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What Customers Want from a Bar (Tips & Consumer Trends)

Going out to a bar to grab drinks is still one of America’s adult population’s favorite pastimes. However, the public’s taste is constantly evolving, and for that reason, America’s bars must also evolve and improve their establishment to meet customers’ desires and needs if they want to be successful in a competitive industry.

No one bar customer is the same as another, and one bar that appeals to one person might be avoided at all costs by another. Nevertheless, it is possible to track general trends and find methods that are appealing to a large amount of the bar-going public.

In this article, we begin with some of the more general things that customers are looking for in a bar. Next, we move on to more recent consumer trends. Finally, we end the article with some tips for making your bar as successful as possible.

The basics: What nearly all consumers are looking for in a bar

1. Smile

This should be a given, but you wouldn’t believe how many people forget to do this when working behind the bar. You basically want to give off the impression that your staff is not only happy to be there but happy to be doing their job, as well. Know that if you have a host/hostess, they are responsible for these first impressions, for the entire team.

2. A Genuine Greeting

There’s nothing worse than walking into a new establishment and being completely ignored. First impressions are everything, and if you miss the opportunity to give a genuine greeting, you risk losing the repeat business.

A “genuine,” greeting means it shouldn’t sound forced, and the bartender or staff member should be honestly greeting the customer, and inquiring about their day. Greeting the customer correctly sets the tone for the rest of their visit.

3. Cleanliness

No one ever wants to sit at a messy bar for long. Cleaning should be an all-day, everyday, ongoing process. Bartenders should be wiping bottles during downtime, sweeping, cleaning water spots on glasses, etc. Establish a routine for every staff member that includes some aspect of cleaning, so your establishment is always in tiptop shape.

4. Available staff

When customers enter the bar, they want to see someone behind it. Seconds seem like hours when your bartender is absent. Staff should have well-defined breaks, and be kept busy at all times. Your customers should never have to get up to look or inquire about assistance, no matter how slow the bar is.

5. Knowledgeable staff

If you have a customer that wants to venture out of their comfort zone and try a new craft beer or cocktail, it is absolutely imperative that your staff is knowledgeable about the products, to make the best recommendation. Nothing impresses customers more than discovering a new drink based on the knowledge of your staff.

Hosting a pairing dinner for employees is a great way to introduce them to all of the products you offer, and what goes together well. Make sure that staff is making useful suggestions. If someone asks “What’s good here?” the response should never be “everything.” It’s much too vague, and it makes your employees look uninformed.

6. Choices

Although picky customers and substitutions can be difficult, there’s no better way to ensure repeat business, than when you give people choices. The littlest things like light dressing for a salad, or an extra olive in a Bloody Mary, will go a lot further than you’d think. People tend to remember places that make them feel catered to.

7. Entertainment

Adding some entertainment on digital screens like televisions can really improve the customer experience. What to show to your clientele will largely depend on what type of bar you are running. If you are a sports bar, showing the biggest games on television is a must.

Additionally, you might want to consider showing pay-per-view fights, since watching these fights can be expensive for people to do in their homes. Your establishment will more than makeup for the cost with the drinks and food your customers order while watching the fight. If you are not a sports bar, less involved content like music videos can really liven up a bar.

Recent Consumer Trends

In recent years, drinking habits across the globe have shifted dramatically. Each year brings new trends that push the bar industry into new directions and usher in even more changes.

Recently, consumers have generally become more focused on what they put into their bodies, resulting in a growing interest in health-conscious products. Below, we'll investigate some of the most popular trends that you and your bar can embrace.

1. Cannabis Beverages

Relatively new to the market, THC-infused cannabis beverages have seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the past year and is projected to continue growing throughout 2022. Available in beer, wine, seltzer, soda, and even powder form, these beverages give customers more control over the effect their drinks have on them.

Similar to alcohol, the effects of cannabis beverages can be felt in as little as 15 minutes, but the key difference is how long they last. Although it can vary depending on the type of drink, cannabis beverages generally wear off faster than alcohol, providing a sessionable alternative for your bar. If these drinks are permitted in your state, you can make the most of this trend by adding a selection of cannabis beverages to your menu.

2. Hard Kombucha

Although the fermentation process leaves all kombucha with a small percentage of alcohol in it, hard kombucha is intentionally fermented longer. As a result, the beverage has a higher alcohol content, with some variations of the drink containing as low as 4% alcohol while others can reach upwards of 8% alcohol.

It’s important to note that while hard kombucha has several of the health benefits of regular kombucha, such as being rich in antioxidants and containing fewer carbs, it isn’t as rich in probiotics as its non-alcoholic counterpart. Probiotics, known as the good bacteria contained in yeasts, are typically present in kombucha. However, the high alcohol content of the drink causes them to die off.

