Bar Managing 101: Mixing Profits with Pleasure

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 10 min.

Bar managing isn’t just about serving drinks—it’s about crafting an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a seasoned bar owner or just starting your journey in the vibrant world of hospitality, this comprehensive guide is your ticket to running a successful bar.

Key Takeaways

  • Successful bar management involves a combination of effective leadership, strategic planning, and a deep understanding of the hospitality industry.
  • Investing in your staff and providing them with a supportive work environment can significantly improve their job performance and contribute to the success of your bar.
  • Staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and utilizing modern technology can give your bar a competitive edge.
  • Regular inventory management, understanding operating costs, and employing effective cost management strategies are key to maintaining a profitable bar.

Table of Contents

8 Steps to Run a Bar Successfully

Every successful bar manager has a set of habits that set them apart. These habits can range from maintaining strong communication lines with their bar staff to staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry. Let’s explore these habits in more detail.

The eight steps to running a bar successfully are:

  1. Understanding the Role of a Bar Manager: This involves understanding the responsibilities, essential skills, and traits of a bar manager and how these contribute to the successful operation of a bar.
  2. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: This step emphasizes the importance of staying on top of licenses and finding a trusted lawyer to avoid legal issues that could disrupt operations.
  3. Optimizing Bar Operations: This includes investing in a POS system, keeping the bar stocked and organized, frequently taking bar inventory, and maintaining a clean environment using bar cleaning checklists.
  4. Hiring and Training Staff: Here, the focus is on finding, training, and retaining the best bar staff, paying them well, and leading by example to foster a positive work environment.
  5. Creating a Unique Bar Experience: This involves creating signature cocktails, offering nightly drink specials and a happy hour menu, and creating a great interior design to enhance the bar’s atmosphere.
  6. Financial Management: This step covers managing bar costs while increasing revenue and understanding operating costs breakdown and benchmarks.
  7. Customer Satisfaction and Retention: Here, the emphasis is on ensuring the satisfaction of regular customers, offering private events, and leveraging the power of social media to engage customers.
  8. Continuous Learning and Improvement: This last step emphasizes the need for bar managers to stay current on bar and beverage industry trends and continuously seek ways to improve their bar management skills and knowledge.

Lead by Example

As a bar manager, your actions set the tone for your entire team. By leading through example, you can inspire your staff to uphold the highest standards in their job performance and contribute to the overall success of your bar business.

Give Employees a Voice

One essential aspect of effective management is fostering open communication within your team. Providing a platform for your staff members to voice their opinions and concerns can increase employee satisfaction and productivity.

Grow Your Future Career Options

Building a successful bar also means creating a platform for future career opportunities in the hospitality industry. Your experience as a bar manager can open doors to a wide array of career paths in the restaurant industry, management and beyond.

Staff Your Bar with the Right People

Find, Train, and Retain the Best Bar Staff — and Pay Them Well

Your bar’s staff is the backbone of your operation, and investing in them is crucial to your bar’s success. From the interview process to the hiring process to professional development programs, every step should be taken to find, train, and retain the best in the business.

Hire the Right Bartenders

Hiring skilled bartenders is a critical factor in running a successful bar. The right bartender mixes great drinks and provides excellent customer service, turning first-time visitors into regular customers.

Train Your Bartenders and Wait Staff to Upsell

Training your staff to upsell effectively can significantly increase your bar’s revenue. But this is more than just pushing for more expensive drinks; it’s about understanding your customers’ preferences and making appropriate suggestions.

Optimize Bar Operations

Invest in a POS System

Investing in a reliable Point of Sale (POS) system can streamline your bar operations and improve your service efficiency. From tracking sales to managing inventory, a good POS system is an essential tool for modern bar management.

Keep Your Bar Organized

Organization is key to the entire process of running a smooth and efficient bar. From the bar’s operations to the back office, every process should be streamlined to ensure quick service and minimize errors.

Operating Costs Breakdown and Benchmarks for Successful Bars

Understanding and managing your operating costs is essential to maintaining a profitable bar. From liquor costs to staff wages, keeping a close eye on your expenses can help boost profits and ensure the long-term success of your bar.

