How to Increase Bar Sales
Owning a bar can be a challenging undertaking due to the competitive industry; however, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to run a successful business. The first 1-3 years is a crucial time where bars need to establish their niche and start turning a regular profit with sustainable practices.
If you’re just starting out or are a few years down the line and want to better establish yourself within the market, this article is for you. Here are a few ways you can increase bar sales, bring in a stable revenue stream, and combat minimal or slowing growth.
Identify the reason for slowing growth
If you’ve been in business for a while but are finding that your sales are decreasing and your growth rate is slowing down, the first thing to do is to make sure there aren’t any glaring inefficiencies or market changes causing the problem. A few questions you can ask yourself to rule out this possibility before moving on to looking at how you can grow include:
- Are you offering the products or promotions your consumers want?
- Is there more competition than there used to be?
- Do you have a competitive advantage? What makes your bar different to other bars in the area?
- Are your existing customers happy with your products (drink offerings and food if you serve any)? Would they recommend you to their friends?
- Is your staff happy? How is your employee turnover?
- Does your location or facilities need an upgrade? Are your toilets clean?
- Do you simply need to ramp up your marketing?
- Are finances/business expenses poorly managed?
Decide on how you want to grow
Once you’ve ruled out any of the aforementioned influences and are confident that your business is running smoothly, the next thing to look at it is how you want to grow to increase sales. There are two main ways you can do this:
- Renewing /expanding current bar: this includes revamping your menu, adding more signature drinks and food, or even literally expanding by buying more space.
- Opening a new bar: if you’re operating at maximum capacity at your current location and everything is running smoothly, it might be time to open a second bar.
What to do when renewing/expanding your bar
Catering to your clients is a vital part of running a successful bar. It doesn’t matter how good your drinks or food are, if they aren’t what your customers want then you aren’t going to last very long. If your sales have slowed down because you’re no longer offering what your new and existing customers want, you need to figure out what’s changed.
If you have new competitors with better equipment or an existing competitor expands their menu, look at doing the same to stay on par. Maybe you need to be more enticing by increasing your service offerings. Consider serving food if you currently don’t to cater to more people. If you already do, ensure you have a variety of food that accommodates for food preferences or allergies (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan). Listening to your customers and employees can help you identify the gaps in your current products or services.
Collecting feedback from both customers and employees will help you to understand what parts of your current bar business need to be renewed or upgraded. From your customers, take note of comments around your menu, décor/interior, range of products (should you offer more cocktails, craft beers, house wines, etc.). From your staff, are they complaining about clunky POS systems, glitchy computers, outdated software or old bar equipment?
Customers will compare you to your competition, so keep an eye out for what they’re doing. If there are seasonal promotions, renovations or menu changes that your customers like, consider adding them to your business as well.
If you’re wondering how to get more formal feedback besides eavesdropping or casual “water cooler” chats with employees, ask your customers to leave a review on Facebook/Google. You can do this by leaving your business card on the bar counter with your social media accounts and review pages.
Negotiate with your suppliers
It might take you a while to figure out which suppliers have good customer service and have products you and your customers enjoy. It might also take a while to figure out your regular inventory orders. Once you’ve settled into a rhythm, negotiate better bulk deals with your supplier. There’s a good chance they’ll provide you with a discount because of your reliable orders and loyalty.
Consider not having your expansion store adjacent
If you are interested in expanding the size of your bar, your first reaction will probably be talking to your immediate building neighbours to see if they’d be interested in letting you take over their lease/buy the space from them. If they aren’t willing to give it up or relocate, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Skip over them and widen your search radius to include spaces within a very close walking proximity. It’s possible to open an extension of your bar if it’s in a convenient enough location for your customers.
Plan your renovation period for off-season
Once you’ve found your new addition, it’s time to renovate. Plan your construction period strategically to fall during a natural off-season so you minimise lost profits. Shutting down at the peak of your busy season will make you sacrifice an unnecessary part of your yearly income. Depending on your plans, there is a chance to only shut down part of your bar at a time. This will drag out the construction period significantly, but it’ll allow you to keep your doors open throughout the process. If you do this and need to cut down on your capabilities, make sure to prioritise your most popular drinks and food. Limiting the menu will make it more manageable to function in a smaller space.
Choosing a New Location
Adding on a second or third location is a huge milestone for a bar business. Take all those lessons learned while opening the first one and carry them right on to the next. This includes doing your research. Don’t assume that you can have an exact duplicate of your initial store just in another location. Take the time to study the location by doing the following:
- Analyse your current bar clientele
- Look for areas with a similar market that will suit your second bar location
- Decide if your new bar is going to sell the same, supplementary, or a smaller/wider range of drinks/food compared to your original one?
