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The Craft

The ultimate resource for alcohol beverage news, trends and reports for bars, distributors and suppliers.

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One of the hardest parts about opening a bar—cocktail bar, sports bar, bar club, restaurant bar, or any bar really—is figuring out who you’re selling to and who is actually going to be drinking at your bar. Is it the Gen Z, hard-partying crowd? Is it the Millennial, slightly-better-financed demographic? How about the retired crowd looking for comfort and sustainability? 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 the target market for your bar? Determining who you can serve best is just as tricky as determining what should be served at your bar. Let's look at tips for how you can find your ideal customer.

How to Identify Target Market for a Bar

Use Competitive Analysis to identify your bar's target market and demographics

Competitive analysis is pretty crucial to the success of any project, bars and restaurants included.

Common questions to ask when opening a bar and identifying your customers and target market:

  • 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 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, look at other sports bars in the area. Who do they attract and how do they execute on their vision? Figuring out what similar establishments are doing rightand who they’re getting in the doormight help you get those customers through your doors instead.

Location matters for the target market for your bar or restaurant

With very, very few exceptions, location is a huge part of determining your restaurant or bar target market. 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 a larger scope. 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.

Think about psychographics for determining your restaurant or bar target market

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 you 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.

Research & Development is critical for opening a successful bar

This is the fun part! Bar research is as easy as dining and drinking out. Do some boots-on-the-ground recon to figure out what customer you’re looking for. Try visiting some competitors to get real, hands-on analysis on the market that is available for your establishment. While hypotheticals and surveys are all well and good, it’s invaluable to get a real-world snapshot of the bar and restaurant 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.

Building your bar brand goes hand in hand with finding your target market

We saved (potentially) the most important aspect for last: building your brand. 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 and image.

By learning the physical (and conceptual) 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.

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