There are many components that go into running a successful bar or restaurant. You want your customers to have a great experience. You want to be consistently busy. And of course, you want to run a profitable business.
The bar and restaurant business is highly competitive – you need to attract customers to have a drink and dine at your establishment, giving them a unique experience so they keep coming back and choosing you over the competition.
Success also means running your business smoothly and efficiently, with employees who are well trained in customer service.
Here are 8 tips that can make your bar or restaurant a success:
Table of Contents
1. What’s Your Unique Selling Point?
In order to be a success, you need to have a unique selling point. What’s the concept of your business that’s going to make you different from any other bar or restaurant? It’s important to have a unique concept that’s going to help you reach your target customers and make them want to keep coming back.
The first thing you need to do is define your brand, which includes the type of food you’re serving and the culture of your business. Is your bar menu filled with craft beers and local wines? Are the dishes coming out of your kitchen distinctive and exceptional to you?
Once you have a clear picture of what your unique selling point is all about, you can focus on marketing to the customers you want to reach.
2. Create a Successful Menu
One of the biggest mistakes bars and restaurants make is having a large menu. It may be tempting to have a wide variety of drinks and foods with the goal of having something on the menu for everyone. But a menu with too many items loses focus of what you’re trying to achieve – to sell great drinks and food and provide excellent customer service. Here’s what a smaller menu can do for your business:
- Fewer items on the menu allow you to concentrate on those drinks and foods that reinforce your bar or restaurant concept.
- A smaller menu makes it easier and faster for customers to make decisions.
- Servers are more knowledgeable about the items on a smaller menu and able to make helpful recommendations to customers.
- Bar and kitchen are more efficient when they have fewer items to prepare.
There are some items that your menu should have, but you’ll be able to maintain quality and see profits if you have a smaller menu that you execute well.
3. Cost and Pricing Strategy
One of the most important factors for a bar or restaurant to be successful is an effective cost and pricing strategy. Your drinks and food items need to be in demand by your customers and they need to be competitively priced. The prices you charge have to allow your business to operate in the profit zone while at the same time providing your customers with great quality and value for what they’re buying.
The pricing of your menu items needs to be done based on your beverage and food costs. Don’t just come up with a price based on what you think might be profitable. Calculate your food costs accurately, determine your profit margin, and then price your menu items accordingly.
It’s also crucial that you understand the market and what your competition is charging. Without a good understanding of both the market and your competition, you’ll never know if your menu prices are too high or too low. If you’re charging more than your competition, re-evaluate your profit margin. You may have to lower the margin slightly to stay competitive.
Another point that matters when it comes to pricing is the frequent changes in food costs. Prices in the food industry are always changing, often without you knowing. Review every invoice carefully, making note of price changes. When the cost of an ingredient goes up, you’ll need to adapt your menu pricing to reflect the change.
4. Portioning and Controls
Portion control is important to maintain a profitable cost and pricing strategy. When drinks and food are inconsistently prepared, you lose control of your inventory and price costs. Remember that your bar staff should not only be doing weekly inventory, they should also be doing an opening and closing inventory at the start and end of their shift.
Drinks need to be consistently poured with the same amount of alcohol and mix – have your bartenders use jiggers or a shot glass with every drink they pour. Another solution to portion control with drinks is to use measured pour spouts to maintain consistency and keep bartenders from over-pouring.
Food also needs to be consistent. It needs to be portioned so that every item is the same each time it’s prepared and comes out of the kitchen. If possible, pre-portion all food so that there’s no question as to the amount of each ingredient that’s being used in a dish.
5. Inventory Planning
Managing inventory is mandatory for any bar or restaurant. If you don’t know what stock you have at any given time, you’re at risk for food waste, food spoilage, or running out of key items. Regularly taking inventory will save you money, increase your business efficiency, and keep your bottom line in check. Plan on doing a weekly inventory of all items – your goal is to streamline your inventory management so you can control food costs.
