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How to increase bar sales with POS for bars, nightclubs and pubs

How to increase bar sales with POS for bars, nightclubs and pubs

Bring in more pub and nightclub patrons and increase the average order value (AOV) at your bar, by following the tips in this short guide. Alcohol sales have always been a big business in the UK, with more than half of Brits drinking outside the home at least once per week [1]. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a further one-year tax rate freeze for alcohol in March 2021, in order to help the industry recover following the lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic.[2]. Despite this, reports from the International Wine and Spirits Research body suggest that global alcohol sales may not recover fully until 2024 [3], and so many businesses in the industry should be looking to revamp their advertising and promotions in order to achieve success in a saturated market.

Pub and bar promotion ideas - how to upsell alcohol

If you're wondering how to upsell alcohol, there are tons of pub and bar promotion ideas, and sales techniques, that are proven to increase bar sales. A study into how pubs, bars and nightclubs increase alcohol sales found that the most effective of these seemed to be: alcohol advertising methods (which included posters and digital screens), special offers with multi-purchase promotions (including Happy Hours and ‘all you can drink’ specials), and ‘speed drinking devices (e.g. shot glasses, ‘beer bongs’ and large pitchers)’ [4].

Make sure offers and events are promoted as much as possible throughout your venue, using a mix of screens, posters, and tabletop bar signs. The Pubs, Bars and Clubs Handbook recommends the use of ‘internal marketing devices’ such as "tent cards or other point-of-sale (POS) material, [such as] posters [and] menu cards’ [5].

Other pub and bar promotion ideas include hosting entertainment, seasonal specials, theme nights, and games such as darts and pool.

Always be incredibly careful with your advertising, however, as you must ensure you adhere to local laws surrounding the promotion of alcohol, and not encourage drinking to excess [6]. While promotions such as drinking games and multi-buy discounts are proven to be effective at increasing order size, they are considered to promote unhealthy behaviour, and must not be explicitly encouraged.

Also, choose your promotions carefully based on the demographic of your customers. If you operate a family-friendly pub which is frequented by older patrons, then you may wish to focus more on food specials and multi-buy promotions, rather than organizing rowdy activities or noisy entertainment, which may be better suited to younger patrons.

Increase bar sales with pub signs and bar signs

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  • Peg notice board aka restaurant menu board

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But what are the most effective marketing ideas for pubs and bars?

A 2015 article claimed that ‘POS promotions may serve to increase purchase volume’, and they found that price-related POS promotions were the most effective at increasing AOV in bars, also citing that ‘alcohol consumption was more than doubled during simulated ‘happy hours’’ [7]. Therefore, on your marketing materials, ensure you emphasise any price-point based information such as the potential savings made by multi-buy discounts.

Once you've generated some bar ideas to bring customers in, you will want to ask yourself what the right advertising type is for your venue. To bring in new customers, you ought to focus on outdoor advertising, picking advertising methods to suit the style of your business. Pavement signs are always popular for hospitality venues, and there are a large range of designs to suit your branding and decor.

Use rustic wooden framed chalkboards for daytime use and family-friendly pubs, or choose illuminated signs for nightclubs and bars in order to stand out in the evenings. If you serve food, or have a unique drinks menu, an illuminated menu board is a great way to convince curious passersby to enter. Fluorescent ‘open’ signs, or scrolling digital messages are another way to stand out and attract attention to your venue, even in the dark.

Pubs signs and bar ideas to bring customers in Bar signage ideas

How to increase bar sales with add-on purchases

Increase bar sales with pub snacks

A great way to increase AOV is to promote bar food and pub snacks in your venue. One survey found that 55.9% people carried out ‘spontaneous drunk purchases in 2019’, with the most commonly-bought item being food (‘with 50% of Brits forking out on food while drunk’) [8]. Another study also showed that ‘as the number of alcoholic drinks consumed increases, the amount of impulse purchases made will also increase’ [9].

While pub and bar owners don't want to unethically take advantage of their drunk patrons, this intoxicated impulse buying is going to be taking place anyway - the sensible thing to do is to encourage them to stay in your venue and satisfy their spending urges there! It's only natural that people will become hungry after a few drinks so, if you serve food, ensure this is advertised cleverly throughout your venue, using both wall-mounted and tabletop menu holders. If you don't serve meals, make sure your customers have the option to add some pub bar snacks to their order. You can cram in more options behind your bar by using pub snacks on cards and crisp display clips.

