Food with bar is a blog dedicated to the exploration of great food, cooking, and restaurants.
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How to Create the Best Bar Food Menu
Your guests likely crave a range of tastes when enjoying drinks at your bar, so what is the best bar food to serve? Creating a bar food menu can be challenging, since some customers just want your standard basket of fries, while others want a unique experience. To meet the needs of your guests, listing typical bar foods as well as your inventive recipes are both great ideas. Below are some useful tips and bar food ideas to create a well-rounded menu that’s sure to satisfy any hungry customer.
Create a Bar Food Menu with the Classics
Among the changing bar trends in the industry, some of the best bar food staples remain the same. Below are some common bar menu ideas to satisfy your customers and maximize your profits.
- French fries
- Onion rings
- Mozzarella sticks
- Burger sliders
- Artichoke dip
- Roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or another roasted vegetable assortment
There’s always room for more classics. Add a regional or local favorite that your customers will love, like Philly cheesesteaks or Chicago-style hot dogs. Either way, you’ve started your bar food menu off right by including some classic options.
Bar Menu Ideas: The Eye-Catchers
In addition to the classics, you can (and should) show off your unique recipes. To come up with new bar food ideas, you can develop a fresh take on the classics above or form your new concepts. If you are just opening your bar or are looking to reinvigorate your bar food menu, take some inspiration from some of the hottest spots in major cities:
- Cheese fries with cheddar, Gouda, and chives from The Penrose in NYC. By including unique ingredients like Gouda cheese and chives, the Penrose offers an upscale, new twist on favorite bar food.
- Roasted portobello with artichoke-truffle mousse and parmesan from Tap 79 in Miami. This unique item combines complementing flavors and hearty finishing touches that create a fulfilling bar snack.
- Cheesecake eggrolls from Far Bar, an Asian fusion bar in Los Angeles. Most of us might be accustomed to savory eggrolls, but Far Bar offers a rare version with this sweet snack that’s sure to entice late-night guests.
- House-made sausage plate from Hopleaf Bar in Chicago. This plate features seasonal accompaniments to go with the sausage. Try creating your version to offer guests a variety of one type of food, like a cheese board, or make a platter that’s an assortment of house specialties.
Restaurants and bars can set themselves apart with more intricate or aesthetically pleasing dishes that include exotic ingredients or that combine uncommon flavors. By offering your guests something different, you can create a memorable experience for guests who will look forward to returning.
Serve the Best Bar Food by Pairing Food and Beverages
The best bar food typically pairs well with the drinks served at your bar. When creating your bar food menu, it’s always a good idea to consider foods that can complement your drink selection. You can also use your drink selection as inspiration to come up with bar menu ideas.
- Beer is a great all-around choice that pairs well with carbs, red meats, and heavier food in general. For example, if you serve light lagers and wheat beers, try including spicy food or burgers on your bar food menu. If you offer a selection of stouts, go for chocolate desserts, shellfish, or Mexican food.
- Cocktails can be tailored to accent certain dishes. For instance, a ginger-infused drink would go well with sushi, which normally includes ginger as a palate cleanser. On the other hand, a light cocktail with herbal notes would not overwhelm a light goat cheese board. Or try offering a specialty margarita to be enjoyed with your nachos or quesadillas.
- Wine also has common pairings, so it is wise to include bar food menu options that would go well with your wine assortment. Many white wines are great with seafood and poultry, while red wines often complement pasta and red meat. However, food can greatly alter the taste of the wine, so be sure to understand how your food and wine offerings interact when recommending pairings to guests.
Pricing Your Bar Food Menu
Pricing your bar menu can be tricky, especially if you are serving a range of food, such as cheap, easy-to-make options like french fries, along with more complex items that might cost more and require more labor. Below are some suggestions for pricing your bar food menu.
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Classic Bar Food Has a High-Profit Margin
Traditional bar food, such as french fries, onion rings, and wings, can be made quite cheaply. Not only can you find inexpensive bulk bar food, but most of it is quick to make and does not require much labor. This makes your more classic bar food excellent to feature on your menu for two reasons. It lets you keep your food affordable for virtually every customer, and you can turn a handsome profit even with low prices.
Scale Your Bar Food Prices Based on Labor
For foods that are more complicated and require more prep work than simple batches of fries or quick burgers, you should adjust the pricing accordingly to turn over a profit while meeting the budgets of your customer base.
Keep Track of Customer Demand for Your Bar Food
One innovative option for pricing your bar food menu is to gauge prices by keeping track of customer demand for certain items. You can raise the price of food and drink with high demands while lowering other items, mimicking the supply and demand mechanisms that affect the stock market.
If you’re shooting for a more practical angle, you can check out some user-friendly formulas that teach you how to price items on your menu according to your restaurant’s needs and parameters. That way, you can satisfy your customers’ appetites and wallets while maintaining healthy profit margins for your business.
Whether your run a swanky, upscale bar or a casual pub, having a great bar food menu is essential. The best bar food ranges from your classic bar grub to unique and innovative dishes from your kitchen, so a well-rounded menu is ideal. And, by pricing your menu correctly, you will not only satisfy your guests, but your business can flourish as well.
5 Reasons Your Bar Needs a Food Menu in 2021
Launching a food menu takes your bar to the next level, opening the door to more opportunities, customers, and ultimately revenue.
Here are five reasons why your bar needs to adopt a food menu in 2021.
