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Holiday Bonuses

Holiday Bonuses: Pros and Cons

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Most people think that the real compensation for an employee working at a bar or nightclub is their tips; and for the most part that is true. Many bartenders and servers consider their tips as their paycheck and their paycheck as their tip. However, many nightlife employees have families which rely on both their paycheck and their tips to make ends meet, so one night of bad tips or an unexpected illness can lead to some tough budgeting decisions; especially around the holiday season.

For these reasons, it has been customary for decades for an employer to give out holiday bonuses as an act of kindness to their employees. This practice is still in full effect for many occupations including office workers and upper management at retail stores, but most of the time the only ones who get to enjoy this perk are people who work for small businesses.

As a small business owner, you rely heavily on a very specific group of people. Each of them is an important fixture in your business, and you likely know every one of their names and see them on a fairly regular basis. Giving out Holiday bonuses is generally seen as a way to attract and keep top talent when you’re smaller than the big name competitors, but even small businesses have been getting away from rewarding their employees.

So, this begs the question: should you give your employees a Holiday bonus or not? Here are the pros and cons of giving out Holiday bonuses to your employees so you can make that determination for yourself.


The most notable reason that giving your employees Holiday bonuses is a good idea is that you will be building loyal and hard-working employees. If your employees aren’t feeling rewarded or appreciated, they tend to slack off more and care less about their job and your bar or nightclub. Additionally, you can have the best qualified bartenders and servers if you offer bonuses because the best people will always follow the money and the appreciation.


Obviously, most business men don’t want to pay people more than they need to. After all, your employees are getting paid a fair wage for their work, and you create an environment for earning tips to boot. Furthermore, once you give out Holiday bonuses, you’ve set a dangerous precedent that they’ll be receiving one every year. Giving out Holiday bonuses to your employees will ultimately hurt your bottom line, and that is also the most important thing at the end of the day.

Whether you see the value in giving your employees a bonus or you are more centered on the success of your business, weighing the pros and cons can help you make your decision. Just make sure you take into account that your employees might counting on their Holiday bonus before you decide whether or not give them out.

Guiding Customer Purchases

Guiding Your Customer’s Purchases Politely

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One of the best tools that your servers and bartenders have at their discretion is the power of persuasion. If your staff knows how to execute it right, they can guide your customers to making choices that they will enjoy more and will also yield you higher profits. However, if your staff is trained on how to do it politely, it can backfire and lead to a customer who feels under pressure from a pushy staff. Here are some techniques that can help you capitalize on persuasion while not turning off your customers.

Suggest Upgrades

The easiest way to add purchases to a sale is to offer higher quality items that are similar to their first choice. It can be a more expensive vintage of wine or a different drink altogether that you suspect they might really enjoy. This will make your customer’s experience much more enjoyable, and it will increase the size of their bill. Make sure to be helpful and friendly or you may come across as pushy. You need to know when your customer has fully made up their mind.

Handling Rejection

Much of the time, your customers will reject any type of suggestion because they already have their mind made up. However, sometimes they reject your suggestion because they simply aren’t interested in that particular up sale. If a customer criticizes your suggestion, that is a huge opening for you to offer something else based on the information they revealed. It’s a bit of an art form, but it pays off huge if you perfect it.


Offering your guests add-ons is a great way to earn bigger purchases and improving the guest’s experience. For instance, if a customer orders a glass of Riesling, suggest a food item like brie cheese and crackers to accompany it. Wine and cheese go together wonderfully, and the additional sale will pad your bottom line as well.

Guide Their Eyes

If your customers are looking at a food or drink menu, you can easily draw their attention to certain areas that offer the largest margins. For instance, you could add a decorative border around your items with the highest profit margins and then point out something specific on that page. When their eyes look at the page, they will immediately be drawn to the items within the decorated area, and best of all your customers will think that they’ve come up with a decision all by themselves.

No matter how much you train and prepare your staff, there is always a learning curve to getting the skills of upselling correct. After all, it’s one part science, one part experience, and one part finesse, so it may take time to get right. But once you’ve mastered the tricks of the trade, guiding your customer’s purchases politely and discreetly will become second nature in your venue.

Happy Hour

Happy Hour Specials to Draw in Crowds

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Happy hour is by and large one of the most popular times for people to come to your bar, and if you do it right you can expect to see some hefty profits. If you have the right happy hour specials available, your food and drinks will practically sell themselves. However, many bar owners have no idea how to put together a set of specials properly, so they end up guessing and missing out on a ton of sales. Here are a few basic happy hour specials that you can offer your customers to draw in crowds and make a lot of profit. Though each bar is different, these should help to get you on the right track.

