Tips for Running a Profitable Bar

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When you first ventured into opening a bar, you probably heard horror stories about the industry.  The truth of the matter is, running a successful bar is a tough cookie.  Unless you stay on top of many different aspects of the business, you risk going under and being absorbed by those who are doing it right. 

The following are some tips to not only get ahead of the game, but stay that way:

Stay Stocked

Even though this seems like a complete given, there is somewhat of a science to keeping your bar appropriately stocked.

  • Always make sure your back bar cooler is filled.  There is nothing worse than running out of a certain liquor during a busy rush.
  • Keep tabs on your best sellers, busiest times, and most successful seasons.  That way, you can regulate your ordering with the amount of business you anticipate.  Monitoring your profit and loss statements closely, should help guide you as to what products are successful. 
  • When making major menu changes, start with a small “test phase,” so you’re not stocking up on foods or beverages you may never use.
  • Keep tabs on what the nearby competition is offering, and stay on top of trends.  Consider rolling out a weekly drink special to showcase new flavors, and stock up based on popularity. 
  • Keep the bar stocked with updated equipment, including blenders, shakers, mats, and glassware.  If you don’t already have one, consider purchasing a POS (Point of Sale) system to speed everything up.
  • Always buy your garnishes in bulk, unless it’s for a special drink.

Cost Control

One of the number one ways a bar bleeds out money, is through over pouring.  There are several different types of bar tools you can purchase to ensure the drinks are being made at the correct strength.  This includes items like measured pourers and jiggers.

Choosing heavy based glassware will keep you from losing inventory as well.  It takes less liquid to fill the glass, compared to standard base glassware, and will result in savings over time.  Not to mention, it happens to be a lot classier looking.


Many bar owners simply chalk up entertainment in their bar, to having music or a live band.  The sky is the limit, however, when it comes to breathing some life into your business.  If you don’t have anything set up just yet, study your customer base to try and establish the best fitting activity. 

If there is a great sense of community, perhaps a trivia night would work for your bar.  Are your customers into the local sports?  Why not host a playoff party?  Some other ideas include: speed dating, dart/pool leagues, karaoke, and an open mic night.  Hosting an activity doesn’t have to be costly, so there’s really nothing to lose

Happy hour is a surefire revenue raiser as well.  Some form of it should always be offered during down times, given your state laws allow for it.  Make sure no matter what event you choose to host, you market it accordingly.  There’s no point in putting in the work, if no one knows about it. 

TapHunter is a great program that will not only advertise your event on their app and website, but they will also automatically send out social media blasts from your twitter about your event. Additionally, they can help you display the event on a digital menu, right from your bar TV.

No matter how you choose to go about cementing the success of your bar, make sure you are including some of these key factors in your game plan.  Watch your numbers, manage your inventory, and market accordingly.  This will only serve to ensure you have a revolving door of revenue, and a happy customer base.