How to Create a Popular Bar Food Menu (+Cost)
February 25, 2021
For bar and tavern owners, creating a food menu is a great way to attract new customers, drive revenue, and inject new life into your bar. However, many bars lack a food menu due to the high cost of building and operating a kitchen, as well as the difficulty in acquiring and maintaining a food service license.
- Chapter 1: 5 Reasons Your Bar Need a Food Menu in 2021
- Chapter 2: 7 Tips for Creating a Popular Food Menu for Your Bar
- Chapter 3: What Are the Most Profitable Food Items on Bar Menus?
- Chapter 4: How Do I Create a Food Menu for My Bar without a Kitchen?
- Chapter 5: 3 Examples of Bars with Popular Food Menus
But with the emergence of foodservice providers for bars and taverns such as 2ndKitchen, the barrier for bars to serve a food menu has never been lower. Bars and taverns can now create a popular food menu, without the costs of an on-site kitchen.
5 Reason Your Bar Needs a Food Menu in 2021
1. Your Customers Expect a Food Menu
34% of Americans say they would leave a bar in favor of another one if it lacked a food menu. For bars without a current food menu, that means adding one is a direct way to both keep patrons in your bar for a longer period of time and drive new customers to your bar.
When you do launch a new food menu at your bar, be sure to promote your new food menu when you launch one. Blast any email or SMS list you may have, share your new menu on your bar’s social media channels, and update any website or online profile listings to include your food offerings.
Above: On Tour Brewing Company’s food menu, powered by 2ndKitchen
2. A Food Menu Increases How Long Customers Stay
For many bar owners, it’s not about attracting new customers – it’s about keeping customers in their bar longer. An easy solution? Launch a new food menu.
With a food menu comes opportunities – from happy hours to late-nite bites. No longer will customers need to leave your bar when hunger hits. Instead, customers can stick around longer by ordering from your new food menu.
3. Increases the Average Size of Your Customers’ Bar Tab
Not only does a food menu keep customers in your bar longer, but it also increases the size of your customers’ tab. Filling up on food means customers are ordering more beer, wine, cocktails, and other beverages.
Above: With 2ndKitchen, your bar can keep customers drinking more beer and staying longer by adding a new food menu.
4. Appeals to a Wider Demographic of Customers
Outside of drinking, 28% of bar patrons said the quality of food is the number one consideration when choosing a bar or club to go to. If your bar doesn’t offer a food menu, that means you’re already missing out on 1 in every 4 customers. It also means appealing to those interested in pre-game bites, dinner parties, professional luncheons, lunch and dinner specials, and more.
In a sense, launching a new food menu in your tavern is a bar promotion idea of its own.
5. Drives Online Reviews for Your Bar
Reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google can drive considerable new foot traffic to your bar. In fact, 94% of people looking for a new restaurant or bar do so only after looking at online reviews of local spots.
Having positive reviews of your bar’s food menu allows you to appear in searches for local restaurants with great food – as well as give your bar yet another way avenue for gaining positive reviews from your patrons.
7 Tips for Creating a Popular Food Menu for Your Bar
1. Include Popular Pub-Style Food Items on Your Bar Menu
Tavern-style food is beloved by many. Taking your bar’s food menu in that direction is an easy solution to launching a well-received food menu at your bar.
As an added bonus of utilizing a more traditional pub-style menu is that the majority of these menu items have low costs associated with them, letting you offer a popular food menu while keeping profits high.
A few examples of tavern-style food items to put on your bar menu include:
- Hot Dogs
- Mozzarella Stick
- Onion Rings
- and much more.
Don’t forget to add local flair to your menu as well. For example, if you’re an Indiana bar, adding a tenderloin sandwich would be a popular choice. If you’re a bar owner near a coast, offering a Friday fish fry could be a weekly promotional menu item that drives customers to your bar.
2. Don’t Forget the Appetizers
While tasty entrees are a must, small bites are too. Appetizers are the perfect in-between for your bar patrons – something light that can be shared, but that also refills the tank and allows your guests to keep having fun.
A few examples of common appetizers to put on your bar menu include:
- Jalapeno Poppers
- Cheese Curds
- Onion Rings
- Hummus & Veggies
3. Take Eye-Catching Photos of Your Bar’s Food Items
Nothing can help make a menu decision more than a mouth-watering photo. Be sure to hire a professional photographer, specifically one with restaurant and menu experience, to help capture the most delicious angles of your best menu items.