Since hard kombucha is a different type of drink than the others you may offer, consider creating a hard kombucha section on your menu. This way, health-conscious guests will be able to easily identify and order it.

3. Organic Wine

The key difference between normal wine and organic wine is that the latter is made exclusively with organically farmed grapes. It’s important to note that many organic wines can still contain additives such as yeast, egg whites, and animal enzymes. In general, organic wines contain higher concentrations of antioxidants and anthocyanins, making them a healthier alternative to traditional wines.

The shift towards a focus on organic wine is driven by both wine producers and consumers. Many wine producers find themselves compelled to pursue organic production methods as a necessity, as the long-term results of growing organic grapes can lead to healthier land.

Furthermore, they are motivated by consumer demand, with organic wines representing healthier, eco-friendly alternative. To take advantage of this trend, be sure to clearly identify which wines in your selection are organic. This way, customers who are already looking for them can easily find them, while those who may not have been aware of organic wine may consider trying it.

4. Local Flavors

Microbreweries are small breweries that produce limited amounts of alcohol, usually specialty and craft beer, and typically only sell around their local area. If you haven’t already, look up the breweries near you and try out their products. A local selection and some good storytelling from your staff are likely to keep your customers coming back for more.

5. Mocktails

Although mocktails aren’t a new creation, the increased popularity of non-alcoholic spirits has led to an increase in their demand. In many cases, mocktails are fashioned after their alcoholic counterparts.

Additionally, it’s important to note that although these drinks do not contain alcohol, there should be just as much focus and care put into the drink as there would be a normal cocktail.

To embrace this trend, consider adding several different non-alcoholic spirits to your bar. This will allow your bartenders to create a variety of mocktails, giving your customers several options to choose from.

6. Self-service Systems

The past few years have seen the rise of self-service systems in bars, positioned as a way to streamline operations. Many establishments are starting to offer self-pour beer, alcohol vending machines, and cocktails on tap.

These are all innovative ways to reduce service times and achieve higher efficiency without relying on labor. Customers can pay for and pour their own drinks without lining up at the bar, like in self-checkout lanes at supermarkets.

Tips for Running a Successful Bar

1. Focus on Your Online Experience

For many prospective customers, their first impression of your bar will be your website. It is important to consider the online experience of your website visitors and make sure that you have an appealing and user-friendly site. They should be able to easily view the menu and other important information on their smartphone or other mobile devices.

Moreover, a strong online presence is especially helpful to connect with people who are searching for venues to host special events, including corporate holiday parties, birthdays, anniversaries, and more.

2. Make Your Bar Unique

No detail should be overlooked when you are trying to personalize your bar. Everything from interior decor to the dinner and glassware can help bring out the personality of your bar. This can be an effective approach if you have a smaller venue that is catering to a specific clientele. Creating a unique atmosphere can help win over and retain regular customers.

3. Games, Discounts, and Themed Nights

Customers are often looking for more than just a good cocktail. They want to socialize with friends and interact with new people. Game nights and other themed events can help stimulate interest, especially on weeknights when business can be slow. Even offering a discount on certain drinks or during a certain time period, such as a happy hour, can be enough to increase foot traffic.

4. Integrate Digital Signage

Digital signage is the use of digital displays, such as televisions and LED walls, paired with a digital signage solution, to display digital content. The content you can show with digital signage is many and varied, including eye-catching images, social media feeds, entertaining content, digital menu boards, promotions, animations, apps, and interactive content.

There are so many benefits that a bar can reap from integrating a digital signage system from a reputable company like loop. From better marketing to increasing foot traffic and sales to improving the customer experience and promoting customer engagement, digital signage is becoming a staple of the most successful bars.

5. Generate Referrals

Today’s customers are used to looking at Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook to read customer reviews. That makes it important to promptly respond to and engage with both positive and negative comments. Try to build your online reputation by encouraging customers to leave feedback about the cocktails, service, ambiance and other aspects.

You can also make your business more searchable by creating a Google My Business account. This will ensure that your bar is listed on the web and that customers can easily find your website, hours of operation, reviews, address, and photos of the establishment.

6. Utilize Social Media

Social media is a powerful bar advertising idea for any business. Curating your social media accounts can help create a visual representation of your bar, provide an idea of the overall atmosphere, and give an insider’s look at an average night. Customers are especially inclined to respond to videos, giveaways, and social ads. This type of content also performs well with social media platform algorithms.

Time to Optimize Your Bar Experience

If you are a bar owner or manager looking for ways to increase the revenue of your bar and improve the customer experience, you should start with the basic things that people want from a bar. If you have a friendly and knowledgeable staff, you are off to a great start.

These things are timeless. Next, you can start to integrate some of the recent consumer trends, and of course, you can always improve your marketing through methods such as improving your online presence and integrating a digital signage system.