your bar will be an employer. You’ll be helping your neighborhood, your town, and your local population develop.
  • The upside is very high. If your bar is popular, your net profit margin ceiling is higher than an average mutual fund.
  • If you and your staff know how to upsell, profits can skyrocket.
  • You’ll be earning a living doing what you like in a fun environment. And you already read how much does a bar owner make!
  • It’s the opposite of a desk job. From designing the bar’s layout to its theme and specials, no day will be the same.
  • You need to know how to manage a restaurant balance sheet.

Problems with Owning a Bar

  • It’s a job, not a passive investment. At least in the early stages. You’ll have to dedicate time to make your bar a success. And that means a whole lot of bar and restaurant cleaning and bar inventory work.
  • It requires a large up-front investment, which can be a formidable barrier to entry.
  • Operational costs are high. You've got to spend money to make money!
  • A restaurant marketing plan—including restaurant SEO—takes consistent effort
  • You have to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. At least initially.
  • There is a high restaurant failure rate, so you need to stay on top of things to make it

Bar Profits In 2024 and Beyond

The market size of the bar industry is expected to increase by 14.1% in 2024. This is a positive sign for anyone in the bar industry, or anyone looking to get into the bar industry. It means people are looking to get out to bars even more. For bar owners, now’s the time to look into this projected growth. It'll help you see what you can do to prepare for 2024 bar profits that will help you grow your business.

2024 bar profits are looking up in part because in many places rules are easing around the pandemic and rules around gathering and masking. With these eased rules, a lot of people are excited to get back out into the world safely and enjoy some time in bars. For bar owners and operators, strategizing right now is a great way to increase your bar profit margin. One great step to boost your bar profits is to look into the most profitable bar food you can serve. While classics like burgers and fries will never go out of style, 2024 is the year to really branch out. Some great options to try out are:

  • Stunt food trends - customers will be looking for foods they can share on social media
  • Comfort food options - we all need some cheese fries and a shake after the last few years
  • Well-garnished cocktails - not technically snack, but bigger, bolder cocktails are claiming some fame this year

Expanding your menu to include these snacks and treats will help you boost your bar profits this year.

In 2024, bars will already need to adapt to some changes in the semi-post pandemic time we’re in. That means it's the perfect time to check on bar profit plans and find new ways to increase bar profits. From finding new bar foods to sell to new drink offers to changing the structure of the business overall. 2024 is the year to switch things up. You'll be able to increase the bar profit margin as more and more people come back out and into the bars.

How to Scale and Grow a Bar Business

The goals of most businesses are to grow their operations and to increase their profits and revenue. In the paragraphs above, we’ve answered the questions ‘Are bars profitable’ and ‘How much do bar owners make’. Now let’s examine some of the ways owners can scale and grow their bar business.

  1. Offer food. Not all bars can have a kitchen and offer food products. Even if your establishment is unable to prepare food, you can always offer things like nuts or chips. Alternatively, you can partner with other nearby establishments that can take care of the food for your customers.
    By offering food, bars can significantly increase the average spending of their customers. Furthermore, people are less likely to order more drinks if they’re hungry. Instead, they might prefer to leave and visit another establishment.
  2. Organize events. The first days of the week are traditionally considered to be slow nights. That is not always the case though. Some bars organize various types of events that help them bring customers to their establishments. Examples of such events can be open mic sessions, comedy nights, trivia quiz nights, bar Olympics, tasting events, or singles nights. So, are bars profitable during weekdays? They absolutely can be!
  3. Start a chain. If you already operate a successful bar business, you can open another location. It’s possible for the second location to have a different style depending on the region, the potential customers, and the nearby competition. The main benefit of starting a chain of bars or food service businesses is that the foundation is already established. The brand already exists and your loyal customers might be interested in visiting other locations operated by your business.

Frequently Asked Questions About General Bar Profitability

What is the average restaurant profit margin?

The range for average restaurant profit margins typically lies between 0-15% but the average restaurant profit margin usually falls between 3-5%. The average profit margin for restaurants is impacted by a number of factors, such as average cost per customer and type of restaurant.

What restaurant has the highest profit margin?

The following are the six most profitable restaurant types:

1- Bar

2- Diner

3- Food truck

4- Delivery-only restaurant

5- Pizzeria

6- Italian restaurant

What is a good ROI for a restaurant?

Generally, a good ROI for a restaurant ranges from 15-25%. Some of the most successful restaurants have a profit margin of around 30 to 35%.

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So, Are Bars Profitable?

Like most big questions, the answer is nuanced. Once you're past breaking even, profitability is relative. There are pros and cons to opening a bar. The net profit margin is variable. And you have to compare it to the baseline of an investment in the stock market.

There is one thing that's not complicated, though. When you open your bar, the best chance of increasing the bar’s profit margins is getting a hold of liquor inventory control. That’s why any bar manager or owner who wants to run a serious business should use liquor inventory software like BinWise Pro.

It saves bars literal days taking inventory. And it provides bars with inventory metrics like pour cost and par levels and tools like a variance calculator. All to help bars make the most profitable decisions possible. We can even teach you how to calculate ROI.

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