If you own a restaurant or bar in a small town, you know the importance of mid-week foot traffic. You've got your dedicated local audience who always manage to pull through on a Friday or Saturday night – but what to do about the Sunday to Thursday slump? Whether you're looking to attract new audiences throughout the week or to double (and potentially triple) the profits on your busier dates, you need to get creative in your thinking. Incorporating new and novel ideas into your small-town bar is a sure way to counter the obstacles of the last two years of pandemic life and really get your business growing in the right direction again.

We’ve put together a list of some of the most solid and sure-fire measures you can take as a small-town business owner to promote and increase traffic at your bar:

1. Add a karaoke room

Karaoke rooms are a great business add-ons for any venue. The offer huge returns on investment while allowing your bar to take advantage of rising market trends – not to mention adding resale value to your space. Karaoke is making a return to popularity, and karaoke rooms especially are on the rise. The benefits are endless.

First and foremost: karaoke is an engaging activity that is facilitated by social gatherings. Of course, people will need to refuel while singing, so you can get additional revenue from food and drink orders. Secondly, private karaoke rooms are pre-booked for a certain period, typically for 1-2 hours. From a business perspective, the pre-book business model – wherein customers select and reserve their rooms while inputting their party size and desired number of plays – allows bar owners to anticipate how busy they expect to be on any given night, allowing them to bring in more or fewer staff members to cover shifts. Best of all, by incorporating a dedicated area for karaoke fans, you are opening your small-town bar business up to an entirely new and regular customer base.

people sining karaoke in a private karaoke room venue
Sing Sing - Gothenburg

Karaoke software like Singa make it easy for your customers to run the night themselves and offer on-screen promo for your bars offers. You can learn more about how to get started with a karaoke room here.

2. Try some competitive socializing

As you may have noticed in recent years, competitive socializing opportunities have become a popular trend among friendship circles – especially those looking to make the most of a typical night out in their small town. For those who don’t know, competitive socializing involves high-energy activities such as billiards, shuffleboard, darts, foosball, and ping pong, basically any type of interactive gaming with an inherent element of high or low-stakes competition between friends – all of which typically takes place within a dining or hospitality setting with food and drinks.

customers playing shuffleboard in sports bar
O'Learys Järntorget - Gothenburg

Great examples of competitive socializing can be easily implemented in your small-town bar, usually with low overhead costs. Get a sense of what your regular customers might like and consider integrating the activity into your everyday routine – maybe try it out for the first time on a slower mid-week shift and see how customers engage with it. If the customers are regulars, do they stay for longer or spend more money while playing darts (for example) than they did when there was no dartboard? Competitive socializing is a growing trend, and one that can get your business growing, too.

3. Host live viewing parties – for any occasion

Another simple, no-fuss method for getting local audiences into seats at your small-town bar involves enticing them with the promise of television – something they'd likely be doing at home anyway. Even if your bar isn't technically a "theme bar", that shouldn't stand in the way of opening your doors to audiences looking to watch live, televised events with a cold drink.

Does Monday night typically draw a dull crowd? Invest in some HD-quality televisions and put on a football game. Double down by luring in patrons with discount beer and wings. Not a lot of sports fans in town? Make Thursday nights Ladies’ Night with chardonnay and “The Bachelor” or host a RuPaul's Drag race viewing. Maybe host an Oscars viewing party on a slow Sunday night in March or a Eurovision party in May. Get as creative as you want, there is an audience for everything.

4. Let's get trivial

Board game cafés have been cropping up across North America for years – and once those establishments get hold of a liquor license, the sky is pretty much the limit in terms of increased business. You can always pick up a few board games to keep on hand at your small-town bar to encourage group play over meals and cocktails. Or you can take it one step further and implement an interactive trivia night on a typically boring Tuesday.

trivia night sign advertising a local bar

When bars cash in on the trivia trend – whether it’s a neighborhood watering hole or a bustling college hangout – sales on food and alcohol tend to soar due to an increase in foot traffic. Take a ho-hum weeknight and turn it into THE place to be with a few simple additions: an emcee with a microphone hook-up, maybe a couple of television monitors, and some free promotional posts on your restaurant’s social media channels (you’ve got social media channels, right?). Tailor the trivia content to the topic of your choice: the more random the better, that way, everybody can get involved. Sweeten the pot by doling out prizes like cash jackpots, free drinks, or dining room discounts. With trivia events, the growth opportunities are truly endless.

5. Take it outside

bar with outdoor seating

The introduction of COVID-19 to the in-store dining experience caused many establishments to make a huge and lasting pivot in early 2020. While some bars and restaurants were able to cope with the changes, others are still struggling to get back to where they were. Fortunately, this simple idea is relatively cost-effective and easy to implement in time for warmer weather.

Because of coronavirus, you’ll likely find that a lot of people still prefer to sit outside when eating or drinking, provided your bar has an outdoor patio area. If not, consider dedicating some space to an alfresco area – not only does it accommodate more patrons (which equals more income), but benches and communal picnic tables set spaciously outside your bar during warmer months is a great way to encourage longer periods of socializing and drinks ordering.

6. Start a loyalty program

As an owner of a small-town bar, you know the importance of your local audience. Repeat business is the lifeblood of independent bars. If you’re hoping to increase this type of engagement, you might think about putting together a loyalty program that not only rewards repeat business, but one that also grows traffic and encourages multiple weekly or monthly visits.

These types of programs are cheap to assemble, and easy to implement into most current POS systems. Plus, they are a great way of increasing customer satisfaction, encouraging visitors to choose your bar as their venue over other big-city spots while also strengthening their long-term loyalty to your brand. The choice is yours: do you want your program to be based around accumulated points, or on how often your regulars visit? If these regulars tend to come in on busy nights, tailor your loyalty program to offer discounts or personalized service to get them to come in on less busy nights. After all, people tend to spend more at a bar where they feel more likely to have fun.

There you have it! A handful of effective and highly engaging tips for increasing sales and traffic at your small-town restaurant or bar business. With these practices in place, and with the rise in competitive socializing activities continuing to climb, you can now work towards growing profits on otherwise uneventful evenings. Cheers to that!