2 for 1

The easiest special to offer during happy hour is 2 for 1 rail drinks and domestic beers. People love getting something for free, even if it means that they have to make a purchase first. If you don’t have proper margins, this tactic will never work; so make sure you have everything figured out ahead of time. Optionally, you can do a 2 for 1 special on select types of beer or cocktails to maximize your return.

Discount Beer Buckets

Offering a discount on your buckets of beer is another great way to drum up more sales painlessly. Typically, you can work out a deal with one of your beer distributors to give you a volume discount on a certain brand of bottled beer since you’ll be featuring it in a promotion. Sell six bottles of beer on ice for a discounted price and you’ll be selling buckets left and right.

½ Price Appetizers

Food is crucial to the success of your bar, so including a food special is basically required for success. An easy way to do this is to offer ½ appetizers all through your happy hour. They aren’t going to be a huge driver of profits on their own, but your customers will stay longer and drink more because they can get something to eat and appetizers are typically pretty salty.

Food and Drink Combos

Lastly, food and drink combos are another staple special for happy hour. If you sell pizzas, you could offer a large one topping pizza and a pitcher of beer for one low price. Or, to capture the “singles” crowd, you could offer a cheeseburger and a pint of beer for a flat rate too. Combining a food and beverage purchase into one price will usually cause a lot of purchases, and you can even be strategic to sell certain items from your cooler or freezer if they are getting close to expired.

No matter what type of specials you offer during happy hour, the most important factor to consider is getting the margins correct. If you’re just blindly setting prices and choosing your specials, it’s never going to be profitable or draw in the crowds the way that you’re hoping. Us some common sense, think about what your customers might enjoy, and price things accurately to see a huge spike in happy hour business and your bottom line.

Zombie Pub Crawl

Zombie Pub Crawl: Is Your Bar Ready?

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With Halloween just around the corner, you’ve probably heard the buzz about your local zombie pub crawl. For those who aren’t aware, a zombie pub crawl is when a large group of people dress up like zombies and go from bar to bar throughout a given town to have a few drinks. This can be a great way to drum up extra business during the Halloween season, but there are also some things you need to consider before you sign on if you want to make sure it’s a successful endeavor. Here are the key details that will help you determine if participating in your local pub crawl is worth your time.

Number of Bars

One of the biggest factors when determining if you should be part of the zombie pub crawl is the number of bars in your town or city. If there are only two or three bars that are part of the pub crawl, then you aren’t going to bring in enough business to make it worth the effort. Additionally, if there are way too many bars on the crawl, the customers won’t stay long enough for you to make any real money. The target number of bars on the pub crawl should be between five and seven for everyone to make money and have a large crowd of zombies.

Choose a Special

Having a great drink special is vital to having a successful role in your local zombie pub crawl. Often times the zombies will go through all of the bars on the list and then return to the one they liked the best. This means that you’ll need to go beyond the standard beer or cocktail specials that you’re used to offering and come up with something much more suitable for Halloween. Fortunately, there are many great recipes available online for this time of year that are easy to make and very delicious.

Typical Yearly Etiquette

Once you get together a good group of bars to participate in the zombie pub crawl, you’ll want to setup some good yearly rules of etiquette. Most importantly, you need to make sure all the bars take turns for who is first and last on the crawl. Most of the people are going to stay at the last location each year, so rotating that privilege is only fair if everyone is going to prosper and continue to take part in future years. Obviously it would be nice to always be the last stop, but without the other bars you aren’t going to make much money.

Being part of a zombie pub crawl is a great way to make money and embrace the Halloween season if you know what you’re doing. With the proper planning and the right conditions, you can easily make sure your bar is ready for the upcoming zombie pub crawl and you can make money hand over fist while giving your community something fun to look forward to each and every year.

Employee Exit

Retaining your Qualified Bar Staff

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One of the worst things that you’ll ever need to deal with when you’re a small business owner is the departure of one or more of your most important and qualified staff members. After spending years finding and training the perfect employees for their position, watching them walk out the door to work somewhere else and having someone else come in to be trained can be very stressful and time consuming. The problem gets much worse when it’s your star bartender or server hits the road, so trying to increase employee retention is vital to running a successful bar and nightclub.

