Finding reliable advice on how to become a flourishing bar manager is no easy task. The challenges of managing a successful bar go far beyond merely keeping customers’ glasses full.

While there is no shortage of schools that specialize in teaching bartending skills, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any designed to teach you the ins and outs of managing a successful bar. With so few formal options for seeking advice on bar management, the majority of new bar owners feel they have no choice but to jump in at the deep end and, inevitably, make plenty of mistakes along the way. That’s where this guide comes in.

Utilizing our valuable advice and tips on how to manage a bar, you’ll be on your way to becoming a successful bar manager with a fresh mindset and a reignited passion that will last for many years to come.

Know Your Market

The first step to managing a successful bar (once you’ve taken care of all legal requirements, like getting a liquor license) is to identify your target market, including key details such as the age range and typical occupations of your targeted customers. Does your bar cater to well-paid individuals such as city professionals, or do you seek to attract those on a shoestring budget such as college students? This is an invaluable starting point, as it allows you to establish which nearby bars will serve as your competitors.

If there are bars in the area that target the same demographic, a good next step is to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Are they effectively using social media to promote themselves?

If the answer is yes, you may want to do the same to stay top of mind. Do they offer specials and promotions regularly? You should do the same, and your promotions should be even more enticing than theirs. If you know the market inside and out, you’re more likely to be able to keep up with your competitors. Not sure how to get started? This guide from will tell you all you need to know about conducting market research for your bar.

Create a Menu That Will Stick in Customers’ Minds

Your menu is so much more than just a list of the drinks your bar offers. It tells your customers what kind of overall experience they can expect from you and your staff when they stop by to visit. Design a menu that features the types of items your customers are expecting based on the theme of your bar, and take the time to have both your food and drink menus professionally printed.

Make sure your menu features clear, colorful, high-quality pictures, an easy-to-read font, and a user-friendly layout. Highlight the menu items that generate the most profit so that your customers’ eyes are naturally drawn to them. It’s also beneficial to post a menu in the window so that everyone who passes by can see what you offer, even when you’re not open, attracting a potential new audience.

Hire the Best Staff Money Can Buy

It’s crucial for your establishment to have reliable staff if you’re aiming to achieve lasting success. Vibrant, personable, and outgoing employees are an essential component of managing a successful bar. People who are easy to talk to and always smiling and approachable make the best bartenders. The experience level of your staff should come second to their interpersonal skills because bartending can be taught far more efficiently than social skills.

Very few people will enter the world of bartending with an encyclopedic knowledge of liquor, so once you’ve hired the right staff, it’s essential to train them appropriately as well as provide them with ongoing training to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. Train them in essential areas such as customer service and product knowledge so that they can better represent your establishment.

Try and keep your staff motivated with incentives such as staff contests, a bartender of the month program, or fun staff outings. Such gestures will go a long way in demonstrating their worth to you and helping to build a family-like relationship among your employees. This kind of company culture makes it far less likely that they will want to leave if a slightly better-paying bar job opens up elsewhere.

Portion Control is Paramount

In every area of your bar business, portion control is essential to effective inventory management and maintaining a consistent profit. Like in any full-service restaurant, menu items should be premeasured and portioned in the kitchen so that each dish is the same and the kitchen staff isn’t given free reign to determine how much of an ingredient to include in any given dish.

Every bartender should receive training in how to control the pour of liquor for mixed drinks. If your bar simply can’t afford an inventory management system, the next best option, measured pour spouts, provide a cheaper but equally as effective alternative to control liquor costs. In addition to helping keeps costs down and profits up, this will ensure the consistency of all alcoholic drinks that are served and prevent bartenders from over-pouring and giving a little extra to regular customers. If you decide against measured pour spouts, another option for maintaining consistency is to require all of your bartenders to use a shot glass when making drinks.

SEE ALSO: How to Calculate Food and Beverage Cost: Know Your Dough

Don’t be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

As any established bar manager whom you ask for advice on bar management will tell you, you really have to know what you’re doing when it comes to managing a successful bar. You can’t expect to sit back and allow your staff to do all of the legwork for you if you don’t have a clue how to do the tasks you hired them to do. You must be well-acquainted with every responsibility from how to cook every single dish in the kitchen to bartending with incredible speed and efficiency during the busiest of times.

If you don’t know how to do something in your bar, you will struggle to train your employees to handle that task. Some bar managers will try to get around this by hiring someone else to train their staff, only to find that they struggle to keep their team motivated to work hard since their manager is never on the front line doing his bit.

A bar manager needs to lead by example; this is not the job for you if your goal is to sit in an office all day. You should be able to earn your staff’s admiration by doing their job better than they can. If there are areas where you don’t feel that your skills are entirely up to scratch, arrange yourself some shifts in that area until you feel that your skills are at a more respectable level. The best way for you to establish what works and what doesn’t work is by jumping in yourself and testing different bar management strategies firsthand.

Invest in Decent Bar POS Technology

In this industry, success isn’t merely a result of big crowds and lots of sales. You also need to provide unparalleled customer service consistently. The cornerstone of this aspect of managing a successful bar is your point of sale (POS) system.

In most towns and cities, customers will have a plethora of bars from which to choose, so it can be challenging to make a significant impact on the nightlife scene and attract the best kind of customer—the one who will stay all night with her friends and buy round after round of drinks. Choosing the right bar management software will not only help you increase your profit margins substantially, but it will also help you develop a better understanding of both your business and your customers so you can create a remarkable experience. Lastly, choosing the right POS system for you will enable your staff to provide reliable, top-quality service that leaves customers delighted and ensures that your business will stay one step ahead of the competition.

The Modern Bar POS System

That’s where ShopKeep’s fast, reliable iPad POS system comes in. ShopKeep will help you perform critical tasks like understanding sales performance via reporting tools, tracking your bar inventory and liquor costs, and managing employees with a built-in time-clock, all while facilitating fast transactions to keep your patrons happy. When running a bustling bar business, you don’t have time to track things manually or rely on an old-fashioned electronic cash register. A tool like ShopKeep can make the bar management process that much easier, allowing you to focus on what you do best: running a bar that delights your customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Yamarie Grullon

Yamarie Grullon has years of experience creating helpful & engaging content for small business owners. As Director of Content Strategy at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.