Keys to Bar Marketing

We are well aware that we have given most of our attention to restaurants and have neglected bars. Much of restaurant marketing applies to bars, but there are differences and additional things to consider.

When you think of restaurants, you can normally organize customers by demographics involving socioeconomic status and proximity. Besides cuisine, price determines a lot of what happens on the plate and in the dining room (of course there is the cool versus classy aspect too). But at its core, the quality and uniqueness of the food, which relates to pricing and branding, affects most of a restaurant’s marketing decision. Bars are a whole different ballgame.

Find Out the Reasons

You should give more importance to WHY the customer has come to your bar in planning your marketing. Partially, this is because bars serve beers and liquor that can normally be found other places. A Budweiser is a Budweiser is a Budweiser. You cannot say the same for Pad Thai or New York Strip Steak.

This is one reason why bars are more about setting. The other is because oftentimes people go to bars to socialize with people they do not know. In contrast, at restaurants, you have a table and a group and you barely ever interact with other customers. Many bars have different etiquette. They can be highly social and an entirely different experience than a restaurant. My main point is your motivation for going to a bar varies greatly while with restaurants it is somewhat simpler (to eat good food)

With bars, the motivations of customers may change at different times in the week, but customers come for a reason and that is vital to bar marketing. I can identify 5 reasons(with many blends)  that make up the bulk of customer behavior. We won’t discuss customers that come for food as restaurant marketing strategies apply. They are:

  1. To look for prospective romantic partners
  2. To watch a sporting event
  3. To enjoy alcohol
  4. To hang out and have fun with friends
  5. To eat (restaurant marketing)

Marketing changes based on these motivations and a bar should consider them separately when planning their marketing. Of course, if there is overlap, they should have promotions that  address the multiple ones.  I’ll focus on promotions for each  in a future article. I want first to help you identify your beer.

Bars for Socializing with New People

Here I’d divide this group up in two. There is the upscale version (normally a cocktail lounge) and then there is the party bar (think college campuses and where customers do bar crawls). Although the interiors definitely differ, in each, customers tend dress up, especially women. These bars do a lot to draw women in.  On the upscale side, cocktails bars focus on style and ambiance, almost verging on a nightclub. These places should have a girls night. It would be better if girls night was adapted to your brand. Party bars, on the other hand, have drinking games. Some include beer pong. They are competing with keggers and house parties. The music tends to be contemporary and normally, loud. Here you see eating contests and all sorts of games that appeal to young drinkers. You’ll find binge drinking and kids acting like kids. Don’t expect too much loyalty. It’s more important to stick out and create buzz.

Sports Bar: All About Them Rooting for Your Bar

A sports bar is a boys club. It doesn’t really matter if the bartender can make a good martini. You may have a pool table or a hand shuffle board or football or darts. Promotions are centered around football games and basketball games, and business is centered around important games. In these bars, good promotions make the bars clubby. The same people show up on Sunday and root for their team. In essence, a sports bar should be focused on creating loyalty. This must come up with different methods than punch cards. Too much investment in acquiring new customers (by being especially cool) is a mistake for the average sports bar. You want people to come back everytime the game is on.

Drinking Bar: Loners and Beer Aficionados

Bars like these tend to come in two types. There is the heavy drinkers bar.  In cities, they were once dive bars before dive bars became cool. These places are built on regulars who frequently come alone and tend to dance with alcoholism. It isn’t a very social place, except customers talk to the bartender, who anchors the bar. Loyalty here is reliable and promotion is normally a waste of time. Just get a good set of bartenders.  The other type is the craft beer bar, a totally different type of experience. It also is alcohol focused, but customers want new beers. This kind of place always has to balance craft beer favorites with bringing in new beers. Craft beer lovers want to try everything and are willing to go to many different bars to try as many beers as possible.

Talking With Friends

This kind of bar normally is a jack of all trades. Pubs fit this category.  Normally, all four things happen here. There is some mixing between people. There is sometimes a game on. There are those that just come to drink. The vast majority however are here because of their friends. They want to hang out and talk. That means having the music too loud is frustrating. They like to eat bar food and play games. Pool tables, foosball and table shuffle board are popular. For them, it is something to do. These kind of bars appeal to people who want to get a drink after work. Couples come out here on first dates and into their relationship. People are there to enjoy other people in their group.

We established what your customers are there for. Other than sports bars, bar owners do not consider this when running promotions. For each, the customers’ behavior is different and the bar owner should anticipate this in planning promotions.