Restaurant Metrics Calculator

Utilizing a restaurant metrics calculator can provide insightful data to improve your bar operations. This tool can help you track key metrics like pour and bar food costs, guiding your decision-making process.

Essential Items Every Bar Needs

Keep Your Bar Stocked

Maintaining a well-stocked bar and liquor inventory is fundamental to meeting your customers’ needs and expectations. From popular drinks to top-shelf liquors, ensure that your bar inventory always has enough to cater to your patrons’ diverse tastes.

Take Bar Inventory Often

Regular inventory checks are essential to manage your stock effectively and reduce waste. Effective inventory management can help prevent overpouring and theft, protecting your bottom line.

Create the Perfect Atmosphere with Great Interior Design

The interior design of your bar plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers. Every element should be carefully chosen from the lighting to the layout to create a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere.

Crafting a Unique Bar Experience

Create Signature Cocktails

Creating signature cocktails can differentiate your bar from the competition and attract a loyal customer base. Whether it’s a twist on a classic or a completely unique concoction, your signature drink should reflect your bar’s identity.

Offer Nightly Drink Specials and a Happy Hour Menu

Offering nightly drink specials and a happy hour menu can attract a steady stream of customers and boost your bar’s revenue. It’s a tried-and-true tactic most bar owners use to draw customers during typically slower periods.

Serve a Creative Signature Cocktail Menu

A creative and unique cocktail menu can set your bar apart and keep your customers returning for more. Keep your drink menu simple yet enticing, and don’t forget to include a range of options to cater to all tastes.

Offer Private Events

“Offering private events can be a great way to generate additional income and attract new customers to your bar. From birthday parties to corporate functions, hosting events can significantly enhance your bar’s reputation.”

Stay On Top of Licenses and Find a Trusted Lawyer

Staying compliant with licensing requirements and having legal support is critical to mitigating risks and ensuring the smooth operation of your bar. From obtaining a liquor license to handling any legal disputes, a trusted lawyer can be a valuable ally in the bar management process.

Ensure the Satisfaction of Regular Customers

Regular customers are the lifeblood of your bar, and ensuring their satisfaction should always be a top priority. Small gestures can make a big difference, from remembering their favourite drink to recognizing their special occasions.

Tips for Managing Bar Costs While Increasing Revenue

Effective cost management and revenue growth strategies are key to your bar’s financial health. From bar promotions to cost-effective purchasing, every decision should aim to maximize profitability.

Make Your Bar a Great Place to Work

Creating a positive and supportive work environment can help retain your staff and maintain high service levels. From pre-shift meetings to regular feedback sessions, fostering a team spirit can make a significant difference to your bar’s operations.

How to Stay Up to Date on Bar and Beverage Industry Trends

Keeping up with the latest industry trends is crucial to stay competitive and meet changing customer demands. Whether it’s new cocktail recipes or emerging technologies, staying informed can give you an edge over other bars.

Bar Cleaning Checklists

Maintaining cleanliness in your bar is necessary for health and safety reasons and contributes to the overall customer experience. A clean bar is a happy bar, and your customers will appreciate the effort.

The Last Call

Managing a bar is a rewarding yet challenging endeavour that requires strategic planning, team management, and a commitment to excellence. The journey may be long and full of challenges, but with the right approach and attitude, you can turn your bar into a local hotspot.

Bar Management FAQs

What is bar management?

Bar management refers to operating and running a venue that offers alcoholic drinks. The role encompasses supervising a diverse team, including bouncers, bartenders, and servers. Additionally, it involves organizing and managing entertainment aspects to enhance the customer experience.

What are some common challenges bar managers face?

Running a bar is a complex task requiring careful attention to many details. It’s not just about maintaining stocked beer fridges and ice makers; there’s a lot more to it, and the competition in this industry is fierce. A bar must offer superior service and high-quality beverages to stand out and attract customers. Here are some of the challenges that bar managers often face:

Staff Management:

A bar’s success heavily relies on its staff’s efficiency and performance. It’s not feasible to operate a successful bar without a competent team. Hiring skilled staff is crucial, but it’s only the beginning. As a bar manager, you provide the necessary training, set goals, schedule shifts, ensure smooth communication and foster teamwork. These tasks are challenging but essential for maintaining a high standard of service that keeps customers coming back.

