Generating revenue in a bar often poses difficulties for owners because encouraging excessive drinking generates liability risks and makes a bar one dimensional. Some managers feel that promoting food service could hurt alcohol sales and discourage the special camaraderie that people go to bars enjoy. However, certain foods fit into the bar atmosphere and provide a unique marketing opportunity.
Selecting Foods that Excite Bar Patrons
People are usually willing to spend more for high-quality bar foods that complement sports, tête-à-tête rendezvous and relaxation after rough times at work. The service and clientele of a bar help to determine what kind of food to serve. Upscale martini bars might opt for gourmet foodstuffs like pork-centric delicacies, freshly baked baguettes with signature toppings, veggie sliders or healthful alternatives to calorie-rich, fatty foods.
- Bistro food does well in mid-to-upscale bars and includes such classics as onion tarts, French onion soup, herb omelets, croque monsieur and steak au poivre.
- Neighborhood bars can experiment with classic fried foods and signature burgers, but owners might consider offering signature pizzas, flat-breads with vegetarian ingredients, ethnic specialties or locally sourced meats and produce.
- Specialty soups, stews and chili dishes build loyalty in all types of bars.
- Consider high-end foods that pair well with fine wines such as items like duck confit, cassoulet, specialty sausages, upscale appetizers and quality cheese plates.
Meeting Food Sales Requirements for Liquor Licenses
Many states and localities require that bars sell a certain percentage of gross sales in food. Research local laws and licensing requirements to ensure that food sales targets are met or exceeded. In smaller bars, managers might be limited to what they can comfortably serve. Counter-top models of traditional equipment save space while allowing convenient food preparation when bartenders must also function as chefs.
- Choose counter-top models of microwaves, fryers, pizza ovens, griddles and panini grills.
- Slow-cookers are ideal for holding soups and stews throughout bar service.
- Check to see if the equipment requires using a ventilation hood by consulting the local fire and health departments.
- Menu costing and getting customer profiles through loyalty programs can help menu planners make better decisions when choosing foods for the bar.
Make Food Reflect Concept and Style of Bar
People in bars have certain expectations, and sometimes those expectations preclude ordering food. Managers can prove customers mistaken by consistently serving quick and attractive food, training bartenders and servers to take food orders cheerfully and clearing tables and counters as quickly as servers in high-quality restaurants.
- Train bartenders to know the menu, ingredients, daily specials and basic nutritional information.
- Make knowledgeable recommendations on pairing wine, beers and mixed drinks with complementary food choices.
- Knowing the most profitable and popular foods helps servers make profitable suggestions.
- Not all bars can offer a full menu, but pick several key sales points for bartenders to use when pushing limited food offerings.
- Food that is ordered at the bar should be served at the bar unless the customer requests to sit at a table.
Choosing foods that match the bar’s concept can be tricky because each customer might have a slightly different idea of what kind of bar he or she is patronizing. Offer a few dishes outside of the concept. For example, a high-end bar might offer a few classic fried foods while a neighborhood bar might include some upscale dishes. In all bars, guests are more likely to appreciate organic foods, local ingredients, vegetarian options and healthier food choices.
Bars can offer reward programs that include discounts on food sales to reward customers without encouraging excessive alcohol consumption and to encourage people to order food while unwinding or celebrating. Offering smoothly prepared and interesting dishes, changing menus periodically and featuring items that are popular with local patrons will stimulate sales of food, enhance profits and keep customers happy and responsible when consuming alcohol.