Businesses with robust beverage programs have a looming question heading into the colder months of the year: How can we drive traffic without incurring more costs?
You see, bars and taprooms are facing increased costs on nearly every facet of their businesses—raw materials, equipment, and, of course, labor. So while small business owners are never short on creativity, it’s often difficult to think of ways to get more people in the door without having to forfeit extra money or manpower.
Keep reading for low cost and low effort events that drive traffic and build up your fan base for the long term:
Roll Out The Red Carpet For Local “Celebrities“
Your small business isn’t the only one trying to make an extra dime or two, and there are likely plenty of local “celebrities” in the area looking for a platform to share. (Let’s face it: Soccer moms love a local influencer.)
If you provide the venue for them gratis, their presence could very well drive traffic to your bar or taproom. Plus, since they’re the star of the show, your staff can focus solely on guests. That way, everyone wins!
Opening up your space to authors for signings or discussions is a great way to get some thirsty book worms in your bar.
And it doesn’t have to be Stephen King! Local authors of photography, hiking trails, or even children’s books aren’t that hard to find. Do some quick Google searching and perhaps some Instagram DM-ing—chances are they’d be thrilled to have a chance to sell more books and meet readers!
Similar to authors, nonprofits are always trying to spread their mission and gain visibility in their locales. Being invited to speak and meet interested donating parties is something they’d definitely do at no charge to you. There are a few ideas for hosting nonprofits:
- South Lake Brewing Company has had success with Celebrity Bartending. They invite a small team from select nonprofits to get behind the bar and pour beers for guests. That way, the nonprofit can advocate to guests while they’re serving, and guests get to interact with an interesting new person pullin’ the taps. South Lake is even generous enough to donate all tips from the evening to the participating nonprofit!
- Nothing gets people in the door quite like puppies. Invite a whole slew of celebrities to your bar or taproom by reaching out to a local humane society. Again, the nonprofit team will take care of the work like wrangling leashes or facilitating adoptions, and all your team has to do is serve the thirsty new parents!
- If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that almost anything can be done virtually! If you can’t get a nonprofit on-premise, use a donation feature on your POS. Your business can still advertise for the nonprofit, driving traffic by announcing that sales for any given time period will benefit the cause. But with a donation feature, it’s no added work for your team! Guests are simply given a choice to donate when they close tabs—a true set-it-and-forget-it traffic driver.
Here’s a great event idea that bars and taprooms have resounding success with: swaps. Participating guests simply bring an item they’re willing to trade. That means all you’re providing are the beverages they use to cheers with when they’re done!
Whether it’s plants, clothes, or any other tangible good laying around untouched at home, guests are likely eager to get rid of it—especially when there’s a promise they’ll bring home a (free) replacement! Consider your surrounding area and think of what makes your community unique. Maybe a ski swap makes the most sense if you’re nestled in a mountain town!
An event like this encourages sustainability in your neighborhood and requires very little assistance from staff to facilitate.
Edibles goods are also swap-worthy! Whether it’s baked goods or chili, a mouthwatering swap like this is bound to drive traffic. Plus, when guests have something delicious to munch on, they’re likely to stay longer at your business and buy multiple rounds of drinks.
If you do have a staff member to spare, consider increasing engagement and tab size by turning a food swap into a competition. Say every beverage bought that night entitles a guest to 1 token, and therefore 1 vote. Guests can get more tokens by buying more drinks, and vote on their favorite food of the night!
Some friendly competition never hurt anyone, and people are also likely to wait around to hear the winner announced. That means even more drinks ordered!
Host The Ultimate Game Night
Did someone say competition? Hosting a game night encourages group visits and longer stays, which is good for business at no cost to you. Consider the following:
- BYO-Board Game: Encourage both staff and guests to bring in their favorite board game to share. Groups will form based on game preference, and players will need a drink to quench their thirst in no time!
- Competitive Puzzle Night: Hi-Wire Brewing’s new favorite event is their Competitive Puzzle Night. Again, guests essentially entertain themselves, and it’s another lengthy event that will drive beverage purchases. Stock up on those 1,000 piece puzzles to really maximize tab size.
Be The (Free) Meetup Spot
Your taproom or bar is a great space for groups—they may just need to be reminded they can congregate there! A little creativity can go a long way: The Atlanta Hawks’ Tinder-themed night blocked off an area of the stadium for everyone who swiped right during a game. What a way to attract some singles to an event!
Here are some ideas for smaller scale meetups your small business can host:
Get Coworkers Out Of Their Cubes
The corporate world has loosened restrictions on where workers can work. Whether it’s for a meeting or a Happy Hour, inviting offices to come to your establishment guarantees a large group. Plus, sometimes drinks are on the company card, and that means guests are ordering more freely. Cha-ching!
If you have a private area to rent, that’s even better! Perhaps waive the room rental fee the first few times to gain traction. Once workplaces realize how easy it is or how engaged their team is outside of the office, they’ll be willing to pay the rental fee next time.
Take photos of the space you have available and advertise it on social media or to your emailing list to spread the word. You may be surprised at the amount of interest you receive!
Be it a knitting club or an intramural sports league, the participants are happy to meet with their fellow members at a great spot like yours. Flyers in the bathroom, on a bulletin board, or at a local community hub will get the word out about your open invite.
With a little bit of planning ahead of time, your taproom or bar can host incredible programming at a very minimal cost and workload. Don’t get discouraged if one event is a flop—lean into what makes your small business and your clientele unique and iterate on one of the ideas above!
When you’re ready to execute, lean on the best POS system tools that help run profitable events.