If a customer doesn’t know about a bar, they can’t drink at the bar. Bar owners need to continually think about what they can do to bring customers into their bar.
With all of the intricacies of running a business, thinking about marketing can take up the time used for operations management.
31 Best (and Cheap) Bar Promotion Idea in 2021
Below are thirty ideas of promotions bar owners can do to spread the word about their spot and get customers talking.
1. Partner with a Charity
Charities have a database of constituents that are willing to help out their chosen cause. Nonprofits will promote locations that are giving a percentage of their profits to their goal. Donating a $1 per pint sold can quickly add up to the overall fundraising goal.
2. Break a Record
Nothing goes together better than a bar and Guinness, specifically the Guinness Book of World Records.
Many obscure records are ready to be broken and only need the resources to do so. Find a random record and promote attempts to have it broken. How many people can fit in a VW bug? How long can someone hula hoop? These are great records that can get customers attending and involved.
Is there a concert coming through town? What about a sports event? Stars will always draw a crowd of onlookers, begging for the opportunity to be seen in the same venue as the famous.
4. Local Celebrity
It might be a little hard to nail down a big-time celebrity. However, every city has local stars. Pawnee had Pistol Pete and Li’l Sebastion, and most cities have personalities of similar status. Inviting them for a special evening can be a way to make your bar seem like a local hotspot.
5. Food Truck Event
Be sure to add extra elements to make your next food truck event an entire experience, such as live music and other local vendors. Don’t forget to provide adequate outdoor seating space for your patrons to grab food, sit down, and have a beer with friends.
6. Social Media Contests
The best representative of your bar is the people that visit the most. Encourage customers to check-in when they’re visiting and share photos of their time. More people will trust the opinions of their friends more than reviews from people that they don’t know.
Promote a social media contest and pick a winner to receive a $10 gift card for the best update.
7. Exclusive Yelp Invite
Yelp is a trusted resource for reviews of restaurants and bars. Yelp also has a group of reviewers known as the Elite Squad that post frequent and high-quality updates.
Host an exclusive Elite Squad event and invite Yelp super users to try your menu and drinks. Positive opinions from members of the Elite Squad mean more to people researching your bar.
8. Local Artists
Get involved with the community and support local artists. If there’s a blank wall in your bar, consider having a mural painted on it. If you’re looking to shake things up in a few months, paint over the painting and have a new one done.
9. Specials for Local Sports Games
The great thing about alcohol is it comes in all colors. Consider the hometown team and create drinks created with them in mind. On game days, these drinks can be the special of the day, served while watching the competition on a big screen.
10. Branded Swag
T-shirts and hats are great merchandise to add a stream of revenue. Devoted customers will be happy to represent their regular bar all over town. Encourage customers to purchase an item by offering a discounted drink or food when they buy an item and when they wear it to the bar.
11. Drink Pairing with Unique Foods
What beer pairs best with a raspberry filled donut? Which wine would you recommend to go with Swiss Cheez-Its?
Most foods have an ideal pairing of drinks. Create a menu of drink pairings with unique food items for customers looking to try something different.
12. Mug Club
Home is where your mug is. A mug club lets customers bring their cup to store at the bar. The mug allows patrons to showcase their personalities and have a connection with the pub. Have customers pay a fee to join the mug club and give them a discount on pours into their mug.
13. Boomerang Coasters
What incentive can you give for a customer to return another day?
When serving a guest, the bartender writes a future date on the back of a coaster and signs their initials. If the customer returns on the date with the coaster, they get a discounted drink.
14. Customer Loyalty Programs
It is always cheaper to keep a customer than it is to find a new one. Loyalty programs encourage customers to return consistently. Something similar to a punch card, if a customer visits seven times and gets their card stamped each time, on their eighth, they get a discounted drink.
15. Signature Cocktail
A flaming cocktail or a specialty flavor, you can have a drink that gets the town talking. Encourage your bartenders to practice their mixology and see where their creativity takes them. Soon people will be stopping by just to try your signature drink.
