Starting a hospitality business is no easy feat. And creating a steady stream of regular customers isn’t something that happens overnight. To get people excited about coming in more than once, you’ll need to be strategic.
Unfortunately, the odds tend not to be in your favor, and it can take years to earn back the original principal invested (before making any sort of profit). The key to success lies in getting people to come back again and again.
6 tactics to earn regular customers at your bar
Whether you run a brewery or a bar, the following six tactics can help you create a pool of loyal, regular customers.
Offer a loyalty program.
Offer food — even if you don’t have a kitchen.
Organize fun, regular events.
Create a connection with the local community.
Rotate offerings regularly.
Ask for feedback.
Want to keep the drinks flowing? Then read on.
1. Offer a loyalty program
People love a good deal and appreciate being rewarded for being a good customer. That’s why loyalty programs can be a great way to create regular customers at your bar. After all, loyal customers spend 67-percent more than new customers.
For an even easier loyalty program, simply offer happy hour specials. By structuring happy hour deals during weekdays (Monday through Thursday) and at off-peak hours (3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close), you’ll funnel in more customers during down times while encouraging them to keep coming back.
2. Offer food — even if you don’t have a kitchen
If you’re in the planning stages of opening a bar, consider a space with a kitchen. People can only drink for so long until they need something to eat.
If it’s too late to plan for a kitchen or you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of offering food, all is not lost. There are three effective ways to give customers access to food even if you don’t have a kitchen:
- Partner with local food trucks and have them park in front of your bar during certain days and times. Offer to promote them through your bar’s marketing channels, and ask them to return the favor.
- Collect menus from local restaurants, and let patrons know that they can order food for delivery in the bar.
- Let customers bring in their own food.
Regardless of how you decide to approach the issue, realize that customers aren’t necessarily expecting multi-course, fine-dining options. Offering simple snacks like popcorn, beer nuts, chips and pretzels can be enough to help balance out a steady intake of alcohol and stave off hunger.
3. Organize fun, regular events
Successful breweries are notorious for building community through events. By hosting fun events at your bar, you give customers a reason to stay up-to-date on your latest offerings, turning them into regular customers.
Effective and easy ideas for events to organize at your bar include:
- Run club. There’s nothing better than a cold beer after an intense workout. That’s why many bars and breweries organize run clubs so customers have a reason to hang out and get to know fellow patrons.
- Yoga. Pairing cocktails and yoga is a great way to create regular customers. Local yoga teachers are always looking for new students and new places to teach, so reach out to local studios and offer up your space.
- Tastings. Adding a new beer or craft cocktail to the menu? Promote its release with a dedicated event. Beer releases and tasting events help get people excited about coming back into your bar.
4. Create a connection with the local community
People love to support local businesses. Make an effort to forge a deeper connection with your community to help create a pool of regular customers.
Summer and fall months tend to offer multiple opportunities to get involved with local festivals. Take advantage so you can reach more locals and increase awareness of your bar in the community.
Local events can also be a great opportunity to cross-promote with another local business. Is someone on your management team good friends with a local restaurant that members of your target audience love? Collaborate on a ticketed multi-course gourmet dinner event where they provide the food and you provide the drinks.
5. Rotate offerings regularly
Once you’ve created a connection with a customer, turn them into a regular customer by tempting them with new drink options. Whether it’s every week, month or season will depend on your bar’s capabilities and how customers are responding to these changes.
If your bar is known for certain drinks, make sure to keep them on the menu throughout the year — or risk alienating customers who come in just for that.
By designating some drinks as “rotating taps” or “seasonal offerings,” however, you’ll drive traffic through the concept of scarcity — and encourage regular customers who enjoy variety.
For breweries, this can become another cross-promotional opportunity. Consider a trade where you offer kegs of another brewery’s beer on tap if it’ll do the same in its taproom. Or you could collaborate on a new beer where both parties can take ownership of the final product.
6. Ask for feedback
If you’re having trouble getting customers back in the door, it might be because you’re doing something wrong. The best way to get to the bottom of this is to simply ask customers for their honest feedback.
Customers like to be heard, so the simple act of asking (and following up on) feedback can help encourage regular customers. Perhaps there’s something that’s discouraging customers from becoming loyal customers.
With these key tips in hand, you’ll be tapping kegs, pouring custom cocktails, and serving up success in no time. Cheers!