Though there are certain circumstances that are completely out of the control of both you and your employees, there are many reasons that bar owners lose employees that can be avoided. Here is a short list of reasons why employees quit so you can take the proper steps to rectify any workplace related issues that could lead to your being short-staffed.

Lack of Good Management

Management is the most important aspect of retaining your good employees. If your manager is not good at their job or can’t relate well with some or all of your employees, it may be time for a change. A good manager will communicate with your staff, keep updated with their needs and feelings, and keep your business running smoothly.

Staying Professional

Though many of your staff members and managers will form personal relationships that exceed the confines of your bar or nightclub, keeping a professional work environment is essential. When any employee feels that their personal space has been violated, they will seek employment somewhere else.

Poor Choice of Employees

Knowing who to hire is just as important as how you treat an employee once they’re on the staff, so make sure your manager knows how to interview people and check their references. Nothing leads to a vacancy in your staff faster than an employee who can’t do their job properly from the start.

Lack of Systems

Frustrated employees will always look for a less stressful work environment, and having a lack of systems in place is a fast way to accomplish this feat. Make sure your employees know what is expected of them and that their workday is somewhat predictable to keep your retention numbers as high as possible.

Lack of Positive Reinforcement

If an employee doesn’t feel appreciated in their job, they will look at other bars and nightclubs where they will be. You don’t need to give theme five figure raises; just an occasional “good job” to your bartenders and servers can be enough positive reinforcement to make the difference between a happy employee and one who is ready to walk out the door on a busy Saturday night.

Predictable Scheduling

Most people want a predictable schedule from their job, and jumping all over the place will lead to your best employees going elsewhere. Obviously, people will request days off and holidays will need extra staffing, but keeping your employees’ schedules somewhat fixed when at all possible will keep them happy and fresh for each of their shifts.

Lack of Opportunity

Most employees are interested in upward mobility that comes along with better hours and better pay. You should always promote from within instead of bringing outside staff into higher positions for your bar otherwise your staff that has been working hard for years will find a place where they’re appreciated a little better.

Though there’s no “magic bullet” for solving every scenario with your employees, having an idea of how to create a fun, productive, and stress-free work environment can go a long way. If you run your bar or nightclub properly and have the right systems in place, retaining your qualified bar staff and employees will be less challenging than you might think.

Hunting Season

Setting Up your Bar for Hunting Season

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With hunting seasons upon us, it’s only natural to think about capturing a piece of that business at your bar. Hunting season can be big business if all of the stars align properly for your bar, but the window is pretty narrow so you have to act quickly and decisively. Also, some bars rely specifically on fishing and hunting customers, and that opens up a whole different set of considerations. Here are some tips on setting up your bar for hunting season no matter what type of venue you operate.

Location Matters

First off, the location of your bar will play a large role in how you set it up for hunting season. Do you have a neighborhood bar and grill that just happens to get a large wave of hunters because of your location, or are you specifically out in hunting and fishing territory? Your bar’s location will determine if you setup the theme to be geared towards hunting year-round or if you will just supplement your building with decorations during hunting season.

Importance of Food

Food is also a major factor, no matter what type of bar location you’re running during hunting season. Groups of guys are going to be out in the woods from the wee hours of the morning until the darkness of night, and chances are they’re going to be tired and hungry. That means they don’t want to cook, but are almost certainly looking for a hot meal in their bellies. If your bar isn’t offering food, you’re not going to last long in that market. Also, you may want to open up early for breakfast during hunting season to become a “one stop hunting shop” for everything that the hunters need.

Lodging and Packages

Lastly, if at all possible you should try to offer as many services, including lodging, to the hunters as possible. If you have some land nearby, consider offering camping sites so you can keep the hunters nearby and utilizing your bar and other amenities. Also, try to offer things like ice, fuel, showers, laundry machines, and any other conveniences you can muster. Doing a load of laundry gives the hunters the perfect amount of time to grab some dinner and a couple of beers before they retreat to their cabin or tent. By keeping them coming back to your bar for everything they need, you can build loyalty and enjoy repeat business across the board.

In a perfect world, every bar owner would be able to offer a whole slew of great amenities to their customers and really bring in big business during hunting season. However, that’s just not viable for every location or building, so you just need to do the best you can with what you have at your disposal. As long as you decorate your building in a way that is appropriate for your location, offer food to your hungry patrons, and also offer as many amenities and services as you possibly can, setting up your bar for hunting season should be pretty easy and yield you some fantastic profits.