Keeping Up with Industry Trends:

Staying updated with the latest trends in the bar industry is a must. This can be difficult, especially when managers are typically swamped with daily operations. However, failing to stay on top of trends can result in missed opportunities. Therefore, it’s vital to allocate time to follow industry-related social media channels and read relevant publications to understand what’s popular and what could potentially benefit your bar.

Menu Development:

A bar’s menu is a vital tool for attracting customers. It plays a significant role in determining the establishment’s profitability and success. It’s essential to offer diverse products without overwhelming customers with too many choices. Regular performance reviews of the drinks on your top menu items can provide valuable insights for necessary adjustments.


Effective marketing strategies are crucial for reaching potential customers. While bar managers might be tempted to neglect this aspect due to their busy schedules, marketing is a continuous process that needs consistent attention. Researching and implementing the most suitable marketing platforms for your bar, and keeping your marketing strategy updated, can greatly enhance your bar’s visibility and customer reach.

How can I draw customers to stay past happy hour?

There are several strategies to keep customers at your bar past happy hour. These include offering entertainment, scheduling special events, or introducing a late-night menu. Remember, the key to host happy hour is to create an enjoyable atmosphere that encourages customers to stay.

How can I effectively utilize social media pages for my bar?

Social media is a powerful tool for promoting your bar. You can use it to share updates, promote special events, and engage with your customers. Regular posting, high-quality photos, and interactive content can increase your online visibility and attract more customers to your bar.

What are the best online courses for bar management?

Several online courses offer valuable insights into bar management. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and the National Restaurant Association offer courses in hospitality and bar management tips that can help enhance your skills and knowledge. Be sure to choose a course that aligns with your needs and goals.

How can I make my bar profitable?

Making your bar profitable involves various strategies like effectively managing costs, optimizing your menu pricing, training your staff to upsell, implementing effective bar promotions, and providing excellent customer service to encourage repeat business.

How much do bar managers get paid?

In 2023, the average bar manager’s salary is $55,521 in the US, according to In Canada, the average salary is $45,386, according to Glassdoor.

The salary of a bar manager can vary widely depending on factors such as the location, size of the bar, and the manager’s level of experience.

How do I manage my own bar?

Managing your bar involves understanding and overseeing all aspects of the business, from hiring and training staff, managing inventory, and ensuring customer satisfaction to maintaining profitability. It requires a good understanding of the bar industry, strong leadership skills, and a commitment to providing excellent service.

Is it hard to manage a bar?

Managing a bar can be challenging due to the many responsibilities it involves. It requires multitasking, handling pressure, working long hours, and dealing with a wide range of people. However, it can also be a rewarding career path for those who enjoy the dynamic and social nature of the hospitality industry.

What are bar manager responsibilities?

Bar manager responsibilities typically include hiring and training staff, managing inventory, overseeing bar operations, ensuring customer satisfaction, and maintaining compliance with health and safety regulations. They also manage the financial aspects of the bar, including budgeting and sales targets.

What a bar manager should know?

A bar manager should have a strong understanding of the bar industry, including knowledge of various types of drinks, customer service principles, and legal regulations. They should also have strong leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

How many managers should a bar have?

The number of managers a bar should have depends on the size and nature of the bar. A small bar might only need a single manager, while a larger establishment might require several managers to oversee different areas such as the bar, dining area, and kitchen.

What is the average age of a bar manager?

The average age of a bar manager can vary greatly as it depends on factors such as education, experience, and the job’s specific requirements. However, most bar managers typically start their careers in their early to mid-twenties after gaining some experience in the hospitality industry.

What are the hard skills for a bar manager?

Hard skills for a bar manager include inventory management, knowledge of bar operations, familiarity with licensing and health regulations, and financial management. Other important hard skills include understanding drink mixing techniques, using point-of-sale (POS) systems, and knowledge of customer service principles.

From understanding the role of a bar manager to optimizing bar operations, train staff, creating a unique bar experience, and ensuring legal compliance, this guide covers all aspects of bar management. The journey to running a successful bar may be challenging, but with the right approach, skills, and knowledge, you can make your bar a standout in the hospitality industry.