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How to Brand a Bar
Think of your dream bar. What comes to mind? What's the atmosphere like? Maybe you picture a dimly lit neighborhood dive with a jukebox playing in the corner. Or, do you see a high-end cocktail lounge with a gleaming mahogany bar top and rows of top-shelf liquors lining the wall?
No matter what comes to mind, a bar’s success relies on how it chooses to brand itself. A restaurant brand comprises everything from the look, environment, sound, and feel of a place. Simply put, it encompasses the very perception of your bar.
There's so much more to building a bar brand than coming up with a catchy bar name and having a menu of creative cocktails — although those are important, too! Bar branding requires strategic planning, research, and execution. It'll all be worth it in the end, as the payoff is a thriving bar with a loyal base of patrons.
How do you brand a bar?
If you find yourself wondering, "What's a bar brand?" or "How do you brand a bar?" - don't sweat it. We'll cover all that and more in this guide.
First things first: What is a bar brand? A bar brand is your bar's heart, soul, and identity. It plays a massive role in influencing how your patrons think of your bar. Your brand covers everything about your bar — from what shows up online when a potential customer Googles you to how a patron feels the second they walk through the door.
"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." - Seth Godin.
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5 Steps to Building your Bar Brand
Building a bar brand requires a carefully thought-out strategy. Rather than randomly testing new ideas, start with these five steps to ensure you plan out a cohesive brand that suits your vision for your bar.
1. Clearly define a bar mission statement.
Your bar's mission statement conveys its raison d'être — its reason for being. The mission statement should take into account the purpose of your bar, what it brings to the table for customers, and show what makes your bar different from the rest.
Here's a great example of a mission statement from Drink, an award-winning bar located in the heart of South Boston's Fort Point neighborhood:
"A bar entirely dedicated to the craft of the cocktail, Drink blends time-honored techniques and the classic cocktails of the prohibition era with modern innovation and the very best artisanal ingredients." - Drink
As you can see above, your mission statement doesn't need to be wordy; one to two sentences is plenty! Drink doesn't mince words. Instead, its mission statement focuses on the why of its existence: honoring the craft of the cocktail.
By using words like "classic," "time-honored," and "artisanal," Drink speaks to a specific type of patron they aim to attract. This is essential to a bar brand.
When you build your bar brand, think of the patrons you want to see in your bar. How will you cater to this target market, and what's your promise to them? Furthermore, why should these customers care about your bar? If crafted correctly, your mission statement will address these things.
Let’s take the first step in your bar brand development journey by jotting down answers to the following questions:
- Who are you?
- What are you doing and why?
- What are your goals?
- How will you accomplish your goals?
Bars are a dime a dozen. Your mission statement differentiates you from others in the industry and identifies your unique selling point (USP). Your USP entices people to choose your bar over others nearby and ultimately inspires brand loyalty.
2. Position your bar in the market.
If the mission statement is the "why," then brand positioning is the "what" and "where." Brand positioning is how your bar's mission, vision, and identity set themselves apart in the larger bar market and the minds of your target customers. When you take the time to adequately position your bar brand, you can better target and engage with your ideal prospective patrons.
How to Position Your Bar Brand with the 4 Ps
Keep the 4 Ps of branding in mind when you work on your brand positioning.
- Price — Price is one of the main ways a bar identifies itself within the market. When you develop your drink menu, your prices will greatly determine how potential patrons will view your bar. Whether you serve $3 rails or high-end cocktails, your prices will play a major part in drawing a specific clientele. Additionally, how you price your drinks will help you define your competitors.
- Product — Your menu items (will you serve food and drinks? Or just drinks?), menu design, the overall experience for your customers, and a theme if you choose to have one.
- Promotion — how you plan to spread the word about your bar. Marketing could include social media, local ads, partnerships with local businesses, and a whole host of other strategies.
- Place — the physical location of your bar will also play an important role in attracting your target customers.
3. Find your brand voice.
When it comes to branding, people usually think of visuals. From the logo to interior design, there's no doubt that the visual aspects of your bar are important. However, bar owners often forget to focus on their brand voice.
Brand voice is the distinct personality your bar will assume in its communications to potential patrons, existing customers, and its overall community. It's the "how" of your brand that includes your bar's personality, language, and stylistic choices. Your bar’s brand voice determines the phrases, images, and content you present to the public.
In addition to your brand positioning, your brand voice is what makes you stand out in the crowded bar industry. You must understand how to present your bar's personality. According to a consumer survey from Sprout, 45% of survey respondents cited irrelevant content as a reason to unfollow a brand on social media. While a social media unfollow isn't always an indicator of bar patronage, it certainly affects your bar's reputation. Not having a strong, consistent brand voice can lead to consumer confusion — when something is off-brand, they notice. That’s because people like knowing what to expect.
To find your brand voice, focus on the personality traits you want to convey to your target customers. If you're marketing to an older demographic, you'll want to steer clear of slang or expressions that may be hard to understand. If you offer a high-end experience, you might incorporate words such as "experiential" and "artisanal."