16. Partner with Visitors Centers
How do you anticipate out of town visitors to learn about the local hot spots? Most cities have a Visitors Center that helps guests find what’s unique about a town. Reach out to your local Visitors Center and offer a coupon or discount to guests that hear about you from the information staff.
17. Post a Selfie
One sure-fire way to get guests to come back is for them to see their photo hanging on the wall. Give your bartenders an instant camera and have them take pictures of excited guests. Once the photo develops, give the guest a pin or stapler to hang it on the wall. Guests will come back to show their friends, and pretty soon, your walls will be full of photos of guests having fun.
18. Business Card Drawing
Is your bar in a metro area? The business cards in a fishbowl is a classic promotion that many businesses use. Encourage visitors to drop a business card in the drawing where the winner will receive a gift card to your bar.
19. Win a Happy Hour
Who can say no to discounted food and drinks? When guests visit your bar, have them sign up for the chance to win a happy hour. Offer the winner and a few of their friends free cover and discounted food or drinks for a specific time. Once the happy hour is complete, they will likely want to stay and will come back in the future for more chances to win.
20. Ticket Stubs for Free Cover
Was there a game or a concert tonight? These crowds are already out to have a good time, how can you drive attendees from those events into your doors?
Spread the word and encourage guests to come after the show by offering free cover or a discount for anyone with a ticket stub. If you’re feeling ambitious, reach out to the venue and see if you can build a partnership with the venue to promote the ticket stub discount.
21. College Nights
College students are often looking for ways to blow of steam in between classes and tests. If students fall into the core demographic of your business, promote a college night with free admission and drink specials to anyone with a valid student ID. You could even bring in beer pong tables and host a college-style tournament!
22. Community Calendars
Stay in the know with what’s going on in your community. What festivals and parades are happening? How can you leverage these events? Plan your specials around what’s going on in your community and be a part of your neighborhood.
23. Sponsor Local Teams
Softball, bowling, or kickball, most extracurricular organizations are looking for a sponsor to support them. Even just purchasing the t-shirts can save teams money, and your logo would look great on their chest. Plus, your team will need a good spot to celebrate after a big win.
24. Partner with a Regional Convention
Conferences and events like Gen Con or Comic-Con draw huge crowds looking to experience their favorite hobbies. If an event like this is coming through your neck of the woods, consider catering to these crowds. Encourage staff to dress in cosplay, create a kryptonite shot, do something to tie in the theme of the evening.
25. Decorate for the Holidays
Decorating doesn’t have to stop at hanging lights. Find a holiday and commit to it. Christmas season lasts a good six weeks and allows you to turn your bar into a winter wonderland. A great ceramic Christmas village can draw a considerable crowd and imagine the thrill on guests’ faces as the Pole Express brings their drink down the bar top.
26. Free Cups
People love free stuff, even when the cost of the item is already factored in. Offer a free logo branded cup with the first pour, and if guests bring it back, they can receive $1 off drinks poured into that cup. Even when they aren’t in the bar, they’ll still be sporting your logo in their kitchen cabinets.
27. Happy Hour Foods
Happy hours aren’t just for drinks. Half-priced appetizers can help get folks in the door where they’ll stay for the drinks and atmosphere.
28. Dog-Friendly Spaces
To a lot of people, their dog is a member of their family. If you can’t make your bar entirely dog-friendly, consider hosting a dog-friendly evening where customers can bring their pups in to socialize. Even those without dogs will enjoy seeing all the friendly furry faces.
29. Promote your customers
Show off the people that make your business a success! If you have regulars that feel more like friends than customers, let the world know.
Promoting your customers on social media or in your email newsletter will let people know you want to get to know your customers and who they can expect to meet when they visit.
30. Partner with Other Local Businesses
Many small businesses are also looking to promote their products. Find a business owner who’s product and mission you identify with and partner up. Allow them to set up a display inside of your bar to sell their products. They’ll advertise where they will be selling, and you give your customers new merchandise to explore.
31. Host a Trivia Night
For those slow days or hours, hosting a trivia night can be the perfect answer to driving foot traffic.
Trivia nights are popular among bars and restaurants as they are relatively low cost to host and plan, and keep customers inside a business for a much longer period of time than just a dinner or quick drink.