First, a joke: A sandwich walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.” Ba dum tss.
Corny humor aside, all hoteliers know that food and beverage sales can be a large help in increasing revenue. But how do you overcome the reputation of being “just a hotel bar?” With this guide, you will learn how to increase food and beverage revenue through marketing your hotel bar more effectively.
How To “Make” Your Bar
Make it About Building a Community
First and foremost, you might need to change your perspective. If all you want your hotel bar to be is just a hotel bar, then that is all it will remain. If you rely mostly on your hotel guests to be your patrons, you are severely limiting your market and, therefore, your revenue streams. You have to think of your hotel bar as, well, a bar.
Changing your perspective means consciously taking into account non-guest patrons who could come to your bar—the locals. Think about the bars you frequent in your local area: is there a community within them? Are there regulars? What keeps people coming back?
Building a community around your bar will keep regular patrons coming, meaning consistent revenue (versus the up and down flow that comes from hotel guests). There are many effective ways to build a community. Considering the non-hotel guest patrons in marketing decisions you make is the mindset you need to start building that customer base.
Make it Fun with Events
Bobby Smith, Director of Sales and Marketing at True Music Room and Bar, a bar located in Cambria Nashville Hotel, confirms that their patronage is consistently higher on nights they have trivia or live music. Moreover, this higher patronage includes both hotel guests and locals. Plus, customers have noted that one of their favorite aspects of the bar is the live music they have four nights a week!
Hosting events can help build a community and increase regular patronage. Regular patronage from local area residents can mean more food and beverage revenue. While there may be some up-front investment, take a cue from regular (non-hotel) bars in your area. Are trivia nights popular? Is live music? What kind of event can you host to differentiate yourself while not becoming too niche?
Trivia, including general knowledge trivia or themed trivia, is popular and can often be contracted through an outside company. Live music is also a customer favorite, especially in music-oriented cities like Nashville or New Orleans. Try incorporating events connected to city happenings like watch parties for local sports teams or after parties for major cultural events.
Regular events can build a sub-community in and of itself. Regular trivia teams can form and develop rivalries. Fans of a certain sports team already have a common bond. Or, venturing into the world of nerds can bring in pre-established communities (here is a guide on how to tap into that market).
If you really want to commit, you could experiment with theme nights—think of those “pop-up” bars you read about. An example of this is the “Saved By the Bell” pop-up that toured the country, attracting nostalgic 90s fans from all over.. Once you choose a theme, make sure to have relevant activities like trivia or a (licensed) screening of a related movie. Plan custom cocktails. Offer specials with quirky names. Make sure you have a related hashtag so folks can post their experiences on social. If you are hard pressed for ideas, I guarantee googling “pop-up bar” will yield some fun results.
A word of warning: make sure if your themed night is based on something like a TV show or movie that you do not move in to copyrighted territory. While Netflix’s cease and desists are charming, they are still legal pushbacks.
If you cannot host events, try incorporating an interactive element to your bar. True Music Room and Bar has a photo booth in the bar that is popular; a photobooth is an easy option to source. In addition, an interactive element of your bar can help provide social media content! Like the concept behind the Kodak Photo Spots, by simply providing tools for customers to take pictures, user-generated content will happen naturally and you can then, in turn, put those photos on your own social media channels.
Make Sure Your Patrons are Heard
Part of building a community is listening to feedback and taking it seriously. While there will always be opinions expressed by just one person, if there are common complaints or compliments, take note of them. Make sure your staff is engaging with your patrons and hearing what they have to say. Check in with the regulars. Bartenders and servers can tell you a lot about your customers and the atmosphere you are creating.
More formally, it is also beneficial to have surveys available for patrons who may not be vocal about their thoughts. In the same vein, monitor the online reviews for your bar. Check out our guide on getting the most out of your online reviews and how to respond.
How to Market Your Bar
Just like with marketing your hotel, marketing your bar is best tackled with multi-channel campaigns. Incorporating social media, email, and an independent website will be the best approach. You can learn more about multi-channel campaigns in our complete guide.
Create a Brand for the Hotel Bar
Your bar should have a name, not just “The Bar at XYZ Hotel” in order to stand as more than just a hotel bar. Once your bar has a name, you will need to come up with branding materials like logos, colors, fonts, etc. Think about what kind of bar you want to be and incorporate that into your marketing materials.
Promote the Bar on Social Media
Bars are inherently social places, so social media is imperative. Most importantly for hoteliers, you should have social media accounts for your bar separate from those of the hotel. While you can certainly still post things about the bar on the hotel page, you should not post things about the hotel on the bar page.
Your bar’s social media should include events you have coming up, food and beverage specials, and new drink list item updates. Folks love pictures of cool cocktails, so make sure your staff is snapping a shot when they create something new. Plus, tap into user-generated content! Not sure how to get started? In a recent blog post, we discuss the details of UCG and how to encourage user-generated content from guests .
Use Email Marketing to Keep Patrons Connected to the Bar
Email marketing is a great way to engage with patrons. In fact, email has a median ROI of 122%. More importantly, email marketing offers a way to communicate specifically to those locals. Your bar and hotel emails can share an email marketing account; however, you need a separate template and segmented list. You do not want to send your bar guests hotel emails and vice versa. Throwing random messaging at the wall of everyone who has ever passed through your hotel or bar is a pretty bad strategy to make something stick.
Once you do have a separate, branded template for your bar you need to conquer the bigger challenge: a list. A list of email subscribers specifically for your bar is vital. While this can seem intimidating, you can start your list using on-site collection methods. To gain more bar subscribers online, make sure you have a specifically crafted sign-up for your bar patrons. Furthermore, it is best to segment your email list into two major kinds of patrons: hotel guests and locals. Proper segmentation is just one part of a healthy email list and will give you the option to send specific messaging to each group if needed.
Much like social media, your email marketing can include information about upcoming events, food and drink specials, and updates to your drink list. Email marketing can, and should, take on a slightly different tone than your social media as to be appropriate with the medium. Intimidated by email marketing? We can help.
Use an Independent Website for the Bar
If you want to take your bar marketing to the next level, invest in an independent website. True Music Room and Bar is a great example of what a difference an independent website can make. Here, True Music Room and Bar is able to list their upcoming events, showcase their most current menu (in HTML format!), and provide information about the venue like hours, phone number, and reservation options. It is a bar website. Including all this information on a single page on your hotel website would hurt the user experience: information would be harder to find and the bar content would be surrounded by the branding of your hotel. Alternatively, an independent website allows information about your bar to be easily found, improves SEO, and gives you more control over the branding of your bar. Want to build a bar website? We have you covered.
Last Call: What We Have Learned
Elevating your on-property bar beyond “just a hotel bar” means building a community and marketing through multi-channel methods. Changing your perspective, hosting events, and getting to know your patrons will make your bar stand out. Using social media, email marketing, and an independent website will market your bar. We would love to help with the marketing part. Get in touch and let’s talk partnerships.