The Definitive Pro/Con List for Adding a Bar to Your Restaurant

So you’re thinking about adding a bar to your restaurant.

This can open up a whole new world for you and your customers. It can also create a giant headache.

Just like with any business move, it has its risks.

You can’t just wake up, roll out of bed, and have a perfect bar ready to go. It takes calculated effort, savvy decisions, and self-awareness.

If you’re torn on the right move for your restaurant, let us help you get your head on straight.

This Definitive Pro/Con List for Adding a Bar to your Restaurant will force you to ask yourself the tough questions.

That way, whichever decision you make, you know it’s the one that will make you the most profitable.

PRO: Give Your Brand an Extra Edge

These days, people don’t just rave about a restaurant’s food – your drinks can also be a huge part of their dining experience.

No one’s going to rave about the soda they drank or the tea they sipped. But your mixologist’s original take on a Mai Tai? That’ll keep them talking.

By having a drink menu with variety (and hiring a mixologist to build it), you can put yourself above the competition.

The added appeal of a bar can be game-changing to the dining experience.

Even if you don’t bring in a renowned mixologist to make unique cocktails, simply having booze in your restaurant can bring new customers in for dinner.

A drink or two enhances almost any night out…

Conversation tends to be much more lively over a pint of beer than over a Caesar Salad.

CON: A New Thing to Manage

With a new bar comes new responsibilities.

Basically, you’re gonna have some more work to do.

Sadly, you can’t simply raise a glass and all of a sudden have a menu designed, a liquor license purchased, and a bar built.

But one can dream…

It’s a process. An exciting process, but also a time-consuming one.

Once the bar is open, you’ll also be managing a whole slew of new costs. You’ve got new items to order, which means if your current outdated ordering process involves old spreadsheets and messy numbers, it’s only going to get worse.

Speaking of messes, a bar in your restaurant may start to draw in a “rowdier” crowd. They’re a bit more outgoing than your regulars – and the available liquor doesn’t always help the cause.

Be sure you’re ready to handle these new patrons and the new issues they bring along with them.

PRO: Drinks that are Buzzing with Excitement

You’ve now got an entirely new approach when marketing your restaurant’s brand.

Instagram isn’t just about well-lit food pics. Nowadays, a cocktail can look just as appetizing as avocado toast.

This starts by making at least a piece of your bar’s new offerings unique. Is it a signature cocktail? Is it a rare local beer? If you’re living in a new city, a beer from your hometown? Just like your food has a story, your booze can, too.

You’ve seen what your signature steak can do for your restaurant, so why not build the buzz again with a specialty cocktail?

Build your social up and make sure people are hearing about it. Don’t let your bartenders’ hard work go to waste.

However, drinks can generate buzz simply by being interesting. Maybe they’re seasonal and fresh. Maybe there’s a specialty infusion. If it’s made well and tastes good, people will be talking.

CON: New Ingredients To Mess With Your Food Costs

With an entirely new set of ingredients, your back room is going to be a bit more stocked than usual.

And that means you need to be prepared to manage it all. From your spirits to your garnishes, you’ll have many new costs to pay attention to.

If you’re already managing your restaurant’s food costs effectively, adding this barload of new ingredients won’t be too difficult. Build on what works – no need to reinvent the wheel.

But if your food costs have been giving you trouble, or if you’ve been blindly ordering ingredients without checking prices or having conversations with your suppliers… Adding a bunch of bar ingredients on top of that might not be the best.

If that’s the case, you’re already losing money left and right in your restaurant. Get a grip on your food costs, put yourself in a profitable place, and then you’ll be ready to add a bar service on top of it.

PRO: Fresh Faces Everywhere

Adding a bar to your restaurant requires training and hiring new staff.

Their ideas, energy, and workflow can all positively contribute to the environment you’ve created at your restaurant.

Plus, if your staff’s morale has been dropping lately, some new personalities can give them a jolt of positivity.

You want to ensure your current staff doesn’t feel threatened, though. Show them that you still value their presence, even as you’re bringing new people into the fold.

Their expertise, combined with your new, hungry bartenders who are eager to prove themselves, will pave the way for a hardworking, effective team.

CON: You’ve Got More People to Manage

The restaurant industry can get feisty.

A little real-world drama can take a major toll on your business when your staff is constantly distracted by petty disagreements.

A strong, fast-paced work environment often brings out some big stress from your biggest personalities.

It’s up to you to make sure that even though new people are joining your ranks, respect, culture and company policies remain in place.

Your restaurant thrives only when your employees do their jobs, and issues will start to arise more and more if your staff is unhappy.

Build your staff like you would season a new dish: Throwing a pinch of spice into the mix can make it delicious, but too much poured in ruins the meal.

PRO: A New Way to Make Money

It’s simple: When you add a bar to your restaurant, customers are much more likely to order a drink with their meal.

Why? Because they can.

They could desire a wine that complements their steak. They could be preparing for a night on the town. Or maybe they just want to unwind after a long day.

No matter why they’re ordering a drink, more items ordered means a higher bill, which means there should be more cash in your pocket.

It also means higher tips for your staff, which keeps morale high.

Plus, you may even start bringing customers in who don’t want food at all. They can sit at your brand-new bar and sip away. Maybe after a drink or two, they’ll end up ordering appetizers anyways…

This is the type of experience people want. And by offering it, you get to start reaping the benefits. That is, as long as you’re properly managing your costs…

CON: A New Way to Lose Money

Getting involved with anything new, especially in relation to your business, is exciting.

But you can’t let it distract you from properly managing your costs.

If you don’t, your bar could drown in a sea of debt. And it might take your entire restaurant down with it.

You’re going to be calculating a whole new COGS. You may want to combine it with your restaurant, but keeping it separate will help you see if your bar is profitable, or if it needs some work.

This could mean more counting. And as we all know, time is money. It also means there are new ways for your suppliers to take advantage of you. And more ways for you to be losing cash.

Oh, and you’ll need to keep a fresh eye on your staff. There are now some new, shiny things to steal… and you don’t want your employees walking off with a bottle of expensive Merlot every night.

Luckily, there’s technology out there that makes managing your food costs easy. And it can get you the numbers you need in a fraction of the time.

CONCLUSION: Make the Decision That’s Best for Your Restaurant

Adding a bar to your restaurant is maybe a bit tougher of a process than you may have originally thought.

You need to make sure you’re making the right decision not just for your restaurant and staff, but for you as well.

It’s going to present new, exciting memories, but also a load of new challenges. And potentially a whole lot of work, especially when it comes to managing your newfound costs.

With Orderly, you won’t have to worry. It’s your costs done for you. Simply snap photos of your invoices, update your sales, and Orderly can give your bar (and restaurant) an accurate Cost of Goods Sold.

No more data entry or confusing spreadsheets. If you keep your invoices up-to-date, you’ll get a weekly COGS  in a fraction of the time it used to take you.

Plus, Orderly lets you see what other local establishments are paying for the same ingredients you’re ordering, so you can ensure you’re getting the best deal on all your booze.

The most exciting part about adding a bar to your restaurant should be just that–adding the bar.

Don’t let a new load of costs break you – or your restaurant.

Orderly helps knock out the hassle and keeps you right on track for your goals.

Let Orderly do the hard work for you.

Danny Barry

As Orderly's Content Marketing Manager, Danny is always in the weeds of the restaurant business. He's having conversations. He's scouring the internet for research. He's writing until his fingers start to hurt. And it's all to help you run a smarter restaurant. When he's not writing about restaurants, Danny can be found eating at restaurants. Or, you may find him cheering on his beloved Miami Hurricanes.

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