It’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, which can only mean one thing—it’s time to dust off those patio tables and throw some summer events at your bar.
The days are warmer and longer. And your potential customers are outside enjoying the weather, crowding sidewalks, attending outdoor events, and traveling to see friends and family. Summer in the hospitality industry is famously busy. But with more consumer options than ever, a bar owner can’t just sit back and wait for the crowds to come shouldering through the doors.
Throwing events at your bar should be an important part of your seasonal marketing plan. Events drive business, and the kind of events you throw help define your brand. Whether you have an Irish pub hosting an outdoor live music series or a high-concept cocktail bar with a killer seasonal menu, summertime offers important financial and promotional opportunities.
A dash of creativity and a pinch of patience can help you mix up the perfect summer event. Here are 6 ideas to get you going.
1. Fitness Activities
If you don’t have a connection to an exercise community, whether it be something like a recreational sports league or a local running or cycling club, it’s not difficult to create one by calling your local yoga studio, Crossfit gym, or specialty running store, or cycling shop. These kinds of businesses have daily or weekly workout sessions and a promotional partnership might drive customers for both of your businesses.
For the specialty running store with a Wednesday night group run, perhaps more runners would show up if there were camaraderie and cocktails afterward. And for you, this partnership might introduce a whole new group of customers to your bar, and connect you more deeply to your local community, all for something as easy as reserving a few of your tables and hosting a post-workout happy hour.
Or a partnership with a local yoga instructor could convert your patio into a temporary yoga studio, with food and drink promotions afterward. After a hard workout, nothing is as good as an ice-cold cocktail or beer, right?
2. Live Music Series
Nothing beats live music under the stars. Bringing in a band for a night or two each week is a great way to pull in the customers, especially during those slower Monday or Tuesday nights.
Maybe you’re looking for a country band for your beer bar, or a jazz ensemble for your upscale cocktail lounge. Finding the perfect band might take a little bit of homework, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. A Google search should return plenty of results. Local alternative newspapers often advertise bands and shows in the area. Additionally, your local music shop might be able to point you in the right direction. But going and seeing shows at local bars and restaurants might be the best method for finding your perfect band.
You’ll want to make sure you get a reputable group with a track record of professionalism, and you’ll probably have to pay them for their work (either with cash or drink tickets). But with time, a properly promoted live music series should bring in more customers and offset the cost of your musicians.
3. Patio Games
Have you ever played giant Jenga or shuffleboard? If you have the space, patio games can generate a lot of activity, bringing in guests and keeping them entertained for a few drinks. The choices are endless, but here are a few good options to consider when brainstorming patio games.
- Giant connect four
- Beer pong
- Flip cup
- Ping pong
And if you want to pull out all of the stops, why not contact a local arcade game rental company that can fill your patio with pinball machines, PacMan, air hockey, and Donkey Kong?
This type of event pairs well with summer block parties or events happening in your area. And, if you want to get more involved, try holding a single-elimination air hockey tournament, or a Donkey Kong high-score contest.
4. Summer-themed Menus and Specials
Summer offers a great opportunity to liven up your menu and drum up interest from new guests and old guests alike. Whether it be a complete menu revamp or new summer specials, many of your guests will appreciate lighter, healthier, and fresher options during the warmer months. And a new menu offers the perfect opportunity to throw a menu kickoff party.
If rewriting your food and drink menu sounds like a lot of work, there are lots of menu templates available online. These template designs are sure to grab your customer’s attention and showcase your food and drinks.
5. Patio Picnic
Drape your tables in checkered tablecloths and throw a summer picnic. Depending on your restaurant’s brand, a patio picnic could take many different forms. Maybe it’s a dinner of charcuterie and wine pairings, delivered by your servers in picnic baskets, or it could be an upscale al fresco dining experience with a picnic twist.
Either way, a patio picnic event is a nice way to mix up your typical summer offerings. If you keep it intimate and romantic, you can promote it as a date-night event, with food, wine or cocktails, and even dessert.
6. Local Events
There are likely lots of summer events in your area. These are things like street fairs, flea markets, movies in the park, car shows, and so on. As a business owner, you likely already know of your local events. So why not partner with one?
Whether it’s a popup, catering event, or even hosting the afterparty, partnering with local events can be a great way to introduce your bar to new guests and create a relationship with the members of your local community, all while driving business. A phone call to your local tourism board will help you find these kinds of opportunities.
And, of course, these events you’ll want to promote, promote, promote! Your social media account should buzz with teasers and mockups of your event, and you’ll want flyers in your bar to provide guests with the name and date, along with any other important information or images that sell the experience. You can find hundreds of customizable restaurant flyers online to help get your promotion started.
Now, relax and watch those suntanned guests fill your patio chairs. Nothing pairs better than summer and a bustling bar.
Mark Plumlee is the Senior Editor at MustHaveMenus. He loves all things food and restaurants. His writing has been published in Food Safety News, Full Service Restaurant, Cheers Online, Modern Restaurant Management, Restaurant Technology News, Restobiz, Quick Service Restaurant, Hospitality Tech, Bar Business Magazine, PMQ, That Oregon Life, The San Francisco Examiner, Blazersedge, and several other blogs. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/plumlee_mark.