Bar Food Menu Ideas: Create a Menu Your Patrons Will Love
If you are looking to build clientele and draw a new audience to your bar, crafting a menu consisting of unique drinks, tasty snacks, and a certain je ne sais quoi will have patrons lining up at the door.
While food profit only accounts for 3-5% of net profit, having delicious and unique options can make patrons choose your bar over another.
Particularly as more and more people are venturing to places to socialize and relax, offering a comprehensive selection of refined bites, classic comforts, and unique drink options is key to growing a successful bar following. But it’s not just about what food you have, it’s how your menu displays it.
Let’s dive in.
Before we get started on the bar food menu, don’t forget that special drinks on it are important. While offering draft beers and rail mixed drinks is vital for every watering hole, offering clients a drink entirely unique to your bar will have them coming back for more. For instance, if you have the best buffalo chicken wings in the neighborhood, consider serving a bloody mary topped with a drumette - highlight what you excel at and capitalize on that branding.
If a bar goer ventures into an Irish pub, the expectation is that Guinness, Harp, and Jameson will likely be available. Still, to differentiate, an Irish pub could offer a cleverly named house drink. To highlight the beverage even further, discount the cost of the house cocktail during a particular time of day.
For instance, in Pensacola and Destin, Florida, McGuire's Irish Pub offers the Irish Wake, a green alcoholic beverage served in custom glass and made with freshly squeezed orange juice. This drink is unique to them, and it creates a buzz for their customers.
Another concept to keep in mind as you ponder bar menu ideas is to add creative non-alcoholic cocktails. Mocktails are no longer just for minors or pregnant women! Across the country, bars specializing in non-alcoholic drinks. For instance, Awake in Denver, Colorado offers drinks like sangria and Mai Dry Thai. The menu is extensive, completely non-alcoholic, and the restaurant is gaining a lot of popularity. Creatively experimenting with non-alcoholic drink options can boost revenue by bringing in a new clientele that wouldn’t normally be for a bar scene.
It is important to offer food at your bar to ensure that patrons, especially those drinking alcohol, have the opportunity to eat something while they visit the bar. While food has a lower profit margin than alcoholic drinks, bars that serve food have profitable bottom lines. People visiting bars will be more likely to remain at the bar and order drinks if snacks are available during their visit.
Statistical research on bar revenues for establishments that serve food has higher profit margins than restaurants. One study found that the profit margins for bars are between 7 and 10 percent compared to restaurants that have a profit margin of 3 to 5 percent. Serving food at your bar is a great way to keep patrons in the establishment longer and buy more drinks, where revenue skyrockets.
Tips For Creating a Popular Bar Food Menu
Diverse food options that are easily shareable, do not require utensils, and are delicious are crucial to creating a popular food menu. For instance, serving nachos, chicken empanadas, quesadillas, or buffalo wings are all great for using your hands or sharing with a group. A popular food menu is created by the bar’s atmosphere, the types of clients that regularly visit, and the personality of the neighborhood and the owner - reflecting what people want in a food menu is an excellent start to developing popular items.
People in bars will more often buy multiple appetizers for a larger group or perhaps will buy numerous snacks throughout one night; for these reasons, having lots of appetizer options on the menu is profitable.
Some of the best bar foods include mozzarella sticks, baskets of tater tots or waffle fries, jalapeño poppers, and a variety of sliders. Catering to a variety of diets is also essential in your menu variations. Consider offering keto or plant-based options for your health-conscious customers.
Research in the field has found that selling appetizers benefits bars—specifically, selling appetizers as soon as patrons are seated can boost sales and revenue. Training bartenders to ask not only "what can I get you to drink," but also, "can I interest you in an appetizer?" has been shown to boost sales. Offering an appetizer can also lead to people being more interested in an entree if the appetizer is delicious and not so large that it would completely relieve their hunger.
Include Great Photos and Detailed Descriptions
Showing your potential customers the food quality can bring people into the bar and encourage them to purchase food. Plating food for a picture is essential; then, using proper lighting to take the image can make the difference in demonstrating an appetizing bit or turning customers away. Also, using your camera or smartphone is an excellent practice to take videos of your food; a video with a smiling customer next to your food item is a perfect sign to others interested in purchasing that same.
Many bars use social media platforms, like Instagram, to highlight food and drink specials and offer pictures of food specials or unique dishes. Social media is a great marketing tool, but it is dependent on picture-based content. Posting your image with a description of the food is essential as well. Despite being social media, it’s still an extension of your menu.
Some customers will also be interested in knowing if you have gluten-free or vegetarian options for appetizers, and the photograph description of the food can answer many of those questions.
Foods with great descriptions sell better. One study found that menu items with longer descriptions sell 30 percent better than others with shorter descriptions.
Using nostalgia to persuade a customer to purchase a product is also a smart selling tactic. For instance, calling your special a "Mom's Meatloaf" Sandwich can spur sales. Finally, in describing your food items, use different sensory words like delicious, tasty, savory, flavorful, or spicy; a variety of terms will sound more exciting and lead to more customers giving that food item a try.
When offering food specials, make those options stand out separate from your standard bar food menu options. One way to do this is to add a printed insert to the traditional menu listing all limited-time options easily readable. Queen Vic in Washington, DC, does a great job of using social media to post and describe food and highlight any menu specials. One of their recent specials was the "VicRib" Sandwich, and the Instagram photo of it was perfectly light and aptly described.
Most Profitable Bar Foods
Finding what is the most profitable bar food at your particular restaurant might take some time and research. Balancing which foods are the cheapest to prepare and which items are customers' consistent favorites will lead to discovering the most profitable item on your menu. Setting prices that create a profit margin while not pricing yourself out of your clientele's budget is a tricky line to walk.
Research has found that the most profitable bar foods are pizza and cheeseburgers. If you are open after midnight, the most profitable meal would be breakfast.
Another way to capitalize is to create a "snack menu," which is not necessarily dependent on kitchen staff and includes options that customers can buy any time your bar is open. According to one study, 94 percent of people in the United States snack throughout the day. Profiting from this need to eat is simple and can be accomplished by popping popcorn, keeping house-made potato chips on hand, or offering ice cream sandwiches that wait staff can pull directly from the freezer!
Create Rotating Menus and Promote Specials with Digital Signage
Keeping menu favorites while offering seasonal offerings will maintain a loyal clientele and bring new faces to your bar. With many establishments using QR codes for people to scan menus, information can easily get lost. One way to help people preparing to order is to provide visual access to your food and drink specials.
Atmosphere TV allows you to stream dozens of channels in your bar, and during commercial breaks, create your own promotions! Atmosphere TV also offers digital bar signage that helps you to create customizable content to show to your patrons. Depending on the time of day, you can change the advertisements. For example, if Happy Hour is from 4 pm to 7 pm, beginning around 3 pm, the advertising content will shift to highlight the upcoming specials. Currently, over 10,000 businesses are using this service with fantastic results.
Upload Your Graphics
With Atmosphere, bar owners can upload videos or photographs to the content system, and then the system will display those graphics through the television to the guests in your bar. Additionally, Atmosphere makes it easy to create unique content with an extensive collection of templates and a tool that allows you to add text.
Expanding Food and Drink Options Builds Clientele
Expanding your food and drink menu can bring in new clients and keep loyal customers interested. Market your unique and expanded food and drink menu to customers in the bar at the right moment with Atmosphere. What's more, Atmosphere's channels increase the amount of time a customer spends in your bar by 16 percent while increasing the likelihood of returning patrons by 19 percent.