How to Run a Bar Business

Written by owen e. richason iv
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How to Run a Bar Business
Running a bar requires good customer service and marketing. (Pub image by Raulmahón from

Running a bar business is a complicated task. It requires comprehensive oversight of staff, product, consistent fixture cleaning and maintenance, and inventory management. No matter the concept (sports bar, cocktail lounge, wine and cheese bar, beer garden, etc.), the underlying principles remain the same: proper training of staff in customer service, pouring techniques and measures, maintaining a balanced register, reporting tips and wages, bar-backing (keeping ice bins filled, replacing liquor and beer as needed), before hours set-up and after hours clean-up.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Train all employees in customer service. Statistically, a first-time patron forms her first impression of a business in less than 30 seconds and employees have between seven and 10 seconds to greet incoming customers. That means customers are always the priority over any other task. Customers should be acknowledged immediately and served swiftly following their entry.

  2. 2

    Practice prudent inventory management. Inventory in a bar not only consists of liquor, it also includes beverage napkins, glasses, rest room supplies, fruit, salt, garnishes, etc., as nearly all are consumable items and most are complimentary. Buy liquor according to actual sales volumes, not according to EOQ (Economic Order Quantity---a method of buying more inventory for the express purpose of getting a bulk discount).

  3. 3

    Market the bar consistently. Go to nearby hotels, resorts, spas, beaches and tourist traps and hand out promotional materials on a weekly basis for a variety of specials: BOGOs (buy-one, get one free or half-off), ladies night, service industry night, half-off well drinks, etc. Marketing has to be done consistently and rotate offers to attract new customers and retain current customers.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep all reports in one place. Bars carry many expenses and a central clearinghouse for all sales and expense reports is necessary.
  • Offer employee incentives such as bonuses for most sales in a month.
  • Do not buy liquor or equipment that does not fit the concept (for instance, buying a daiquiri machine for a wine and cheese bar).

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