Man handing a beer to a customer at a bar.


If everything on your menu can be found in the supermarket, it’s not going to entice anyone to pick you over them.

Are Bars Struggling to Stay Relevant?

With so much competition, bars must offer something other than food and drinks.

Staying in is the new going out. That’s according to a report that suggests 55 percent of Americans are choosing to stay in and drink rather than head to the bar. The same survey found that 74 percent preferred a night in, and perceived it as more relaxing than going out. Furthermore, 35 percent believe at-home drinking is a much more personal way to be social with friends.

Another big factor is to keep costs down: 69 percent of people said they drink at home to avoid the cost of drinking at a bar or restaurant. It’s no wonder that bars and restaurants are finding it increasingly difficult to bring in customers. So, how are these establishments addressing the issue?

The problem with costs

Put simply, no one wants to spend more than they have to. This is particularly true in the modern day, with prices increasing everywhere we look. This leaves bars and restaurants with a difficult pitch—travel here and spend more money than you would staying at home. Sure, customers get a professionally cooked meal or prepared drink for the extra cost. But they’re also paying for the travel and wasting time commuting. For many people, the hassle isn’t really worth it anymore.

Bars and restaurants are also finding it more difficult to use entertainment as an incentive. Most homes now have so much technology available, from on-demand streaming of movies and music to a library of video games. It’s cheaper and offers more variety without leaving the comfort of the sofa.

Bars and restaurants need to up their game to get back on people’s radars. But how?

More than food and drink

Put simply, bars and restaurants need to offer more. The act of going out needs to be an experience, and not just grabbing something to eat. Even discounts and offers will struggle to boost attendance to a mundane, average restaurant experience. This is because, particularly for the millennial customer pool, experiences are more valuable than purchases.

Consider surroundings

Offer your customers more than just a drink. Make the whole building part of what they are paying for. For example, Safehouse in Milwaukee certainly made a name for itself in delivering not just food and drink but a whole experience. With a super-spy theme, the bar offers two separate vibes, one for the day and one for the evening. During the day, it’s a kid-friendly establishment with activities such as investigations and birthday parties. At night, a password to the doorman will let customers in to late night parties, though “agents” can also gain access by proving they are spy material.

It isn’t an experience someone could easily duplicate at home with supermarket alcohol and streaming services.

The power of Instagram

If food is your business’ strength rather than its surroundings, you need to make sure the food offered is top quality. Again, there are ways to craft an experience from food.

Consider the trend of sharing food photos on platforms such as Instagram. With more than 30 million food photos under the hashtag #FoodPhotography, and more than 40 million under #Foodgasm, the reach of having your food snapped and shared is incredible. But, in order for that to happen, your food offerings need to be Insta-worthy.

Look at the quality of your menu, as well as the variety. Health-conscious, clean-eating, and vegan options are all modern-day trends that bars and restaurants should tap into.

Do what supermarkets can’t

If everything on your menu can be found in the supermarket, it’s not going to entice anyone to pick you over them. Sure, prices are prices, and not every bar or restaurant can implement a building-wide theme for an experience. But just as your food can be Instagrammable, so too can your drinks be interesting and difficult to replicate in the comfort of home.

One trend to consider is frozen cocktails made in slushy machines. It’s a drink with a twist, a hint of nostalgia, and it is very flexible with drinks trends, from non-alcoholic blends to the love of gin. Plus, it’s not something a person can easily make at home, so they are more likely to head to your establishment for you to whip one up for them. Bring something different to your drinks menu and give people a reason to head to you instead of the supermarket.

Customers are finding more and more convenience coming into their homes in the age of technology. But with flexibility, variety, and a truly memorable experience on offer, bars and restaurants can certainly adapt to survive.

Amy Hodgetts is a professional copywriter for Mediaworks, a digital marketing agency, working on behalf of clients all over the U.K. A content writer and web content optimizer, Hodgetts has built a strong foundation in writing through many years of hobby and volunteer writing online and working on her own novel. She is a graduate from the University of Glasgow, with an undergraduate MA (Hons) in English Language.