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The Top 5 Sports Bar Menu Design Ideas (2024)

Creating new sports bar menu ideas can be a frustrating endeavor. You and your team go through all the trial and error only for folks to keep ordering beers and wings…not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.

How do you develop sports bar menu ideas that help you stand out from the other restaurants and drinking holes in your area?

Shaking up and stirring innovation into any food and drink menu can seem like a tall task until you realize how much you have at your disposal. You’ve got terabytes of online inspiration, an ever-increasing roster of ingredients, and consumers that are generally more adventurous than ever before when it comes to cuisine, cocktails, and the likes.

Your goal should be to wrangle inspiration into your sports bar menu ideas that balance branding, profitability, and customer preferences. We’ve put together some ideas to help you pour perfect libations and accompanying provisions for your sports bar.

Engineer your sports bar menu to balance popularity with profitability

The trick with great bar menu ideas is balancing popularity with profitability. Not every drink or dish will be margin-friendly and crowd-pleasing, and that’s fine.

What you should aspire to are menu ideas that work together to hit all the major demographics of your customer base — price points, ingredients, strength, etc.

Here are a few ideas for splashing some balance across your bar menu:

1. Master what matters

Whether you’re blending up daiquiris, slinging complex cocktails, or even just pouring beer and wine, you want to start from a solid foundation. This could be as simple as mastering the three-ounce pour and knowing how to pull a pint of Guinness. 

For more high-end bars with complex drinks, mastering what matters may mean the dry shake for perfecting egg white foams or even the port-tong method for rare and expensive wines:

Hey, who doesn’t want to spend hundreds on a bottle of wine while watching soccer?

If you’re going to offer it, then anyone preparing it should have it mastered and anyone serving it should know everything about it.

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2. Offer customizations on your bar menu

Customizations can be a great way to let customers order exactly what they want. 

This could mean upgrading from a rail pour to top shelf, making it a double, a beer back, or any numerous add-ons and modifiers for your food. Let the customer get what they want.

Customizations are also a great way to boost margins on your menu items. You can price modifiers and add-ons so that they act as a tool to pad your profits. One word: SAUCES!!!

You do need to hit the right balance here though. You want to enable customizations without coming off as price gouging.

3. Calculate your costs

Whether you’re just pouring well whiskeys neat or serving wagyu philly cheese steaks, profitability has to be top of mind. You have two levers you can pull to adjust profits — revenue and costs. 

Revenue is often discussed. It’s more butts in seats, larger ticket sizes, higher prices, etc. Let’s talk costs, because there’s exponential impact to be gained by lowering costs. Taking control of costs enables you to increase profits without raising prices or driving more revenue.  

Controlling your costs starts with consistently calculating them. This requires a strong data foundation with accurate ingredient prices, which live in your supplier invoices. The ability to consistently and efficiently capture these prices requires restaurant invoice automation.

Automated invoice processing tools, such as xtraCHEF by Toast, digitize your invoices and capture critical pricing details from your invoices. This gives you the foundation you need to make informed profit-focused decisions on prices, ingredients, and more.

Effective bar menu examples 

Partner up with purveyors

If you’re looking to attract a wider audience or break onto the scene with a different customer cohort, consider partnering up with purveyors. For example, if you recognize a booming natural wine fanbase in your area, you could set up a tasting with a natural winery and start carrying a few of their offerings.

Embrace global influences

Almost every culture across the globe has their unique take on spirits. You can tap into that for influence. For example, Aperol Spritz is a widely popular Italian beverage for beating the summer heat. This embrace applies equally as well to your food too.

Pair drinks with small plates

There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here, folks. Tapas have a deep, successful history of pleasing drinkers and barkeeps alike. The original salty tapas, often made with ham or chorizo, would generate more thirst in patrons, leading to more drinks and thus more sales. It’s a proven formula. And although they’ve become quite ubiquitous in recent years, you don’t label your small plates as “tapas” — make them your own based on what you know your customers enjoy.

Lean into the season

No one wants to drink mulled wine or hot Irish coffees in the summer. On the flip side, a frozen pina colada just doesn’t hit the same in a North Eastern snow storm. Lean into seasonal appropriateness as you concoct your new sports bar menu ideas.

Build a specialty around a specific spirit

If you really want to do things differently, take a deep dive into a specific spirit or beverage. This could be as simple as pivoting to a wine bar — get even more niche and pivot to a champagne bar! You become a home for craft beer hop heads. You could carve a niche for yourself as the whiskey bar in your area. You don’t have to only serve beverages within your niche, but it can be a great way to differentiate and let the menu create itself.

How to Improve Restaurant Operations

While the thought of reconfiguring or updating your operating procedures might seem daunting, start with one focus area at a time and go from there. Here are a few things to start with.

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Make it your own 

Sports bars, pubs, saloons, and other such drinking establishments can become neighborhood or even city-wide institutions. It does require the right menu items to keep customers coming back.

Before you get too deep in spiking your bar menu, it’s critical that you take control of your costs. This will help you achieve the profitability and longevity required to hit “local institution” status. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.

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Justin Guinn

Justin started in the restaurant industry at 15 and hasn't really stopped. Somewhere along the way, he learned how to write. So now he writes about this industry he loves.