Let me start off by saying that the phrase “best bar promotions” is clearly subjective based on your interests, as well as the theme of your bar. In other words, deciding to put a mechanical bull in a P.F. Chang’s will be about as effective as going to see a pediatrist for a toothache. Not only will neither one of those produce the outcome you desire, but it will most likely be downright harmful.
Quickly, before we get to the 10 best bar promotions of all time, I want to mention that at any time, you are welcome to download my entire list of amazing bar promotions for FREE. It’s called The BIG Black Book of Bar Promotions: 51 Awesome Promotions to Pack Your Bar. This book has 51 of the highest profit, crowd-gathering promotions in existence. Not kidding.
Now, 51 is a lot of promotions, so I don’t want you to get overwhelmed. You need to find the one or two best bar promotions that work for you, based on your bar and your personality and then run with it. And when I say run with it, I mean pretend like you just scooped up a baby cub with its mother twenty feet away. RUN, BABY, RUN!
Because 50% of bar and restaurant marketing success is the promotion itself, but the other 50% is the enthusiasm and execution behind the promotion. That’s what restaurant management leadership is all about.
I’ve come across bar promotions that sounded like the most idiotic idea on the planet (enter “Butt Chug Wednesdays”), only to see throngs of people pushing through the doors to get a piece of it. Why? Because the person behind it pumped life into with an energy and competence needed for success.
This is of course true for any area of your business, not just bar and restaurant promotions. When it comes to being successful, the more energy and conviction you put into it, the more your staff and customers believe in it. Does that make sense? I hope so, because this article and these promotions can and will help you attract more butts in your seats, which will in turn increase your sales, but you can’t just throw a promotion together and hope it magically solves all of your traffic problems.
Sorry, don’t mean to preach, but I simply want you to succeed. Plus, it’s my blog so I sort of get to do what I want.
LEARN TO FISH
Before getting to the promotions, it’s important that we explore this deeper. Yes, this is one of those “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day…teach a man to fish, feed him for life” lessons. Because I want you to understand that promotions go beyond getting people into your bar for one night. If you do it right, you’ll be fed for a very long time.
So, if you haven’t heard of The Rule of Three in the bar/restaurant business, I’m going to give it to you right now, and I’d suggest you put your A.D.D in a headlock and pay attention because this rule is more necessary than cheese is to nachos.
I learned this rule from Jon Taffer, and whether you think he’s over-dramatic or looks like a sculpin or shouldn’t be on television, the guy knows his shit inside and out, so make sure to take note:
The Rule of Three For Bar and Restaurant Marketing
- The first time someone visits your bar or restaurant, there is less than a 50% chance they will return.
- The second time they visit, they now have a 50% chance of coming back.
- The third time they visit, there’s a 70 percent chance they will come back a fourth time.
Those stats should make you sit up like a dog spotting a treat, because as we should all know by now, it is five times more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones coming in. Remember, the entire goal of of your bar and restaurant marketing plan should be to build repeat customers.
Here’s one final Taffer nugget to motivate you to fill your bar: Increasing guest frequency by just one visit per month increases your revenue by up to 12 percent.
Those are some serious and exciting stats, folks. I don’t know about you, but understanding how powerful return visits are to building regulars motivates the hell out of me to hustle like a gangster and drive people into my bar.
So these 10 bar promotions (as well as the 51 Bar Promotions in the Big Black Book) will certainly get them into your place AT LEAST once, but then you have to make sure they have a great experience so they want to come back again and again, and of course…again.
You can use multiple promotions to attract new customers and get the first and second timers to come back, but if your staff isn’t providing fanatical customer service, your promotions will fall flat because the rule of three will never occur.
With that said, let’s go ahead and dip our toesies into the promotional waters with my original 10 Best Bar Promotions (+1 Bonus Promotion, because I love you like an old t-shirt I can’t throw out).
And then don’t forget to click here to get my free e-book The BIG Black Book of Bar Promotions which will cause new customers to come stampeding through your doors like greyhounds chasing a rabbit.
The 10 Greatest Bar Promotions Ever Created
1. CUSTOMIZED ENGRAVED MUGS
This one takes some involvement on your part, but it is as badass as it gets when it comes to bar promotions. I’m talking a Viking-like kind of bad-ass-ness, which is exactly what you’ll feel like when you hoist your personalized copper or tin mug to the sky to toast your comrades while discussing village pillaging and horned helmets. I’ve seen this work best for a draft beer club, but you can use it in anyway you want.
Basically after a regular drinks 100 draft beers (or whatever you decide) they get their name engraved on the mug and they leave it at the bar. Every time they come in, you pull their mug off the shelf and fill it up with their favorite frothy draft or grog or whatever else makes them feel manly. This promotion creates a deep customer loyalty unlike any other bar promotion I’ve seen, similar to frequent flier miles for an airline.
2. HOST A WEEKLY OR MONTHLY TOURNAMENT
This is best to do during the beginning or middle of the week to draw people in. It could be anything that appeals to the competitive: darts, poker, pool, corn hole, beer pong. You can set this up as a one-night event or you can run a 8 – 10 week league so that people are compelled to keep showing up. The only problem is, the losing teams in the league tend to show up less, which causes forfeits and lots of groans from the other competitors. But as long as you have an organized, energetic person running it, tournament/league night can turn into a huge profit-making bonanza.