Halloween at a Bar or Nightclub

Preparing Your Venue for Halloween

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With Halloween just around the corner, many bar and nightclub owners know that they need to start planning accordingly. Halloween is historically one of the biggest nights of the year for bar and nightclub business, but you won’t see a penny if you don’t have a great entertainment package planned. Also, there are other implications if you don’t bring in a great crowd on Halloween, and those implications can echo through the rest of the holiday season.

As most of you know, fall marks the beginning of busy season at most bars and nightclubs. With the weather outside changing and getting colder, people are fleeing their backyard parties of summertime and opting to belly up at their favorite watering hole. To capture recurring customers for the busy fall and early winter seasons, you need to pack your venue on Halloween. Here’s what you need to know.


Decorating your bar or nightclub for Halloween is very important to create a fun experience for your customers. However, you don’t want it to look and feel like a haunted attraction, so make sure you’re choosing wisely. Put a few pumpkin and ghost decorations scattered throughout the venue to make it look festive, but try not to overdo it. Also, make sure you have something visible from the street so people passing by can see the decorations to. Lastly, don’t decorate your bar until around halfway through October because any earlier would be overkill.


Entertainment is crucial to bringing in crowds on Halloween, so make sure you have a great program put in place ahead of time. Remember to book a band or DJ in advance because the best ones will book up fast as Halloween approaches. Also, you simply must have a costume contest to encourage your customers to dress up. Lastly, don’t forget the drink specials! Make some “creepy” variations of classic cocktails and offer at least one pumpkin ale to keep your customers in the mood to spend money and party.


Lastly, you need to advertise your Halloween party proudly and loudly. Make a huge banner to put out in front of your bar or nightclub. Take to social media and make sure everyone possible sees the details of your Halloween extravaganza. You could have the greatest party put together in the entire world, but not a single customer will show up if they have no idea it’s happening. If you have any room at all left in your advertising budget for the year, now would be a good time to start using it.

By preparing your bar or nightclub for the busy fall and winter months using Halloween as your springboard, you can have a profitable and exciting holiday season. Just remember to decorate your venue, offer great entertainment and drink specials, and advertise to the hilt, and all the work you do preparing your venue for Halloween will pay off with huge dividends.

Reserved VIP Table

How to Avoid Double Booking VIP Tables

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For decades, bars and nightclubs have been offering VIP seating to large groups and high rollers. Traditionally, a person or their agent would make a phone call to the club’s host or hostess and they would write down the reservation in their book. This system worked very well because all of the reservations were kept in one centralized location, but it was far from perfect since human error played a role in the process. This meant that the VIP booking system worked most of the time, but there was no way to find out where the problem was if something was lost or entered incorrectly.

Flash forward to modern times, the way people make reservations for their VIP table has drastically changed. First came website bookings that allowed customers to book through an online form, then we saw the rise of smartphones with a whole plethora of apps that allow you to book a table at your favorite bar, restaurant, or nightclub.

With all of these different platforms and third party platforms that allow guests to book VIP tables, keeping all of the different reservations straight has become even more challenging. When you couple these methods with the traditional phone call system that s still in play, you can see just how tough it is to keep things organized and accurate. So how are you supposed to avoid double booking VIP tables? By putting in place the proper systems.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is setup a centralized reservation software system that is compatible with all of the latest third party apps that can accept reservations on your behalf. There are many options out there, so just do a little research to see which will work best for you. Next, you’ll need to make sure your staff is trained to use the reservation system so all of the bookings are made correctly. Here’s what you’ll need to do to make that happen.

  1. Create a unique username and password for each authorized employee. This will help you track statistics and any errors made in the booking process.
  2. Teach your customers how to add a reservation on a specific night and identify which tables are available.
  3. Make sure all of the third party apps that take bookings on your behalf are integrated in real-time for accuracy.

If you have everything setup properly and your staff properly trained, every single VIP table booking should come into your system without any possible conflicts. Having a centralized reservation system such as this will allow people to book from a wide variety of sources and everything will show up perfectly. This is the only way to truly avoid double booking VIP tables without fail, and every serious bar, restaurant, or nightclub owner should seriously consider investing in such a system.