Developing your brand voice takes time. Don't be afraid to dive deep into research to craft the perfect brand voice for your bar. This is what will ultimately set you apart from your competitors and resonate with your target patrons.
4. Develop the look and feel of your bar's visual identity.
The look and feel of a bar both play a huge role in how it'll stick in customers' minds. After all, how your bar looks is typically the first thing that a customer notices even before they get a chance to order a drink.
Your bar's aesthetic should align with your brand voice, informing your bar’s atmosphere. It should be consistent across all your visual mediums - your logo, social media content, signature colors, interior design, and even how you serve your drinks.
The best way to maintain a consistent brand is to document everything in a brand book, which leads us to the fifth step of building a bar brand.
5. Stay on-brand with a brand book
Brand consistency is just as essential as great customer service. With your strong brand identity serving as your bar's foundation, you can confidently market your bar and strengthen relationships with your patrons with every interaction.
Brand consistency (aka staying on-brand) is important to maintain, but it's not always easy. Enter: your bar's brand book. A brand book (also referred to as a style guide or brand guidelines) outlines how to use brand elements like voice, colors, tone, logo, brand position, and phrases.
Your brand book will inform how you produce and use various materials, including:
- Social media copy and visuals
- Email copy
- Paid advertising
- Google My Business profile
- Team uniforms
The more specific the brand book, the better. Include fonts, graphics, photos, and phrases, so your team is on the same page when it comes to reinforcing your bar’s brand.
With a definitive set of rules guiding your communications, voice, and visuals, you can control the narrative around your bar. This will ensure that every touchpoint with customers is in line with your brand's expectations and actively help you bring in new customers.
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Examples of Successful Bar Branding Ideas
1. Drink: Sometimes less is more
It doesn't get more straightforward than Drink. With a name like this, they let their brand do all the talking and leave the drinking to the guests.
Drink is a high-end cocktail bar that exemplifies the power of brand simplicity. From their Instagram to their website copy, they keep their brand identity simple and precise.
Their web copy also does an excellent job of showcasing their brand with the three pillars of "Craft, Gather, and Enjoy." This phrase is easy to understand and gives potential customers an idea of what they can expect when they visit Drink.
Check out how Toast's cloud-based menu management software supports Drink's high-volume business!
2. Melting Pot: A cheesy affair
Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant franchise with over 100 locations across 31 states in the U.S. A franchise of this scale must know a thing or two about branding! The Melting Pot calls itself "The Original Fondue Restaurant," which establishes its brand as authentic and first of its kind.
Their website states: "The Melting Pot invites you to enjoy more than a meal. We invite conversation, laughter, and coming together over artisan cheeses, fresh salads, savory entrees, and indulgent desserts."
You can see this brand message reinforced across their website and various social media platforms. Much of their content features friends and families joining together to celebrate big moments and holidays at The Melting Pot — supporting their brand message that it is an ideal location for gatherings.
3. The Goat & Vine: Honesty at the heart of it all
The Goat & Vine is a full-service restaurant that prides itself on its elevated culinary experience. Their love of food shines through their branding, which is nicely summarized on their Our Story page.
"Food should be honest, healthy, and created with the utmost integrity. This is why our culinary team assembles every morning at 3 a.m. to handcraft our breads, pizza dough, sauces, dressings, and proteins from scratch, every single day." - The Goat & Vine
Their Instagram keeps the focus on what matters most to them: their pizza.
4. Arcade Bar: Fewer frills, more fun
The Arcade Bar is a neighborhood dive located on the East Side of Saint Paul, MN. Their brand approach is more unorthodox than others. For example, they don't have an official website. Rather, they rely on their bar's Facebook page and Google My Business profile to engage with guests.
Arcade Bar’s GMB profile says it all: "Cocktails fixed up in no-nonsense surrounds with a pool table & weekly specials like bingo." By pointing out their "non-nonsense surrounds" the Arcade Bar tells potential customers exactly what to expect: a humble dive bar that keeps the focus on fun and games.
5. Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company: Beer over everything
When you visit Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company's website, one simple sentence tells you immediately what you're getting into: "Brewing craft beers that push the limits of the traditional styles."
Arrowhead's branding is straightforward and appeals to patrons that seek an elevated beer-drinking experience. Their website features mainly photos of beer, grub, and their story of graduating from basement beer to craft beer. It's a story that resonates with beer lovers who are just as interested in the process of producing a great craft as they are in sipping on the beer itself.
Raising the Bar for Your Brand
What happens when you combine a strong, consistent brand with excellent customer service and high-quality drinks? The result is an outstanding experience that will keep patrons coming back for another round. That’s because your brand is the foundation of your business. It encompasses everything about your bar, from its aesthetic to its purpose to its positioning. The more clearly you define your brand, the more your bar will stand out against the competition.
To learn more about building a brand that excites, download our free Restaurant Branding Guide today.