12 Bar Marketing Ideas You Can Try Now (With Examples)

Use these bar marketing ideas (aka ‘Attraction Ingredients’) in your social media content to build a stronger brand and draw guests into your bar.

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Bonus: Guest Getter Content Calendar

If it’s true that people first taste with their eyes (and it is), then your bar’s content is your most important marketing asset.

While it can be hard to see the cause and effect of consistent content and the guests it generates, you can begin to get a sense of the impact by the quality of comments your audience is leaving:

(Ultimately, revenue and profit is what matters, so anytime you add or adjust a marketing effort, be sure to watch for trends in your bottom line)

This article will help you to stop ‘guessing’ what content to post at the awareness and attention part of your marketing funnel. 

I call this type of content ‘Attraction Ingredients’ because they’re underpinned by persuasive devices that will help you:

  • Build your brand…
  • Start relationships…
  • Position your restaurant as a leader…

It can be challenging to know what content to post. Bookmark this article so that you know where to turn when you need content marketing ideas for your restaurant and bar.

Bonus: Want a tool you can use to organize your bar’s content for the next 6 months, and get your team on the same page? Download the Guest Getter Content System for free now

Here are 12 bar marketing ideas—Attraction Ingredients—you can try right now:

Let’s break down each ingredient with an example, the objective, and why they work:

Drool-Worthy Photography

Objective: Get them salivating. Get them to say, “I want that!”

Why It Works: This is the first ingredient because it’s a non-negotiable in our industry. We’ve all heard it before: people first taste with their eyes.

Having a stock of great photos can be tough if you don’t have a system. Here are a few ways to coordinate photography for your restaurant’s marketing efforts:

  • Task key staff members with daily photos that they upload to a shared drive using a tool like Google Drive or Dropbox. It’s key to make it part of your operations checklist, otherwise, it can easily fall off your team’s radar.
  • Hire a professional photographer to come in once or twice per month and keep you stocked with fresh photos. Photographers can range wildly in price from $150 per shoot all the way up to $3,000 per shoot. I’ve yet to hear a restaurateur say that world-class photography doesn’t pay for itself.
  • Hire a full service creative agency who can provide an end-to-end solution from idea to hitting the publish button. If you go this route, be sure there’s a system in place to measure the returns against their efforts — otherwise, it can easily become cost-prohibitive. 

Origin Story

Objective: Foster a connection between your staff and your restaurant’s audience.

Why It Works: Ultimately, people connect with people and they connect with story. Origin stories help foster that connection between your people, products, and brand.

What’s an origin story? Origin stories are exactly what they sound like: an account of what led a character to become the protagonist they are.

No need to overthink what origin story to tell 👉 You can tell origin stories about dishes, cocktails, staff, brand, and even your guests!

How To

Objective: Teach your audience how to do something so that they associate your brand with utility.

Why It Works: The very best content is content that can be used. Why? Because humans need resources to survive. And when you deliver useful content, you deliver a resource to your audience. 

At the very least, your audience will be entertained. At the very best, they will subconsciously associate your restaurant with helping them survive.

Both are great for building your brand.

It’s also not that hard to do because your establishment is chock-full of talented chefs, bartenders, and servers who love to share what they know. All you need to do is capture a short video of them giving a step by step, or simply take photos of each step.

Worried about editing video? Just use www.canva.com. It’s surprisingly easy to cut a simple video.

You can also create a step-by-step guide using still images.

Share a Staff Member’s Profile / Their Philosophy

Objective: Foster a deeper connection between your audience and your brand.

Why It Works: As Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is about sharing your brand’s collective ‘why’ expressed by your team.

Try and go deep here. Good questions to tease out a meaningful ‘why’ include:

  • When was the first ‘aha’ moment that you had where you realized you love cooking / cocktails / the industry / etc?
  • Was there something about your childhood that led you to what you do today?
  • What’s your ‘hospitality’ philosophy? 
  • Do you love what you do? If so, why?

The more real and vulnerable your team is willing to be, the more effective this kind of content will be.

Give ‘em a Look Under-the-Hood

Objective: Foster a transparent culture.

Why It Works: The ‘Covid hangover’ will likely result in people being more wary of health and safety than ever before. Transparency builds trust and that’s what we’re doing when we give your audience a look ‘under-the-hood.’

It’s also an opportunity to show the measures you’re taking to keep your team and guests safe.

