One of the hardest parts about opening a bar is figuring out who you’re selling to, and who is going to be actually drinking at your bar. Is it the 21-25, hard-partying crowd? Or is it the late-twenties/early-thirties, slightly-better-financed demographic? While there’s no ‘right answer’ to these questions, there’s certainly a ‘right customer’ for your establishment and for the drinks it serves. But how do you figure out exactly what that is? Determining who should be in your bar is just as tricky as determining what should be served at your bar, in many cases. Today we’re going to give you some tips on how to find your customer. After all, once you’ve got your ideal customer figured out, you’re off to the races.
Before any of that, though, we should talk about what could go wrong if you don’t determine who it is you’re trying to lure in. Fear tactics aside, trying to reach the wrong demographic is going to spell nothing but disaster. Even if you’ve got a great product, but you’re selling to the wrong crowd...well, you’re in for a bad time. Now, on to the good stuff…!
Competitive analysis is pretty crucial to the success of any project, bars and restaurants included. What bars inspired you? What bars do you see as having a similar ‘vibe’ to yours? This can be based on your establishment as a whole, or on individual components of a business. For example, if you’re going after the happy hour crowd, we suggest looking at other establishments’ happy-hour programs. How can you be better? What are they doing that you aren’t, and vice-versa? Use this type of analysis to determine who should be frequenting your bar, and how you should appeal to them. Or, you can look at your bar/restaurant’s concept as a whole. If you’re opening a sports bar, for example, look at other sports bars in the area. Who do they attract, and how do they execute on their vision?
Whatever the case is, analyzing your competitors is a great way to find your market. While most restaurants and bars are unique, there are certainly ‘genres’ of establishments. Look to other places within your ‘genre’ to figure out what they’re doing right, and who they’re getting in the door. That’s going to help you get those customers through your doors instead.
With very, very few exceptions, location is a huge part of determining who is going to patronize your bar. Because bars often depend on foot traffic during the week, this can be doubly crucial. This can again be in the small, immediate scale, or you can look to the larger area in general. On one hand, you can look at the neighborhood immediately surrounding your bar, or you can even go as large as regional tastes. All of this can help determine who is most likely to be your clientele.
What neighborhood is your place in? What types of other restaurants thrive there, and who are their clientele? Determine whether your area is largely residential, or mostly professionals looking for a quick (and maybe-boozy) lunch. Figuring out what foot traffic you’re likely to get can really determine what kinds of offerings belong on your menu. Doing this type of research can be as easy as walking around and scoping out your neighborhood, in fact.
We’re sure you’re familiar with demographics, but how about psychographics? In short, demographics can explain “who” your buyer is, while psychographics can explain “why” they buy the things they do. Demographics generally provide the dry, quantifiable facts like age, ethnicity, gender, and income. Meanwhile, psychographics can give you a better idea of the intangibles -- self-perception, goals, motivations, and values. These things often impact spending patterns much more profoundly than demographics. You can use this powerful type of analysis to determine the perfect customer for your restaurant or bar.
Basically, instead of starting with the ‘who’, psychographics allow you to start with the ‘why’. Why does someone pick X bar over Y bar, and how can we fill that niche of “X”? Try to find out what it is about your bar that should draw the customer in, and what ‘statement’ (if any) the customer might be trying to make by going to your establishment. It’s not simple, but it’s an immensely powerful way of looking at bar and restaurant marketing.
We hate to get too ‘zen master’ on the blog, but this is worth saying. In order to know your ideal customer, a bar has to know its own brand and mission. This doesn’t just mean knowing the ins and outs of your finances and business model, but also understanding the intangibles like persona, brand, and image.
By learning the physical (and spiritual) ins-and-outs of your brand, it can be easier to identify what niche and what needs you fill for a potential customer. Once you’ve determined what you have to offer, it’s easy to figure out who might want to walk through those doors. Specifically, who could reap the benefits of your establishment? Don’t just consider what customers you want to reach, but also what customers would realistically find value in what you’re offering.
The fun part!
Go eat out, and go out drinking! Do some boots-on-the-ground recon to figure out what customer you’re looking for. Try visiting some competitors to get real, eyes-on analysis on the market that is available for your establishment. While hypotheticals and surveys are fine and good, it’s invaluable to get a real-world snapshot of the bar and cocktail culture in your area. Seeing what types of people go into bars in your area can greatly help you in determining who you should be catering to. Besides, you get to have some fun while you’re at it.
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