A few tips to take the best photos of your menu items are:
- Set up the best lighting
- Uses garnishes on your dishes
- Use angles
- Don’t be afraid to post-edit
4. Write Mouth-Watering Food Descriptions
Along with pictures, a tasty description can help seal the deal for your bar patrons. Enlist the help of a copywriting or content expert to write enticing food descriptions. Be sure to match the description to the actual item to avoid any disgruntled customer.
5. Offer Daily Specials & Happy Hours
Daily specials and happy hours are a great way to drive traffic to your tavern on traditionally slow days. Bars that are able to brand a daily special are able to also drive word-of-mouth referrals as the place to be on a specific day. Do some recon work on your competitors to see what days they promote certain food and drink specials to determine the best day and food combo opportunities and craft the most-hyped specials.
Examples of daily specials you can offer at your bar:
- 50c wing day
- $5 burgers
- $1 beer addon
- Half-priced appetizers
6. Match a Food Menu with Your Bar’s Existing Theme
For bars when an existing theme, creating a food menu that aligns with that branding can add a new layer of flavor to the overall experience. If you’re a tequila bar, add a menu featuring tacos, chips & salsa, and other traditional Latino flavors. If you’re a sports bar, look to add pub and stadium-style items such as nachos, burgers, wings, and hot dogs.
Use creativity here! Adding a food menu that pairs well with your theme can become a crucial part of your bar’s identity.
7. Use Contactless Menus & Ordering Systems
Outside of the food itself, you’ll need to consider how you’ll create physical menus for your customers to order from. COVID-19 has introduced new tech for restaurants to operate safely and customers to order contactless.
The biggest two features to consider for your bar are QR-code menus and contactless ordering systems for placing orders. Many of these new technologies are not a COVID-fad, with many of these new trends being generally more liked than pre-COVID traditional ways of ordering for customers.
What Are the Most Profitable Bar Food Items?
- Cheesesticks or Curds
- Pretzel Bites
- French Fries
- Hot Dogs
How Do I Create a Food Menu for My Bar without a Kitchen?
Up until recently, bars were required to have an onsite kitchen and food serving licenses to offer a food menu. But now with services such as 2ndKitchen, bars can create a food menu powered by virtual kitchen technology inside local restaurants.
2ndKitchen pairs your restaurant with a local restaurant that uses its underutilized kitchen to power your white-labeled food menu. Your customers place orders by scanning a QR-code menu which takes them to an online ordering portal directly on their smartphone.
The order is sent to the restaurant to be prepared, with 2ndKitchen then uses its courier network to deliver the order – typically within 30 minutes.
The best part? It’s 100% free for bars to use to create a new food menu.
OWNER, DOC RYAN'S - CHICAGO, IL
1. Doc Ryan’s
Doc Ryan’s is an Irish Pub located in a western suburb of Chicago, Forest Park. A few years ago, Doc Ryan’s closed its kitchen to cut operating costs – but that didn’t mean they stopped serving food. Quite the opposite, actually.
Using 2ndKitchen Doc Ryan’s now partners with two restaurants within walking distance: Scratch Kitchen & Lounge and Salerno’s Pizza. Customers scan QR-code menus from their table at Doc Ryan’s and place their order via an online menu featuring world-class burgers, wings, pizza, and more.
The two restaurants fulfill the orders and are delivered to Doc Ryan’s, where the staff fully plates customer meals just as they would if they used a traditional onsite kitchen.
2. Nick’s English Hut
Nick’s English Hut is a historic college-town sports bar located on Kirkwood Avenue, just off the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana. While Nick’s main attraction is its post-dinner crowd looking to get in a few games of its famous “Sink the Biz”, it also has one of the most popular and well-liked bar food menus in all of southern Indiana.
Nick’s food menu includes traditional pub-style items such as burgers, stromboli, pizza, sandwiches, appetizers, and more. To cap it all off, the bar also pairs its fan-favorite “Sink the Biz” with “Sink the Biz Fries” to create an epic pairing.
3. Cronin & Phelan’s
Cronin & Phelan’s is a traditional-Irish pub that not only has great food but is the oldest pub in Astoria, New York. Famous for its wooden bar, friendly staff, and the occasional magic show, Cronin & Phelan’s also offers a beloved food menu by everyone on Long Island.
While the bar serves traditional pub food such as burgers, wings, wraps, and appetizers, it’s most famous for its Irish-style menu items such as fish & chips, bangers & mash, and more. The Irish-favorites are all based on recipes handed down from owner Mike Peacock’s mother Nora, who is a retired chef in Astoria. Each day Peacock creates his Irish favorites from scratch, making this one of the best bar food menus in the country.