The Bartender and Server Workbook states that ‘offering food and encouraging food consumption is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent intoxication’ [10]. Therefore, ensuring that drinkers in your venue have food readily available for purchase should also help to make things safer for everybody. Why not increase both your revenue and your customer and staff safety, all at the same time?

POS for pubs and bars

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One area that has seen a gradual increase in interest in recent years is the low or no-alcohol market, with more and more customers opting out of drinking culture. Recent market research from 2021 has demonstrated that the sales of no- and low-alcohol in supermarkets have soared by 51.4% in the past year alone [11].

Bar marketing ideas - offer non-alcoholic cocktails

Make sure your bar is attractive and accommodating for those who can't, or don't want to, drink alcohol, by offering enticing non-alcoholic drinks such as elaborate cocktails without the booze.

Advertise these clearly around your venue using wall mounted poster holders and tabletop signage, to make customers aware of these options. Distribute leaflets with your no-alcohol menu to drum up interest.

For a great many people, pubs, bars and nightclubs are much more than simply places to get drunk, but places that provide valuable social interaction and improve wellbeing. One paper explained that the hospitable atmosphere offered by pubs makes them ‘important sites through which various forms of sociability are enacted and enabled’ [10], and another claims that ‘alcohol consumption enhances psychological wellbeing’ [11].

How to advertise a bar

In line with this perspective, be sure to emphasise the importance of your venue as a social hub for bringing people together (to share food and drink, as well as intangible experiences!), and make this integral to your branding, marketing, and venue atmosphere with the careful use of decor and display signage for pubs, clubs and bars.

Essential bar promotion supplies

  • Chalkboard Wooden A Boards with Poster Holders

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  • Three Sided LED Backlit Menu Holder is ideal for restaurant tables

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  • Mini Table Chalkboard

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Kira Swales

Kira Swales is a copywriter for UK POS. With over six years’ experience in e-commerce and copywriting, and many years in the retail sector, Kira loves to take a deep dive into topics in order to provide readers with the latest research in point of sale and merchandising. Read more of her in-depth guides on POS in our Knowledge Hub.


1. Nikkie Thatcher, ‘Brits spend most in on-trade on date’, The Morning Advertiser (2019), retrieved from https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2019/08/01/When-do-consumers-spend-the-most-in-the-on-trade [accessed 16th June 2021].

2. HM Treasury, ‘Budget 2021: What you need to know’ (published 3rd March 2021), https://www.gov.uk/government/news/budget-2021-what-you-need-to-know [accessed 16th June 2021].

3. IWSR drinks market analysis, ‘Global beverage alcohol is not expected to rebound until 2024’, https://www.theiwsr.com/global-beverage-alcohol-is-not-expected-to-rebound-until-2024/ [accessed 16th June 2021].

4. Sébastien Tutenges, Frederik Bøhling, ‘Designing drunkenness: How pubs, bars and nightclubs increase alcohol sales’, International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 70 (August 2019), pp. 15-21 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.04.009 [accessed 16th June 2021].

5. Danny Blyth, Pubs, Bars and Clubs Handbook, 6th edition (London: Kogan Place, 2003).

6. ‘Alcohol: Promotional marketing’, ASA (2016), https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/alcohol-promotional-marketing.html.

7. Sandra C Jones et al, ‘The influence of price-related point-of-sale promotions on bottle shop purchases of young adults’, Drug and Alcohol Review (March 2015), 34, 170–176 [accessed 16th June 2021].

8. Georgia-Rose Johnson, ‘The Drunk Shopping Survey 2019’, updated 25 May 2020, https://www.finder.com/uk/drunk-shopping [accessed 16th June 2021].

9. Kerrigan, C.J., ‘Investigating the Effects That Alcohol Consumption has on the Impulse Buying Behaviors of College Students’ (Honors thesis, Georgia Southern University, 2017).

10. Mark Willingham, The Bartender and Server Workbook, Volume 7 (Jacksonville: Alcohol Solutions LLC, 2015).

11. Rob Brown, ‘The new puritans: low & no alcohol category report 2021’, The Grocer (9th April 2021), https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/category-reports/the-new-puritans-low-and-no-alcohol-category-report-2021/654978.article [accessed 17th June 2021].

12. Thomas Thurnell-Read, ‘‘If they weren’t in the Pub, they Probably wouldn’t Even Know each Other’: Alcohol, Sociability and Pub Based Leisure’’, International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure (2021) 4:61–78, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs41978-020-00068-x [accessed 16th June 2021].

13. R. I. M. Dunbar et al, ‘Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption’, Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology (2017) 3:118–133 [accessed 16th June 2021].