How and Why to Offer a Bar Food Menu

If you're looking to make the most of your sales potential, a bar food menu might be a good addition to your establishment. Top-line sales—those items that are a direct result of customer choice—flourish when appealing foods match the setting. And luckily, creating a program that specializes in food for bar customers doesn't mean you have to limit their choices. Instead, go with a specialized selection that gives you the opportunity to sell food that wouldn't quite fit into your dining room mission. If you're ready to start your own bar menu, here are some tips and ideas to help you get started.

Bring in More Profits

The social setting of a bar is quite different from that of a dining room. Sitting in the dining room means ordering food and adding alcohol to your tab, while drinking at the bar can be made more profitable by giving patrons the option to order food. If the menu is crafted with snacking and sharing in mind, top-line sales will likely increase. James Soto, chef at Virginia Beach's Primo Pizzeria and Italian Ristorante, recommends serving steak bites, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, caprese, and stuffed portobello mushrooms. "They're fast and easy, add income to the bar business, and introduce your food to someone who may not have tried it otherwise," he says.

Expand Your Menu

Creating a separate bar menu doesn't mean you have to dumb down your menu. One complaint that operators make about adding a bar menu is that simple, shareable plates won't match the overall vibe of their restaurant. However, a bar is most often communal in nature and different from the formality of a dining room. In a more social environment, it's common practice to share food, eat casually, and sample many dishes. "Just don't over-complicate it; that's when things get dicey," says Soto.

Keeping your bar menu simple can also help you avoid overwhelming the kitchen during a Friday night rush when tables are booked. At Copperwood Tavern, the bar food menu includes shareable, quick fixes like sliders. In London, Gordon Ramsay's The Narrow offers an array of single-priced small plates and no-hassle heartier fare, available only in the bar.

Add an Upscale Twist

Classic offerings, such as chicken wings, work well at almost any bar. However, wings may send a certain message that could conflict with the spirit of a more formal dining scene or simply clash with your vision. If that's the case, offer wings that have a unique, upscale twist. This will not only make your offering unique, but the payoff is that everyone is happy. A more formal diner won't be turned off as chicken wings are being snarfed up at the neighboring table, while bar customers will be happy with the availability of a very popular menu item. And if you do it right, word will spread about your unique bar offerings, and your establishment will grow its pool of regular customers.

Cater to Millennials

Offer a menu that has millennials reaching into their deep pockets. This young demographic loves snacking, craft beer, and social gatherings that revolve around food. Having a menu that appeals to their Friday night ritual will keep them interested in your operation and, more importantly, spending money on the food they want.

A bar menu provides an opening to generate sales. If you're considering adding one to your establishment, start with these tips and try to appeal to your younger patrons. The added benefits for owners and operators is an uptick in sales while keeping food freely flowing out of the kitchen.

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