9 Bar Specials Ideas to Boost Profit Margins

9 Bar Specials Ideas to Boost Profit Margins
Bar Inventory - June 04, 2024 Written By: Krista Dinsmore

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Been in the bar business for a while? If so, you’ve likely seen trends come and go, mixed countless margaritas, and maybe even hold the record for most obscure beer trivia answered correctly.

The issue is, once you’ve been in the industry for a while, those profit margins can start to look a little like your deadstock… dusty. The bar game can change quickly, and what your customer wanted last year may not ring true today. 

So, how can you bring back those healthy profit margins and use up that pesky stock that’s not moving from your shelves? Grab a stool, because we're about to dust off your playbook with 9 bar special ideas guaranteed to boost your bottom line and keep your customers coming back for more.

Before we dive into that, let’s first understand what a bar specials menu actually is.

What are Bar Specials?

Bar specials are strategic price reductions or promotions designed to attract customers, boost sales of specific drinks or food items, and ultimately increase your bar's profitability. They can be offered at specific times of day (like happy hour), on certain days of the week (like ‘Tequila Tuesdays’), or even for a limited time only. 

Effective bar specials are a win-win situation: customers get a great deal, and your bar benefits from increased traffic, more revenue and the ability to sell off your dreaded deadstock. 

Bar Special Ideas to Boost Your Business

1. Leverage Your Inventory Intel 

Remember those dusty spreadsheets you use for inventory? Ditch them! Modern inventory management software unlocks the secrets of your bar. See what liquors are gathering cobwebs and use them to craft creative, limited-time specials. If you need to move rum or gin bottles that aren’t selling, think ‘Spiced Rum Sunset Spritz’ or a ‘Gin & Grapefruit Revival’. 

But here's the real gold mine: Analyze your sales data alongside your inventory. Identify liquors that are popular but have a high profit margin, then create enticing specials featuring those spirits. This sweet spot – high demand, high profit – is your golden ticket to soaring sales.


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2. Theme Nights are the New Happy Hour

Sure, happy hour is a classic, but thematic nights can draw a fresh crowd. Introducing ‘Tequila Tuesdays’ with discounted margaritas and fun sombreros, or ‘Whiskey Wednesdays’ featuring premium pours and live blues music. Themed nights leverage your existing inventory while creating a unique experience. 

Take it a step further by partnering with local businesses for themed nights. A ‘Taco Thursdays’ collaboration with a neighbouring restaurant can boost traffic for both establishments. Think outside the box - events like ‘Board Game Brunch’ on Sundays or a ‘Murder Mystery Night’ with a special themed cocktail can attract new customers seeking unique experiences.

3. Batching Can be Your Best Friend

Crafting bespoke cocktails for every customer is a recipe for wasted time and money. Identify popular drinks and batch them in advance, focusing on cocktails with ingredients that have a long shelf life. This frees up your bartenders to personalize garnishes or whip up a show-stopping signature cocktail for those special occasions. 

Here's a pro bar inventory tip: Utilize leftover ingredients from batched cocktails to create house-made syrups or infused spirits, minimizing waste and maximizing flavour. This could be rosemary simple syrup from leftover mojito mint or grapefruit-infused tequila from Paloma batches.

4. Small Plates, Big Profits

Pair your drink specials with delicious, bite-sized food options. Miniature sliders, gourmet popcorn, or even decadent cheese plates are perfect for grazing and encourage additional spending. Plus, you can often leverage leftover ingredients from your kitchen to create these tasty treats. 

Get creative with portion sizes and pricing. Offer a platter featuring a variety of small plates, or price them individually to cater to different appetites and budgets. Consider offering a special price on small plates when paired with a featured drink for an irresistible combo.

5. Embrace the Power of ‘Local’

Craft beer enthusiasts are everywhere! Partner with local breweries to feature limited-edition brews on tap. This not only supports your community, but fosters a sense of exclusivity that keeps customers coming back for the next big thing. 

And you don't have to stop at beer. Partner with local distilleries or wineries to offer unique flights or featured cocktails using their spirits. These local partnerships can also be leveraged for social media promotions and events, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.

6. Think Beyond the Traditional Happy Hour

Think beyond the basic discounts of the traditional happy hour. Offer ‘build-your-own-old-fashioned’ nights where customers can choose their bitters, sugar content, and fruit garnish. This personalization creates a unique experience and allows you to charge a premium for the customization. 

Another option? Host ‘blind taste tests’ where customers can sample different liquors or beers at a discounted price, then vote for their favourite. The winner becomes your featured happy hour special for the following week. This element of surprise and discovery keeps things interesting for your patrons.

7. Embrace the Mocktail Movement

Dry January might be over, but the demand for delicious non-alcoholic options is here to stay. Get creative with fresh juices, house-made syrups, and sparkling water to craft zero-proof cocktails that are just as exciting as their boozy counterparts. Make it a social media challenge! Encourage customers to create and share their own mocktail recipes using a designated hashtag. Offer a prize for the most creative or visually appealing drink.

8. Become Social Media Savvy

On that note, social media can be a great way to bring customers through your doors. Showcase your enticing drink specials with mouthwatering photos and creative video content. Don't just post static images. Use eye-catching videos to showcase the preparation of your signature cocktails or the lively atmosphere of your bar during themed nights. Offer exclusive discounts or host social media contests to generate buzz and attract a younger crowd.

Read more, Bar Marketing: 10 Ways to Attract Customers and Build Loyalty.

9. Embrace Change (It’s Not Your Enemy) 

Change isn't’ your enemy, becoming stagnant is. The bar industry is a living organism that’s constantly evolving. Don't be afraid to experiment with new flavours, unique ingredients, and creative presentations. Use your experience as a foundation, but embrace the fresh energy that young customers bring. 

Remember, a successful bar strikes a balance between tradition and innovation. By utilizing these tips, leveraging technology, and keeping your finger on the pulse of current trends, you'll be back to serving up booming profits and unforgettable experiences.

Now it’s over to you! Go forth and conquer the bar scene, and if you need help improving those profit margins then get in touch with your team of inventory experts here at Sculpture Hospitality

Request a Consultation

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A Complete Buyer's Guide to Food & Beverage Inventory Management Systems

With around 25 to 35 percent of a restaurant’s operating budget dedicated to purchasing food (that’s not even taking into account beverage inventory costs for the bar), proper inventory management can significantly improve expected revenue.

To maximize profits you need to improve visibility and control over your restaurant or bar’s inventory. 

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