End of Summer Party

Hosting the Perfect “End of Summer” Party

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Whether you’re looking to throw a party at your nightclub on Labor Day weekend or you are planning something closer to the Autumnal Equinox, it can be a huge opportunity to capitalize one last time on the lucrative summer months. Not only do things start returning to normal as soon as fall hits, but having the ability to go out and party start to diminish for the year as well. This means a huge groundswell of support and a jam-packed venue it you play your cards right. Here’s how you go about hosting the perfect “end of summer” party at your bar or nightclub.

Know the Crowd

The first thing you need to do in order to be successful is to know your crowd. This should be easy if you’ve been in business for long enough, but few times will it be as important to pay attention to as when you’re hosting a major event or party. When you know who you’re catering to, you can choose each aspect of the party accordingly to draw in the largest crowd possible.

Provide Entertainment

Food and drinks alone won’t fill your bar or nightclub during a competitive season like this; you’re going to need entertainment. At a minimum, you’ll need to hire a locally recognized band or DJ to get people in the door and boost the energy of your party. Not only that, but you should consider having other activities such as dart competitions or trivia games to help make it a bigger deal.

Great Drink Specials

Offering drink specials not only brings in more guests, but it can increase the size of each check. Make sure you have a great beer and cocktail special on the menu, and also consider crafting a special cocktail just for the party (even if it’s just a twist on an existing classic).

Charge a Cover

If you want your end of summer party to be profitable, you definitely want to charge a cover. Your customers are looking for an experience, so if you provide something fantastic they will always be willing to pay for it. We aren’t talking about a huge cover here; just something between $5 and $10 will do. You can even give them a drink ticket or two to offset the cost of admission, and then it is equivalent to having a two drink minimum policy.


Lastly, you’ll need to advertise your end of summer party in order to get people in the doors. This is where the entertainment, games, and drink specials become so important because that’s what will generate buzz on social media. With the proper party elements in place and the right exposure, you can expect to see a pretty great turnout.

Overall, giving your customers what they want is more important than what you charge at the door. You’ll need a good mix of fun, entertainment, and good values at your end of summer party in order to be successful, but once you start hitting on all cylinders you can repeat the party every year with increased turnout and enthusiasm from your customers.

Angry Customer

Comping Drinks: Never Give Anything for Free

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We’ve all had that terrible experience in our bar or nightclub before; there’s a very unhappy customer that isn’t pleased with their drinks or experience and wants to speak with a manager. Most of the time they just want to complain to the head honcho and get better service from that point forward, and you can pinpoint weak spot in your service or staff. However, occasionally you’ll run into a customer that simply won’t be satisfied regardless of what you offer them, and often times they want their bill comped.

However, not only will this cause you to lose money on that specific transaction but it also sets a dangerous precedent for all of your other customers that you’ll waive the cost of their drinks if they complain hard enough. This can lead to excessive complaints, blatant lies, and overall unruly customers if left unchecked for too long. Instead, consider using another strategy to satiate those customers without going into debt. Here are some key strategies to help you never give anything away for free when an upset customer wants something comped from their bill.

Offer to Correct the Situation

The very first thing you need to do is offer to correct the situation. If the customer has an issue with a server or bartender, swap them out for someone else on the floor. If the drinks aren’t up to snuff, have them remade immediately the way the customer likes them. Most importantly, you need to do all of this with a great attitude that shows the customer that you understand their frustrations and will get the problem resolved, but you are still in control of the situation. It’s amazing how far some good customer service will get you in these types of situations.

Offer Them and Incentive

If sweet-talking the disgruntled customer doesn’t work, it may be time to pull out a better incentive. Consider having some sort of free admission voucher to an upcoming live performance or event at your venue or a “buy one get one half price” coupon for their next visit. Though you’re technically giving them something for free, you’re also getting them to come back another time to claim it and you’ll still make money on their business. After all, “buy one get one half price” still means profit if your pricing structure is correct; which is much better than taking a loss from waiving their bill all together.

Give Them a Discount

When all else fails, sometimes you need to dig deep and give an angry customer a discount. This should be the last tool in your box, but sometimes it’s the only option to stave off a massive public scene. Just make sure you set a maximum percentage for the discount such as 25% so you stay in the black on the transaction. It’s okay to break even on a bill once in a while to ensure the rest of your customers have a great experience, but you certainly don’t want to get hit for a loss.

Though on certain occasions a customer may be very angry and present a challenge, you can always find a way to remedy the issue without taking a financial loss. By using the three strategies above, you can stop comping drinks and never give anything for free again.

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