Critical Steps to Sports Bar Success

Sports fans all over America, dream of owning a Sports Bar.  Although it could be very lucrative, you need to remember it’s still a business.  Follow the steps below and you will give yourself the best chance for long term success.  In order to compete you need to have a Sports Theme, Staff Engagement, Sports Related Marketing, Creativity and Top Notch Management. Keep in mind prior to the steps below you must be properly funded, choose the right location and negotiate a favorable lease.

Sports Theme
Sports bar owners make this mistake over and over.  How do you label your bar a sports bar and the only thing that is sports related is the games on the TV?  If you are going to make the statement that you are a sports bar then it should be decked out with sports memorabilia such as sport jerseys, pictures, baseball bats, basketballs, hockey sticks, footballs, large TV’s with projectors, sports video games  and  trivia.  How about adding some bobble heads, darts, beer pong and pool tables.  Adding some posters of the movies like Varsity Blues, Major League, Blue Chips and Rocky will give you character. Pin up Pennants from every Major, Minor, College and High School team in your neighborhood are also great additions. You need to make your sports bar is sports related.  By getting people to talk about the sports décor you have surrounded them in your bar, you are creating customer engagement.  

Photo By ProjectorPeople

Staff Engagement
Your staff is a key component to a sports bars success.  It’s more like “Cheers”.  You really should know everyone’s name and your staff should be dressed for the part in referee uniforms, jerseys or sports related gear.  Your staff must be knowledgeable about sports.   Hiring locals who are in the sports community could be good employees and are beneficial to your bar.  You want your bartenders, waitresses, shot girls to engage with your customers about the games that are on TV.  This creates interaction between the staff members and the customers.  Interaction equals repeat customers! 

Sports Related Marketing
Sports bar marketing is very different than nightlife marketing.  Sponsoring softball, Little League, hockey, flag football, kickball and any local sports teams is always a good idea.  Facebook, Twitter and Bleacher Report are great ways sports bars can engage their customers.  But remember your graphics for your social media outlets should advertise all major sporting events that are shown in your bar.

Also, you need to know your calendar! World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Championship, Stanley Cup, Final Four as well as all playoff games are important. Pay attention to rivalry games like Yankees vs Redsox, Dodgers vs Giants, FSU vs UF, Lakers vs Celtics as these games can add to your bottom line. You could also set up specials for fantasy baseball and football drafts. 

Get creative with you drink and food menus. If you’re in New York have the Derek Jeter burger, The Ichiro Wrap, or the Grandyman Desert. Then name the drinks or put them in custom made football fishbowls (examples include the G Men Juice or the KnickerBomber). Your marketing can also be creative with die cut flyers of a football or baseball.  Bus trips from the bar to games.  You can organize a baseball card show at your venue during the day.  Sports related theme parties and contests such as, The Ugliest Sports Jersey competition, The Varsity Blues Party, or Frank the Tank Beer Bong Party. If your team makes the playoffs, such as the World Champion San Francisco Giants of last year, make a party out of it. Plenty of sports stars do appearances try and get one of them to come down to take pictures, signed autographs and engaged with the crowd.

Top Notch Management
Everything above is meaningless if you do not have a good system with top notch management in place.    A good operating system consists of inventory, ordering, recipes, consistency, training, scheduling, payroll, legal, accounting, cleanup, and all related other operational tasks.  You need to have surveillance and/or a good system for theft and over pouring. Over pouring could be the difference between being in the black or the red.  Music is important for sports bars as well.  Customers, who come to sports bars, do not want to hear EDM or hardcore hip hop.  Play bar music. Depending on your size and budget put in a Juke box or have a DJ. But make sure to balance the music with the sports commentators. 


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