How to Run a Bar – Avoid These Common Mistakes

An angry bar owner after making a common mistake.

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and level up your restaurant management, restaurant business, or bartending career.

Maybe you even opened up your own bar. Congrats! This is a huge accomplishment.

But before you get too ahead of yourself (yes, power trips can happen to you, too), there are a few things you need to know.

Running a bar is a lot of work. You’ll be dealing with customers, liquor, and staff all day long. And trust me, there’s a lot that can go wrong. I’ve been there, done that, and had executives walk out under my watch. (More on that later!)

I’m not lying… I’ve seen it all, from new bar leads forgetting to order enough liquor to staff members stealing from the liquor room because of a lazy manager.

To help you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made and seen happen, I’ve compiled a list of the most common mistakes new bar owners make. Plus, I’ve even tapped into the wealth of knowledge from the pros at Local Bartending School.

So let’s get to it!

First Things First: Your Business Plan and First-Time Steps

If you’re a new bar owner or manager, you may be wondering how to get started.

The first step is to create a business plan.

This will help you figure out your start-up costs, identify your target market, and set goals for your new business.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start thinking about how to run your bar.

First, you’ll need to choose a location and get the appropriate licenses and permits. Then, you’ll need to stock your bar with liquor, furniture, and other supplies like staff. Finally, you’ll need to promote your new business and build a loyal customer base.

By following these steps, you can start your new career in the bar industry on the right foot.

How To Improve Your Bar’s Performance

It’s important to get to know your regulars and build relationships with them. Not only will this make them more likely to come back, but they’ll also be more likely to spend more when they’re at your bar.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to get creative with your promotions and events. This is a great way to bring in new customers and keep existing ones coming back for more.

Finally, always keep an eye on your costs and make sure you’re not overspending on things like liquor and supplies. More on that below!

Not Ordering Enough Liquor

A new bar manager takes inventory of the stock.

This is a mistake I see all too often and made a LOT as a new manager.

New bar owners think they can get away with ordering less liquor because they’re not sure how much they’ll need or want to save some money. But trust me, you’ll need more liquor than you think.

It’s always better to err on the side of caution and order too much liquor than to run out in the middle of the night or have to go out and purchase two cases of champagne for brunch on your own expense.

A meme saying did I do that?

Not Having Enough Staff

I see this all the time. Managers, leads, and bar owners make don’t have or don’t schedule enough staff. They think they can save money by scheduling fewer people. You might even be swayed by your staff swearing they can handle the volume. But here’s a bit of a hint: this is a huge mistake.

You need enough staff to cover all the shifts, from opening to closing. Otherwise, you’ll be left scrambling to find people to cover last-minute shifts and tons of pissed-off people running to tell Google and Yelp. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that.

I was a new supervisor and the shift was so short-staffed I had to cook. Note, I was a front-of-house manager!

It was my first time in that role and things were going pretty smoothly until the VP of Food and Beverage walked out under my watch. I’ll never forget the look on their face as they stormed out.

But despite that debacle, I managed to keep things together and finish my shift. Plus, make sure I always had enough staff on.

You don’t want this to happen to you! So heed our advice and avoid your boss walking out on you—unless you want to find yourself blacklisted from the industry.

Not Training Your Staff Properly

Another common mistake is not training your staff properly. You might think you can save time by skipping the training process. You can’t and you shouldn’t.

Your staff needs to be properly trained on how to make drinks, handle customers, and use the POS system. Otherwise, they’ll make mistakes that will cost you tons of money and eventually your job.

Yep, this is the best way to lose your job. Don’t want to lose your job or entire business? Local Bartending School can make sure you keep earning money.

Need some help on hiring? We got you on that, too!

Not Keeping an Eye on Your Inventory

Inventory and storage room for wine.

Don’t mess up inventory management. You think they can save time by not tracking what’s in stock. And I hear you! It is a huge time commitment.

But what happens f you don’t keep track of your inventory? You’ll run out of liquor, mixers, and other supplies. And this can cost you big time, literal money and your reputation.

On top of that, you won’t be able to see trends in data which can be super helpful for year-to-year trends. Data matters!

Not Promoting your Bar Properly

Not adequately advertising one’s bar is a common blunder by new operators. Marketing or taking advantage of social media platforms might not be at the top of their list.

You need to get people in the door to your bar if you want them to come back. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself unable to sustain your business.

Avoid These Deadly Sins When You Start to Run a Bar

So, if you’re thinking of opening a bar, make sure to avoid these mistakes. 

But if you do make them, don’t worry – we all make mistakes. Just learn from them and move on. You can network with restaurant owners in the restaurant industry to gain a few mentors.

Local Bartending School training bar staff.

And if you’re still not sure what you’re doing, consider getting some training for you and your team from Local Bartending School. That way, you can be sure to keep running your business on the right foot. 

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean