The 3 Golden Rules of Bar Management

Happy man in apron and crossed hands behind bar counter.

The 3 Golden Rules of Bar Management

Whether you are managing a chic wine bar or a local neighborhood watering hole, running a successful bar is not easy. Building a strong infrastructure that includes a recognizable brand, well stocked coolers and realistic financial reports is what will help you make your bar successful in the long run. 

Be True to Your Concept

Every bar should have its own character. Whether a brewpub, sports bar, a club or a neighborhood joint, find the thing that makes your place unique and make sure everything in it reflects that concept. Exquisite interior, highly skilled staff and specialty drinks are always great, but the decoration, menu choices, bartenders’ uniform and all other elements still need to match.

Once you have an idea of the kind of atmosphere and clientele you want your bar to have, start working on building your brand. You will need a brand name, tagline and a clear message. The language you use also needs to speak your brand, including word choice, tone and product names. Create a mood board where you collect physical and visual aspects that reflect the brand identity and are instantly recognizable. This includes a color palette, fonts and typography, images and logos. Share the brand story with your staff to encourage a service that matches it.

Get Hands On

As a restaurant manager or owner, you want to know everything about your business. From which ingredients go into each and every menu item, to mixing cocktails to serving customers with speed and efficiency during the busiest of times. 

Delegation is one of the most important aspects of managing a bar. It is not possible to serve dozens of covers a night and to oversee the operation on all your own. But if you do not know how to do something in your bar, you will not be able to train your staff to do it and you will not be able to implement procedural changes for better service. The only way to earn your staff’s respect is by getting your hands dirty and by showing them how best to do their job.

While leading by example is crucial, your employees are those who are doing the work on a daily basis and can therefore be a great source of feedback and ideas. Encourage them to voice their opinions and concerns. They might come up with new cocktail suggestions, creative promotion ideas, or new protocols to improve service. If they see their opinion matters to you and that you take it into consideration, they will have a greater sense of responsibility for their work and will want to perform at their best.

If you give them guidance and training, your team is probably doing a great job, which leaves you time to interact with customers. Be sure to greet guests and speak to regulars to see how they’re doing and if they’re happy with everything. Most importantly, always be ready to smooth out potential conflicts. After all, your customer did have quite a lot to drink.   

Bartender with mustache pouring a brown alcohol to the cocktail from the steel jigger to a glass on the bar counter on the blurred background.

Cut out the guesswork with a jigger dispenser for a perfect 1-1.5 oz pour.

Be Organized

You don’t have to be a mathematician to run a bar, but staying on top of the books is essential for tracking your total revenue. Record everything that goes in and out of the bar and kitchen. Write daily, monthly and annual financial reports to keep track of and improve your total turnover and annual revenue. Number of customers, sales per menu item, personnel costs, waste recording, breakage, inventory costs and even the weather, all need to be in the report. Without being organized, you will not be able to make a projection of sales and earnings nor set realistic business goals like minimizing staff costs or making changes to your menu based on customers’ preferences. 

Putting controls in place is also important. Menu items should be portioned so that every guest receives the same dish and so that you can keep track of costs. Controlling the pour at the front of the house is one of the greatest pitfalls of bars. Bartenders often want to treat customers they like by giving them drinks “on the house” to guarantee better tips or just to be nice. While giving clients incentives is a great way to gain their loyalty, these can add up to great undocumented lossess for the business. Putting measured pour spouts on all rail bottles, using shot glasses or jiggers is one way to combat this. Another is to train your staff to be consistent and to take responsibility for waste. Teach them how to do inventory and explain the importance of it.

Collecting data will also come in handy when ordering supplies. Keeping your bar stocked and your customers happy takes more than just filling your coolers with wine and beer. Competition is fierce and bar-goers are more likely to opt for the bar that carries their favorite beer or specialty cocktail. Make a list of your targeted items based on what sells best and adjust your order according to your needs. Don’t forget to include cocktail garnishes, bar snacks, napkins, straws and stirrers, cocktail mixes, and all the ingredients for the menu food items.

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