How to Create a Lively Atmosphere for a New Bar

5 Mar 2015 Category:  Commercial, News

How to Create a Lively Atmosphere for a New Bar

As a publican or bar manager, you already know that the key to attracting and keeping customers is atmosphere. Yet there’s something of a catch-22 situation at play here: so much of a bar’s atmosphere comes from its clientele, but when you first set up a new bar you won’t have an established client base. So what should you do to attract the right crowd?

Identify Your Unique Selling Point

There are many different kinds of bar, and aiming at a high-end market doesn’t necessarily mean yours will be automatically superior to one with a more down-to-earth vibe. What great bars have in common, though, is that they’re definite about what they bring to the scene. Whether you want to serve Jagerbombs to students or craft beer to hipsters, make sure your bar doesn’t just do what all the others are doing. Be a leader rather than a follower.

Of course, having a clear business vision isn’t the same thing as having a theme. Theme bars can be brilliant if you research your market properly, but a Japanese yakitori bar might not go down too well in an area where the local population is predominantly white and lower middle class. It might be better, for example, to direct your efforts towards serving the British salaryman, and creating a place where quality beers and spirits may be enjoyed after work in a more familiar context.

Success by Design

Once you’ve clarified your establishment’s mission, it’s important to make sure that this is communicated to your customers through your premises. Offering classic cocktails against a backdrop of dungeon paraphernalia is likely to send a somewhat mixed message, as are fixtures and fittings consisting of a stylistic mishmash. Your customers will take their behavioural cues from the décor and lighting, so make sure that these are consistent with your vision.

A more subtle facet of interior decoration is the level – if any – of background music. If your aim is to foster social interaction between customers and staff, music must be restricted to a volume that allows this. Of course, if you’re marketing your place as a music pub, play on!

Find Your People

Attracting customers begins with your bar staff: if you look into a new bar and immediately like the cut of the bartender’s jib, you’ll be much more likely to drop in for a swift half. So it pays to hire staff who reflect the profile of the customer you wish to serve. Bar banter and great service touches form the basis of community, so if you want to build a core of regulars you need to reward those who come back repeatedly. Treat your staff well, because a conspicuously high turnover of personnel doesn’t help to encourage regular custom.

The methods by which you market your bar also depend on your target audience. If you’re offering a selection of artisanal beers, then get into bed with CAMRA or the Craft Brewing Association and hold regular beer festivals. If you’re a student pub, term-time leafleting and online social media should do the trick.

Once you’ve found some customers, it’s important to listen to what they have to say. Treat all feedback as useful intelligence and carefully consider how best to respond to it. The same applies to feedback offered by staff. Your workforce is there on the ground, as it were, and is often best equipped to know what’s going on.

Creating the right atmosphere for a new bar is straightforward once you’ve decided on your unique selling point. This can be upmarket or informal, but it is the source from which everything else—interior decoration, music, your hiring policy and even your marketing strategy—flows. Get these ducks in a row and you’ll be assured of the clientele you’d like to attract, and your bar will rock with a vibe, which is as lively as you want it to be.

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