1. Your Customers Expect a Food Menu
34% of Americans say they would leave a bar in favor of another one if it lacked a food menu. For bars without a current food menu, that means adding one is a direct way to both keep patrons in your bar for a longer period and drive new customers to your bar.
When you do launch a new food menu at your bar, be sure to promote your new food menu when you launch one. Blast any email or SMS list you may have, share your new menu on your bar’s social media channels, and update any website or online profile listings to include your food offerings.
Above: On Tour Brewing Company’s food menu, powered by 2ndKitchen
2. A Food Menu Increases How Long Customers Stay
For many bar owners, it’s not about attracting new customers – it’s about keeping customers in their bar longer. An easy solution? Launch a new food menu.
Wifoodood, the menu comes opportunities – from happy hours to late-nite bites. No longer will customers need to leave your bar when hunger hits. Instead, customers can stick around longer by ordering from your new food menu.
3. Increases the Average Size of Your Customers’ Bar Tab
Not only does a food menu keep customers in your bar longer, but it also increases the size of your customers’ tab. Filling up on food means customers are ordering more beer, wine, cocktails, and other beverages.
Above: With 2ndKitchen, your bar can keep customers drinking more beer and staying longer by adding a new food menu.
4. Appeals to a Wider Demographic of Customers
Outside of drinking, 28% of bar patrons said the quality of food is the number one consideration when choosing a bar or club to go to. If your bar doesn’t offer a food menu, that means you’re already missing out on 1 in every 4 customers. It also means appealing to those interested in pre-game bites, dinner parties, professional luncheons, lunch and dinner specials, and more.
In a sense, launching a new food menu in your tavern is a bar promotion idea of its own.
5. Drives Online Reviews for Your Bar
Reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google can drive considerable new foot traffic to your bar. 94% of people looking for a new restaurant or bar do so only after looking at online reviews of local spots.
Having positive reviews of your bar’s food menu allows you to appear in searches for local restaurants with great food – as well as give your bar yet another way avenue for gaining positive reviews from your patrons.
7 Tips for Creating a Popular Food Menu for Your Bar
We’ve outlined seven tips to help you build the perfect, most well-rounded food menu for your bar.
1. Include Popular Pub-Style Food Items on Your Bar Menu
Tavern-style food is beloved by many. Taking your bar’s food menu in that direction is an easy solution to launching a well-received food menu at your bar.
A bonus of utilizing a more traditional pub-style menu is that the majority of these menu items have low costs associated with them, letting you offer a popular food menu while keeping profits high.
A few examples of tavern-style food items to put on your bar menu include:
- Hot Dogs
- Mozzarella Stick
- Onion Rings
- and much more.
Don’t forget to add local flair to your menu as well. For example, if you’re an Indiana bar, adding a tenderloin sandwich would be a popular choice. If you’re a bar owner near the coast, offering a Friday fish fry could be a weekly promotional menu item that drives customers to your bar.
2. Don’t Forget the Appetizers
While tasty entrees are a must, small bites are too. Appetizers are the perfect in-between for your bar patrons – something light that can be shared, but that also refills the tank and allows your guests to keep having fun.
A few examples of common appetizers to put on your bar menu include:
- Jalapeno Poppers
- Cheese Curds
- Onion Rings
- Hummus & Veggies
3. Take Eye-Catching Photos of Your Bar’s Food Items
Nothing can help make a menu decision more than a mouth-watering photo. Be sure to hire a professional photographer, specifically one with restaurant and menu experience, to help capture the most delicious angles of your best menu items.
A few tips to take the best photos of your menu items are:
- Set up the best lighting
- Uses garnishes on your dishes
- Use angles
- Don’t be afraid to post-edit
4. Write Mouth-Watering Food Descriptions
Along with pictures, a tasty description can help seal the deal for your bar patrons. Enlist the help of a copywriting or content expert to write enticing food descriptions. Be sure to match the description to the actual item to avoid any disgruntled customer.
5. Offer Daily Specials & Happy Hours
Daily specials and happy hours are a great way to drive traffic to your tavern on traditionally slow days. Bars that can brand a daily special can also drive word-of-mouth referrals as the place to be on a specific day. Do some recon work on your competitors to see what days they promote certain food and drink specials to determine the best day and food combo opportunities and craft the most-hyped specials.
Examples of daily specials you can offer at your bar:
- 50c wing day
- $5 burgers
- $1 beer addon
- Half-priced appetizers
6. Match a Food Menu with Your Bar’s Existing Theme
For bars when an existing theme, creating a food menu that aligns with that branding can add a new layer of flavor to the overall experience. If you’re a tequila bar, add a menu featuring tacos, chips & salsa, and other traditional Latino flavors. If you’re a sports bar, look to add pub and stadium-style items such as nachos, burgers, wings, and hot dogs.
Use creativity here! Adding a food menu that pairs well with your theme can become a crucial part of your bar’s identity.
7. Use Contactless Menus & Ordering Systems
Outside of the food itself, you’ll need to consider how you’ll create physical menus for your customers to order from. COVID-19 has introduced new tech for restaurants to operate safely and customers to order contactless.
The biggest two features to consider for your bar are QR-code menus and contactless ordering systems for placing orders. Many of these new technologies are not a COVID fad, with many of these new trends being generally more liked than pre-COVID traditional ways of ordering for customers.
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What Are the Most Profitable Bar Food Items?
- Cheesesticks or Curds
- Pretzel Bites
- French Fries
- Hot Dogs