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How to Run a Bar

Read on to find out more about running a bar in South Africa!

Competition in this sector is fierce, and with new liquor laws restricting bar owners, it can be hard to keep afloat.

Sector stats

The craft beer revolution is taking off in South Africa, with rising demand for local brew and specialist spirits. Industry experts predict an increase in specialist bars over the next few years, aimed to appeal to both locals and travellers.

The total income of the food and beverages industry in South Africa was just less than R62 billion in 2016, which is not much more than the sector’s total expenditure of R60.3 billion; showing that the profit margins in this bar industry are very fine.

Hosting events

Events are a great way to attract new clientele to your bar; you could host a speed dating night or a business networking lunch. Make sure you promote your event on social media and other websites to sell your tickets and guarantee it’s a success. 

You could host weekly, fortnightly or monthly events, such as a games night or an open mic session. Events that encourage social interaction can help create a buzz online; encourage your guests to tag your bar in any photos and videos they post.

Stay true to your business ethos and cater to your target market; if you’re a craft beer bar in a student neighbourhood, then host ‘guess the brew’ competitions. These types of games also encourage your patrons to try a variety of beers your bar offers.

Host weekly drink or food promotions; make your deals unique and seasonal and advertise them on a board outside your bar to attract passers-by. You should also spend time talking to your customers to find out what they want from your bar.

Know your target market

Most bars will have their regular customers, this will depend heavily on the location and neighbourhood. If your bar is in a tourist area, then you’re going to have a different type of clientele compared to a wine bar nestled in leafy suburbia.

You need to have a clear idea of who your target market is and tailor your bar to suit their needs. You should also know what products are performing best; ordering stock and knowing what drinks work on your menu is vital to increase your turnover figures.

Immerse yourself in the industry

Enter industry competitions: winning awards and accolades is a great way to promote your bar and its success. Now in its fourth year, the B.A.R Awards has become a major event for both bar owners and hospitality brand giants.

Entering competitions can also encourage your employees to excel and improve their skills. Cocktail masterclasses are increasingly popular throughout South Africa; offering courses hosted by your skilled bartenders could be another income stream. 

You should subscribe to trade magazines to immerse yourself within the hospitality community; the more connections you have the better. Keep abreast with industry news and trends across the country to keep your bar ahead of the curve.

Build strong connections with your suppliers to secure the best prices for your alcohol. Try to make relationships with small, independent brewers too; if your bar is busy then you may be in a good position to negotiate a fair price for their product.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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