Follow these guidelines for inventory planning:
- Keep a low-stock inventory policy by having a minimum inventory on hand until your next food shipment. This lets you avoid spoilage and waste that comes with overstocking.
- Keep track of all food and product inventory either manually or by using inventory management software.
- Use the concept of first in, first out (FIFO) to ensure that you’re always using older items before new. This prevents spoilage or items reaching their expiration date before you use them.
- Hold staff accountable for any inventory that they move. Develop a checklist method for inventory control. Employees need to sign for any item they take from your stockroom, fridge, or freezer.
- Be organized and precise. Doing weekly inventory is much easier when you know where everything is.
- For liquor inventory, it’s not just the bottles in your storeroom that need to be counted – count all bottles at the front of the bar and include them for accurate inventory management.
6. Management With POS Software
Operating a successful bar or restaurant means paying attention to every order and sale that happens at any time. Point of sale (POS) software not only keeps track of every transaction in your business and monitors your sales, it also keeps track of customer orders, helps you manage your inventory, and can provide reports with valuable data about your sales.
Here’s why the most successful bars and restaurants use a POS system:
Orders entered into POS software can be directed to the kitchen or to the bar, avoiding miscommunication and delay of orders.
A POS system links your front of house with the bar and kitchen. This means that every order your servers enter into the system is completely accurate.
POS software allows for accurate and immediate update of your inventory. You’ll be able to determine what items are selling and those that aren’t. This information can help you identify any menu changes you might need to make. Add new beverages and foods that are in demand and take low selling items off the menu.
With a POS system you can keep track of employees – you’ll know when they start, what orders they’re placing, and how long it takes them to complete service to a table.
7. Have Knowledgeable and Trained Employees
Having the right staff for your business is another key to your success. Even when you think that you’ve hired the right team, they need to be trained. This includes training within their specific job description, such as bartenders, servers, and kitchen staff.
It’s not just the job itself that your employees will need to know how to do – they should also be trained in providing excellent service to your customers. Some of the key points for great customer service include:
- Greet customers and make them feel welcome. This a good way to reinforce your unique selling point and atmosphere of your bar or restaurant.
- Deal quickly and politely with complaints. Unhappy customers need a solution to their complaint. Train your employees to patiently listen to what customers have to say so they can accurately relay the information back to you or a manager. Even when there is no solution, being responsive and respectful goes a long way in good service.
- Be consistent in service. Your loyal customers will come to expect polite and efficient service from your employees even on those nights when you’re short staffed.
It’s also important that your employees are knowledgeable and familiar with each and every item on the menu. The more servers know about the menu and what’s on it, the more comfortable they’ll be to suggest beverages and food dishes to your customers. This should include what ingredients are in a drink or dish, how it’s prepared, and how large the serving is. Servers also need to be well prepped with information about any specials that aren’t on the menu.
8. Preventing Theft
Every bar and restaurant will at some time experience some level of theft. This can mean everything from employees giving away free drinks to stealing alcohol and food. Theft can cost you thousands of dollars in damage – make it clear to your employees exactly what theft means and that it’s grounds for immediate dismissal.
Despite warnings, some employees will still take the risk and steal from your business. Here are a few of the ways you can prevent theft:
- Install security cameras, letting employees know that you regularly review security footage.
- Monitor POS reports. Let your staff know you’re auditing POS data, checking for any indication of suspicious activity.
- Lock up alcohol and limit keys to managers and head bartenders.
- Restrict employee access. Know which of your employees have keys and passcodes.
- Maintain a positive work atmosphere. Numerous reports show that employees who are happy at work are less likely to steal from where they work.
Another way to prevent theft in your bar is by using video auditing technology like Glimpse that integrates with your POS system to compare your sales with the products that are moved across the bar.
Running a profitable bar or restaurant takes time and effort. Using some of the tips here, you’re on your way to running a successful business that you can be proud of.