If you’re a new bar owner – or a hopeful bar owner who hasn’t yet opened their doors – you may have chosen to operate only during the evenings. Your decision could be based on a number of factors, not the least of which is labor costs. It’s also possible that when you hear the words “daytime operations” you think that you have to open your doors to the public at 11:00AM or noon. The truth is that you can attract loyal daytime customers by opening 2 or 3 hours earlier than you’re opening now. A noon or earlier start is ideal for weekends but you really don’t have to open any earlier than 2:00PM or 3:00PM on weekdays. The key is offering the right menu items at the right prices while using your space properly.
Session Beer & Low-ABV Cocktails
The majority of your daytime customers are looking to settle in for a while, so don’t expect a quick turnover. If someone has the time to leisurely enjoy a couple of beers or cocktails during the day, they aren’t in any rush to move on, generally speaking. In the interest of responsible service and encouraging longer guests visits it’s wise to have session beers and low-ABV cocktails on your menu. A session beer is one that is 5% ABV or less, allowing your guest to enjoy multiple beers over a reasonable amount of time without reaching irresponsible or unacceptable levels of intoxication. Low-ABV cocktails, also called session cocktails or low-proof libations, are a similar concept and are often vermouth-based. You’ll sell more of both, building your bottom line. Low-ABV punches will allow your bar staff to pre-batch throughout the day. Start your happy hour early and make sure it overlaps with the evening segment to draw in the business crow as you transition into the evening part of your operations.
Daytime operations tend to feel more casual, even if your venue is upscale. And unless you plan to offer a lunch menu, snacks and shareable plates are your best bet in terms of food. Lighter fare, such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, street tacos, sliders, salads, cheese and charcuterie, should be no-brainers but you can also offer your guests more fun items. It’s hot out and your customers are seeking a cool place to enjoy a cool beverage and try something cool, so how about boozy popsicles? Once you get the hang of creating these frozen refreshers you’ll be able to put together an entire menu of special treats.
Use of Space
As was stated earlier, entering into daytime operations can be as simple as opening up your venue a few hours earlier than normal to attract customers looking for somewhere to relax, sip a beer or cocktail, maybe have a snack, and socialize with friends. An added benefit is that the 9 to 5 crowd will be walking into a bar that has been building a great vibe. Communicate your new hours via social media and a sandwich board outside your front door to let customers know that you’re open during the day.
If you have a patio space, you’re missing out if you’re not operating during the day. When it comes to enjoying a bite and a drink, you’ll find that most guests will naturally gravitate towards a patio if one is available, particularly during the summer. Patios, depending on your amenities, can also be used to communicate a sense of seasonality, and your cocktail and food menus can further send that message. Between the Fourth of July and Rio 2016, your patio is the perfect place for barbecue and small plates. If you have the space for a smoker and/or grill, consider preparing barbecue outside in front of your guests. When cooler weather eventually arrives, fire pits and torches can help keep your customers comfortable.
If you’re permitted to use sidewalk space, daytime guests will help you to pull in foot traffic. Put a few attractive, seasonal signature cocktails on your menu with presentations that really deliver on the wow factor and passersby will be tempted to pop in. If you have access to sidewalk space but haven’t yet looked into using it, be aware that some cities apply fees for “air rights,” and these can run into the thousands of dollars per year.
Dayime operations can be a great way to create a loyal customer base and boost your revenue. This is particularly true if you operate in an area with lots of foot traffic, whether that’s due to plentiful shopping, being located in a generally walkable city, or strong tourism.