Including snacks on your bar menu can be a clever and cost-effective way to boost sales.
Guests will appreciate thoughtful options that they can order while enjoying a beverage, and in turn, they’ll stick around longer and order more drinks — a win-win! Here are a few strategies for incorporating snacks, small plates, and shareables into your bar menu.
Keep It Cohesive
From our research across the industry, we’ve found that your beverage program and food menus should be part of one conversation. They should make sense together so that a guest’s experience feels cohesive no matter where they’re dining with you. One way to accomplish this is to cross-utilize ingredients like fresh herbs in food and cocktails.
Focusing on a specific type of cuisine and aligning beverages with that cuisine will also help this effort. You want the style of both food and drink to reflect the vibe of your restaurant, so if you’re known for having particularly refined cocktails, your bar food should mirror that. Likewise, if your food is known for being big and bold, your beverages should align with that format and those flavors.
The Happiest of Hours
A good happy hour should be about more than just drinks. Your bar snacks should get a spotlight during happy hour as well. One smart idea is to offer BOGO (buy one, get one) specials or Pick-Two combos that encourage guests to try multiple bar snacks and other menu items. Consider the food that people like to eat during happy hour — cheese and charcuterie plates, oysters on the half-shell, and sliders are a few classic options.
The bar menu is a great place to beta test dishes, including exclusives that are only available at the bar. This is a nice way to run a limited special and see how folks respond to it before putting it on the main menu. It’s also a great way to entice diners to try LTOs and exclusives before everyone else, appealing to the value of being first and/or being in the know, which is a huge priority for some guests, especially those guests that tend to share their experiences on social media.
Back It Up with Service
If food is part of your bar program, it’s important that your service in the bar area lives up to the standard you’ve set in the rest of the dining room. Bartenders should greet guest and provide a menu as soon as possible. Too often, when bar staff become busy with other customers, those guests who are eating can be forgotten. The greeting can be a good time to communicate with guests if it’s particularly busy or if there may be a wait. It’s important to train bar staff to be able to accommodate the needs of these guests, so the experience is a positive one that makes them want to come back and share the news with friends.
Small Bites, Big Flavors
Small plates, snacks, and shareable foods are ideal for bar menus because they increase the length of guest visits, and they drive up check prices due the fact that people usually order more than one item at a time. For these reasons, adding small snacks and shareable plates to your bar menu is a smart move. You also want to consider that these foods will be enjoyed with wine, beer, or cocktails, so they should be designed to complement those flavors with ingredients that pair well together.