If you just stick to the same old drinks every bartender should know, you'll have a hard time standing out in today's bar and nightclub market. There are hundreds of competitors and everyone seems to have the most popular cocktails and promotions covered: trivia, bingo, darts, bags, etc. Don't get us wrong, they're all fun ideas with potential. But they don't create a lasting memory in an environment with so many similar experiences.
Here are some unique, clever bar promotion ideas. Ideas for bars that you haven’t heard of yet. Don't be afraid to pair these with tried and true seasonal cocktails such as our recommended spring cocktails, summer cocktails, fall cocktails, and winter cocktails.
So let's look at two specific types of bar promotion ideas: bar marketing ideas and bar event ideas. And all of them are surefire bar promotion ideas to get people in the door and increase your bar profitability. All of these ideas can work for happy hours, but we've also got a post with some specific happy hour drink ideas.
Bar Marketing Strategies and Ideas
Marketing is never an easy endeavor, but it’s even tougher in a congested market. Bars are also always facing dozens of competitors, if not more. This means your ability to sell your bar and the experience customers have there is key.
With that in mind, here are a few bar marketing strategies and ideas to help you stand out:
Use Locally Sourced Ingredients
One easy way to position and market your business is as a supporter of other local businesses. Depending on where you’re located, you can buy fruits from nearby farms, alcohol from local brewers, and more. You can not only buy local garnishes and ingredients for a lower cost and use those ingredients to create drinks you can advertise as such. Even better, you can charge a premium for these drinks. It’s truly a win-win marketing strategy.
Use Referral Marketing
Once upon a time, this meant actual word-of-mouth. In today’s online world, it’s actually a focus on reviews left on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google. Not only do you need to ensure you’re providing a quality experience in purpose, but you should be engaging with both positive and negative reviews. YOu should take the time to apologize to anyone who left a negative review and respond with how you’ll work on making it a better experience. Also, thank the positive reviewers and tell them you hope to see them again soon. Engagement online goes a long way in attracting traffic to your bar and establishing yourself as a caring business owner.
Use Social Media Marketing
It’s not just eCommerce businesses that get benefits from using social media platforms for marketing. You can reach new audiences and sell your experience more easily on social media than on any other type of advertising platform. Put a little time into taking good photos and target the right audience, and you can easily increase sales. You can also use the platforms to engage with customers and build longer-lasting relationships that will drive sales in the long-term.
Book Bands for Live Music
Live music has always been, and will always be, a strong marketing tool for bars and restaurants. Studies show that loud music increases bar sales. Live music also draws in crowds and keeps your customers from going to a competing spot. You can seek out popular, local bands if they’re your target market or invest in bringing larger acts to your venue. Speak with your existing customers and perform some market research to see what type of music would work best for your bar or restaurant.
Bar Event Ideas
The following are bar event ideas that don’t necessarily have to be associated with drink specials. Though combining drink special ideas for bars and bar event ideas is a great idea.
Here are some unique bar event ideas:
A pop-up is an outside business that operates in a temporary location for a short period of time. It can be a local restaurant, a homebrewing supplier, or a clothing store. In this case, the temporary location is your bar and the period of time is an evening.
You’re giving your customers direct, exclusive access to a product. And you’re building bridges in the business community. Restaurant pop-ups work particularly well in bars that have no or a limited food menu and it helps mitigate high overhead expenses.
Catch Night Owls
Bar traffic tends to die down around 10 p.m. But! 41% of bar-goers between the age of 21 to 34 say late night specials are “very important” to their decision of whether or not to visit a bar or restaurant later at night.
A late night happy hour running from 10 p.m. to midnight is a great way to get younger folks in the door and sell more happy hour drinks. Or keep the folks from the previous rush sticking around. Just make sure you know what is happy hour and the best happy hour times.
Get a bunch of board games and keep them stacked somewhere visible. Letting folks grab a board game and play for free creates a chill, leisurely vibe.
Once you get a fair amount of gamers in, think about having a tournament. Quick and classic games like Connect 4 and Guess Who make for hilarious and fun elimination tournaments over the course of a few hours.
Astronomical and Meteorological Events
There are lots of goofy “official” holidays now, but here’s a better idea. Celebrate the world—nay, the universe!—around you and host bar events based on astronomical or meteorological events.
Some examples? Celebrate the winter solstice in December (the longest night of the year) by serving a black-colored cocktail made with black raspberry syrup. Host a summer-kickoff party and discount summery drinks the first time the temperature hits 70 or 80 degrees.
For 13 long years alcohol was illegal in the U.S. Related to the last bar event idea, you can celebrate important events from the past. Prohibition in the U.S. ended on December 5th, 1933. Host a bar event to celebrate the end of prohibition and serve drinks they drank in the early 30s.
How about the day we landed on the moon? Or the anniversary of the release of The Little Mermaid. From the history of drinking to pop culture to space travel, there are countless reasons to celebrate. The stranger and more memorable, the better.
Partner with a charity and donate a percentage of the night’s revenue to it. This has particular potential if it’s a pet-themed charity.
Your bar could partner with a local humane society, donate to it, and host an adoption event the same night. Even if no pups find a home, it’ll be fun to have a bunch of smiling dogs in your bar for a while. And the folks buying drinks and donating to the cause to see the beneficiaries of their charity. This is also a great opportunity to upsell!
Paint and Sip
Ok, you may have heard of this bar promotion idea before. But with good reason. They’re fun and people love them. We calculated that you’ll need an initial investment of about $180 to get up and running with a paint and sip event. And if that bar promotion brings in only 10 new people, you’ll recoup that investment after the 1st event.
The painting instruction itself is free. There are countless beginner painting tutorials on YouTube. And a pain and sip bar event is especially fun if you use a goofy one. Another version of this is our inimitable Bob Ross Painting Night.
Live Movie Screenings
Screen cult classics that are so bad they’re good. Something ridiculous that nobody has to pay too much attention to. They can just laugh at the bad acting, silly sets, or crazy costumes.
Or screen classics that are so good they’re good. Movies that everyone knows so nobody has to pay too much attention. Until the best parts come along, then people will laugh and clap and cheer. And order more drinks because they’re having so much fun.
The important thing is that you don’t want a movie that’ll turn your bar into a dark, quiet movie theater. You want people primarily reacting to the movie, not watching it intently. It should be raucous!
Hosting a story night is the down-to-earth, genuine version of standup comedy. Have guests sign up to tell a 3-5 minute story about their lives, which they’ll do like it’s an open mic night.
It’ll create a fun, intimate environment and start to build a community. And that community will come to identify with your bar. They’ll be happy to spend money there and support it.
And Those Are Some Clever Bar Promotions!
There you have it! 17 bar promotion ideas—both drink special ideas for bars and bar event ideas—to help drive traffic and boost profits. If none of these seem like a good fit for your bar, hopefully they gave you some inspiration to come up with your own version. Find ways to offset your cost of goods sold and prime cost and build your business. You can even create a dedicated section in your menu to promote your daily or weekly specials. Using a QR code for a restaurant menu or bar menu will let you update that section on the fly without having to reprint paper menus all the time. Embrace restaurant SEO. That's a lot of flexibility to be creative. And a lot of opportunity to make money.
Another way to boost your bar’s profitability is taking beverage inventory management out of the equation. Using a bar inventory system like BinWise Pro will turn manual inventory counting into a series of quick scans. It'll also give your bar tons of inventory data to help you make the most profitable ordering, pricing, and management decisions.