3. FLIP-OFF MONDAYS (OR WHATEVER DAY YOU CHOOSE)
This is for the laziest bar owner in the world who’s idea of promotion is to stand on the sidewalk out front and yell, “Hey! Come here!” This promotion requires you acquiring a coin of some sort and getting the word out. I know it sounds lame, but I’m here to appeal to everyone: from the super-savvy business owner to the hobo business owner who want to put out as minimal effort as possible.
Besides that, people love it. Here’s how it works: when guests first come in, the bartender flips a coin for them which they call in the air. If they’re right, their first drink is $0.25, if not, it’s full price. The look of anticipation on their face is comical, because they’re more excited than a dog when its owner comes home. And it becomes addicting. You will find people filing in your door on Monday nights just to get that coin flip fix to see if they can save a couple bucks. And it’s so simple a bear on a unicycle could run it.
4. BARTENDING CLASSES
In case you haven’t noticed, every day people secretly fantasize about being a bartender, even if only for a weekend. Like going to rock ‘n roll fantasy camp, except instead of pounding on drums and wearing tight leather pants, they get to pretend they are Tom Cruise shaking up cocktails. Of course you’ll need to have someone on staff capable of delivering dynamic lessons and who actually knows what he/she is doing, so hopefully your bartenders aren’t nitwits, but like the engraved mugs, this particular promotion is a differentiator that people won’t forget. Not to mention all the people they will talk to about it for weeks and months to come.
5. TRIVIA OR KARAOKE NIGHT
Yeah, it sounds cliché, but then again so is denim and yet people continue to wear it. Even as a jacket. This falls under the category of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is also an event in which you need to make sure to have someone running it who is dynamic and knows how to work a crowd. I’ve seen people running these events who had the energy of office temps, and the six people in the bar reflected it.
6. AMAZING RACE
Putting on an Amazing Race can be a colossal task, but the rewards that come with it can be just as colossal because the ones who participate in it can’t stop talking about it to everyone they meet. I have run a few Amazing Races (as in “organized and executed” them, not actually ran in them), and to this day I’ll see someone who participated in one of them and they always ask when the next one is because they say it was one of the most fun things they ever did. Just imagine how many people they have told about it!
The best way to go about putting on such a race is to scour the internet for competition ideas and then set up a small race in your area. A good thing to do is work with other bars and set up some of the competitions in their bar. This creates good camaraderie with your fellow bar owners, and your guests will love it too. And then like I said, your biggest problem will be answering people constantly asking you when the next one is.
7. GIANT GAMES
For whatever reason, the novelty of gigantic chess pieces, Jenga blocks and Connect Four pieces gets people more excited than birders spotting a red-breasted, web-footed merganser. If you have room in your back patio area or somewhere similar to set-up giant novelty games, go ahead and purchase them. When people are talking with their friends and they aren’t sure where to go, someone will always say, “Let’s go get some beers at (name of place) and play some giant Jenga.” Never fails.
8. SEX NIGHT
Don’t get too excited (or offended). It sounds better than it is, but there’s no reason why it can’t turn into what your gutter mind is thinking later that night. How this works is you have a special “Sex Cocktail” list made up with all the drink specials printed out: Blow Job shots, Screaming Orgasm, Sex on the Beach, Panty-droppers, etc.
Yes, I am aware that it seems immature, but people love it. Especially single people. It’s a fantastic conversation starter, and the subliminal power of the cocktail list alone allows people to blurt out embarrassing pick-up lines throughout the night (“Can I interest you in a Screaming Orgasm?”).
9. INDUSTRY NIGHT
It’s no secret that bartenders love industry night because it means people who work in the bar and restaurant industry in the area will come in and get discounts on drinks, and tip gargantuan amounts of money because they are being served by one of their own. Best to do this on a slow night when you wouldn’t otherwise have people coming in.
This must be monitored though, which means whoever wants to qualify for an industry person need to present a paycheck stub and ID for anyone you don’t know so it proves that they indeed do work in the industry. In addition, make sure that your bartenders understand that these industry people are already getting a discount, so they had better not hook them up further with free drinks and heavy pours.
10. SPORTS POOLS
Whether you love them or think they’re lame, sports make the world go around when it comes to leisure time activities, and if you want to take advantage of that all you have to do is gasoline that fire by doing some football squares, March Madness Pools, etc, etc, etc.
If you have someone working for you that loves sports, have them run a fantasy football league and give discounts to those who are in the league when they come in to watch the games. Fantasy sports (especially football) is HUGE in this country, which means you don’t have to like football to make money off of it.
11. (BONUS) ANIMAL RACES
Ok, animal races are frickin’ awesome, assuming of course no animals are harmed during the production of the promotion. I love animals myself, so I’m always sure that they are well-loved and taken care of and that they are never harmed in any way during the competition. You can use anything, from hermit crabs to turtles to (my personal favorite) goldfish.
This is one of those rare promotions that people will talk about for a very long time. Again, just make sure that you give the animals a good home during the days they aren’t competing and that you don’t invite any PETA members because they will go all Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction on you (except they won’t boil your bunny of course).
Best of luck. Cheers, until next time.
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