3 Secrets to Overcoming Bar Competition

It’s every bar owner’s greatest nightmare.  You’ve fought to get your customers, you’ve figured out exactly what they like and you’ve made your bar a great place to hang out… and then a new bar moves in down the street and tries to actively steal your customers away from you.  Bar competition is fierce and can sometimes destroy good neighborhood bars whose owners have taken years to establish a solid customer base. If you should happen to find yourself in this position, make sure to follow these three secrets to overcoming bar competition and you’ll end up fine.

1. Keep calm, and pour on

Many bar owners begin to panic when a new bar moves in down the street. The new place usually comes in prepared for a fight, so they’re likely to have better hours, better prices, different specials, and maybe even some gimmicky bartender tricks that you (begrudgingly) have to admit are pretty creative.

Even though the new bar might be the coolest thing to hit the block, you should make sure to keep your cool. If your customers see you panicking, your harried vibe might stress them out (which will drive them away), or it might convince them that the other bar must be better, because it scares you.

2. Make sure nothing changes in your bar

A common side-effect of panicking is to change everything. When a competing bar moves in down the street, your customers will inevitably leave. They’ll want to check out the new bar and see what it’s like. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to compete with the new bar. You might think, “Oh, they offer tapas, so I should offer tapas!” Or maybe it’s something more subtle, “They stay open until 1:00am even on weeknights, so I should do that, too!”

The truth is, you shouldn’t change anything. Yes, your customers will go over to the new bar and check it out, but they know your bar, they like your bar. A neighborhood bar is like a second home to its regulars, and your customers will likely find that they prefer your hours, your food, your recipes, and your ambiance. They’ll come back to what they know and love—your job is to keep your bar just the way they remember it.

3. Step up your game

Are you worried that maybe your customers won’t come back? Is there a problem that you know your bar has, but you haven’t seen the need to fix yet? Now is the time to finally end whatever problems your bar has.

If your bar has some flaws that you haven’t taken care of yet, you need to make sure to remind your customers that they are the most important people in your bar. Bend over backwards to be nice, to serve them what they want—to build their loyalty. Whatever it is that brought them to your bar, whether that be your customer service, your laid-back attitude, or your dirty-joke-telling bartender, enhance what drew them in so that your customers are reminded why it’s not even worth it to check out the new bar.

You fought hard to get your customers and to provide them with the best services possible, so make sure to keep them when you’re faced with competition. As long as you stay true to the goals and ideals you developed way back when you got into this business, you should have no problem maintaining your customer base. Your customers are like your family to you, and they consider you to be family as well. If you stay loyal to them, they’ll stay loyal to you, too.

 Photo licensed by Beth Olson