But it can also be about other cool stuff you have going on behind the scenes. Here are some ideas:

  • Share something about one of your local suppliers. For example, your chef picking up greens at a local farm, or a bartender grabbing ingredients to play with in their cocktails. This is great for building relationships with other businesses in your community.
  • Share any rituals your team has around pre-service or post-service. For example, at one of the bars I used to work at, we would talk about what went well in the previous night’s service, what we needed to improve, and a short lesson about a spirit or food item. It enriched our own experience and helped us add value to the guest experience.
  • Team building events. For example, at Wolf in the Fog, their team takes an annual trip to a region where they can learn more about the culture and cuisine. They then share what they learn in their menus and special events.
Bonus: If you want to organize your own “Attraction Ingredients” on a 1-page monthly calendar that you can print and hang up in your bar so you don’t forget, get my free Bar Content Calendar System here.

Deliver a Public Service Announcement

Objective: Give a direct and important message to your audience that gives a sense of community and leadership.

Why It Works: Anytime there’s a big change in your local market, establishment, or cause that you’re passionate about is an ideal time to share that message with your audience. Taking a stand for what you believe in positions your restaurant as a leader and innovator.

Here are a few examples of public service announcements:

  • Share your stance on an issue in your community…
  • Introduce a new team member…
  • Changing your hours of service? Let the people know…
  • Let your audience know about an upcoming event…
  • Reveal a new special offer…

Don’t be afraid to be bold and ruffle some feathers. You want an audience that’ll charge into battle with you.

Just Show Your Menu

Objective: Get them to ‘pinch the screen,’ look a bit closer, and start making their choices — get them anticipating their experience.

Why It Works: All a menu is is the text version of the experience potential guests could have. That’s what’s powerful about it — people look at it, they begin thinking “hmm, I could have that…or that….or that…” (nodding their heads as they do) and they begin to imagine their experience.

In NLP (neuro linguistic programming), there’s a concept called ‘theater of the mind.’ When you want something, you play out what it is you want like a movie that’s happening in your mind. Doing so ‘sets the stage’ for what it is you want to happen.

Showing a menu is like ‘setting the stage.’

Deliver a Mini Lesson

Objective: Get them thinking about ingredients in a way they hadn’t before. Give a bite-sized lesson that teaches something they likely didn’t know before.

Why It Works: In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini breaks down the elements that build influence. The first one is ‘reciprocity’ — i.e. when you give something of value to someone for free, humans are hard-wired to reciprocate.

By delivering a mini lesson, you give a tangible piece of value. This kick starts the ‘reciprocity’ mechanism and your audience will reciprocate by paying you a visit.

Here are a few ideas of mini lessons you could give:

  • Give simple tasting notes of ingredients such as spirits, wine, beer, etc.
  • Share the history of a technique, tool, or ingredient
  • Explain the purpose behind any methods you use

In case you hadn’t noticed, delivering a mini lesson is closely related to giving a how-to.

Run a Giveaway

Objective: Buzz, engagement, growth.

Giveaways are only limited by your imagination. They don’t have to be gift cards or free items (though they certainly can be).

My favourite giveaways are unique experiences such as a class, event, or tasting. Here are some ideas:

  • Cocktail making or cooking class 👉 I especially like these for venues that are only open in the evening as it gets more yield out of your space.
  • Tasting of wine or spirits 👉 This is a good opportunity for a partnership with a local winery or spirit portfolio. Oftentimes they’ll provide the product AND the education.
  • Free monthly food item for an entire year 👉 For example, we hyped the upcoming sale of our 10,000th burger. Whoever ordered the 10,000th would get one free burger each month for an entire year.

You’ll want to ensure that the rules are clear. I’d recommend asking your audience to be sure they follow your profile, share the giveaway post, and even sign up for your email list to be entered into the giveaway.

Share a Food / Drink Insight

Objective: Help them see your product through a new lens.

Why It Works: Chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, etc, are experts. Most of your audience are lay people compared to your team members. So when you share nuances and insights of what goes into a product, your audience gets value. 

Again, you’re opening their eyes and helping them see your products and brand in a way they might not have before.

Do a Mini Product Launch

Objective: Increase traffic and reservations through the magic of ‘new.’

Why It Works: When we launch a product, we give people a new opportunity that they can hop on. Drew Eric Whitman calls this ‘The Bandwagon Effect.’

You can do this for new cocktails, menus, special food items, apparel, etc.

At Little Jumbo, we had MANY people who would come in every single time we launched a new cocktail menu. They wanted to try them all.

(I was often reminded of the Pokemon slogan — “Gotta catch ‘em all”)

Bonus: Ideas are the easy part. Organization and execution are the hard parts. Get the Guest Getter Content Calendar System for free with all these ideas mapped out on a monthly calendar. You can share it digitally with your team and even print it and hang it up at your bar. Get the free download here.

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🙂 Actionable tips to get more guests…

 😃 Ideas to increase per-head spend…

😍 Value-packed quotes from the podcast…

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