- Are you going to use this location as additional inventory management for popular drinks/food?
- If you do, factor that into the interior space requirements and determine how much space you need for your inventory as well as how it will be laid out
- What utilities are available? (Where will the bathrooms be located? If your new bar will be standalone – not in a hotel or shared building – having bathrooms in-house is important
- Look around the area to see who your new competition will be
- Consider if the location will give you a high foot traffic
- Figure out if it’s a low crime area as well as what the market prices are for rent (ask nearby stores and consult other property agents to grasp the going rate)
Build Your Brand Online
After taking the time to handpick all the details that are involved in your brick-and-mortar store, extend that same level of care to your brand and business strategy online. While word of mouth is the jackpot of referrals, you first need people to know you exist. To help make it easy for people to find you, make sure your attention to detail carries into these components:
Your website should clearly articulate what sets you apart from other bars and why people should come to yours instead. Having that unique selling proposition (USP) to differentiate you is a key component to being successful, so make sure you know what you’re doing to beat the competition. Once you know, make sure your customers do too!
Along with your value add, your website should include all the following standard information:
- Drink and food offerings
- Contact information
- About the team / business history (Tell the story about how you started, which can lead to your USP (Unique Selling Point))
- Links to your social media accounts
- Current promotions
Google My Business
One way people will find your website is by first googling your name or bars in the area. Google My Business takes all the pertinent information and makes it easy to digest. Information that should be on your account includes:
- Website URL
- NAP: Business Name, Address, Phone
- Opening hours
- Description of your business
- Service area
Social Media Accounts
Social media has unlimited potential for bringing in new customers and reaching a wider audience. Unless your schtick is that you’re offline and off-grid, it should absolutely be part of your marketing strategy. Encourage customers to tag your bar, post while they’re on location, and leave reviews. The people who like your bar will most likely have friends who will also like it. It lets them do the marketing for you. Creating a strong online following will also allow you to stay connected with both old and new customers, share promotions, and give updates on business information. While you’re welcome to put marketing budget into your social platforms to boost your reach, you can execute your marketing strategies and campaigns online for free. Promotion posts or putting up ads online will help you grow much quicker than through organic interest alone.
A complementary platform for keeping in touch with customers is establishing an email list. Emails are another way for you to stay top-of-mind in between visits to your bar. Again, it allows you to push your promotions for free and share seasonal products or discounts. Having online receipts and loyalty programs can be a great way to build that list with new customers.
Bar Business Loans with OnDeck
There is a large amount of capital needed to run a successful bar business. Quite a bit goes into it upfront when you’re just starting out, but there are also times when you might need to invest in your business plan to reach that next level of growth. Bar business loans are one way to get the necessary funding without dipping into all of your existing resources.
In order to acquire additional funding, consider the following:
Understand your credit profile
When looking at a loan application, banks and lenders will reference the applicant’s credit profile to see if it met their qualifications. A credit profile looks at your credit score and report, which comes from your credit history. It helps them determine things like how good you are at paying bills on time or how reliable your income is. Credit scores can also give you a sense of your business’ financial position. Get your business credit score now.
If you’re wondering whether you’re eligible for a small business loan or not, here are key requirements to get a loan with OnDeck:
- Minimum $100,000 gross annual turnover
- Minimum 1 year in business
- Minimum 3 monthly deposits
- No bankruptcy (prior or recent)
- Minimum 500 business credit score
Your purpose for a loan?
There are a variety of different kinds of loans and even more reasons why you might want one for your business. A loan might assist if you’re looking to:
- Purchase inventory
- Hire additional staff
- Start or increase your marketing initiatives
- Expand your store, to a new location or online
- Cushion cash flow in preparation for a slower season
OnDeck offers flexible business loans that solve a need for extra funding. Whether it’s the cost of materials, covering a cash flow shortfall or getting some new equipment for a project, OnDeck can help you.
With an easy online application process, loans of between $10k and $250k, and terms of 6 to 24 months, we make it simple for businesses to get the extra funding they need.
Apply online in minutes at www.ondeck.com.au or call our helpful team on 1800 676 652 today.
Prepared by OnDeck Capital Australia Pty Ltd ABN 28 603 753 215 (“OnDeck”) for general information purposes only. Content may belong or have originated from third parties and OnDeck takes no responsibility for the accuracy, validity, reliability or completeness of any information. Information current as at February 2020. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, financial or any other decisions. Loans issued in Australia are subject to the terms of a loan agreement issued by OnDeck. Loans are subject to lender approval. OnDeck® is a Registered Trademark. All rights reserved.