How to write a Bar Business Plan: Complete Guide

Whether you’re looking to raise funding from private investors or to get a loan from a bank (like a SBA loan) for your bar, you will need to prepare a solid business plan.

In this article we go through, step-by-step, all the different sections you need in your bar business plan. Use this template to create a complete, clear and solid business plan that get you funded.

For more information on bars, make sure to read our guides below:
How To Open a Bar: Complete Guide
How Much Does It Cost To Start a Bar?
How To Build A Financial Model For a Bar
12 Proven Strategies To Increase Bar Sales & Profits

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary of a business plan gives a sneak peek of the information about your business plan to lenders and/or investors.

If the information you provide here is not concise, informative, and scannable, potential lenders and investors may lose interest.

Why do you need a business plan for a bar?

The purpose of a business plan is to secure funding through one of the following channels:

  • Obtain bank financing or secure a loan from other lenders (such as a SBA loan)
  • Obtain private investments from investment funds, angel investors, etc.
  • Obtain a public or private grant

How to write your bar business plan’s executive summary?

Provide a precise and high-level summary of every section that you have included in your bar business plan. The information and the data you include in this segment should grab the attention of potential investors and lenders immediately. Ensure that the executive summary doesn’t exceed 2 pages in total.

The executive summary usually consists of the five major sub-sections that include:

  • Business overview: introduce your bar and provide a brief of the products and services you will offer. For instance, it may be a sports bar, a social hub, a music venue, or something else. Also mention the number of customers your bar can host at once.
  • Market overview: the market overview section will contain an overview of the expected market size and growth of the bar industry in your area as well as your target audience and its demographics. Another important part of any market overview is a clear and thorough analysis of your competitors
  • People: introduce your bar’s management and employee structure. Provide a brief (no more than a couple of sentences each) of the knowledge and experience of the team. Also, speak about your hiring plans: who will you hire and who will report to whom?
  • Financial plan: how much profit and revenue do you expect in the next 5 years? When will you reach break-even point and start making profits? Include here your key financials such as revenue, gross profits, and net profit
  • Funding ask: what loan/investment/grant are you seeking? How much do you need? How long will this last?
An example of a Funding Ask slide for a bar business plan (source)

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2. Bar Business Overview

This is the section of your bar business plan where you properly introduce your bar and its business model.

Here is a sample list of questions that you must try to answer in this section:

  • What is the rationale behind the bar?
  • What’s the bar’s location and why did you select that location?
  • Why did you select the type of bar you want to open?
  • What will be the products and services you will offer?
  • What will be your pricing strategy and why?
  • Will your operating hours be the same as your competitors?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • How many customers can you serve at once (capacity)?
  • What will be the legal structure of your company?

a) History of the Project

Here you should explain the background of your project, more importantly:

  • The passion & experience of the business owner for the bar industry
  • The rationale behind the business: why did you decide to create a bar today?

Passion & Experience

You may or may not have prior experience. If you have experience, speak about it and how it will help you to run your business. For instance, you may have been a senior manager in a bar for say 5 years, and now you want to start your own bar and use your knowledge to run it more efficiently.

However, if you don’t already have experience, that’s fine. You must demonstrate your passion and some industry knowledge (you may have conducted thorough research).

Rationale

Is there a certain problem (or perhaps, a set of problems) that your bar will try to solve when it comes into existence? For example, there may not be any sports bar in your area where sports enthusiasts can enjoy sports on a big screen while enjoying drinks and food.

But that’s not all! The market must be suitable for a business to exist and thrive. For instance, if the area has a high rate of hooliganism and vandalism, opening a bar in the area might not be a good idea. Similarly, if the population of the target market has a high percentage of under-aged people and non-drinkers, you may not receive enough customers to keep the bar profitable.

b) Business Model

This sub-section of the Business Overview will explain your business model. Describe the following points briefly:

  • Will you buy an existing bar and do some remodeling, or will you start a new bar and design it from scratch?
  • The type of bar you want to open and why

What are the different types of bars?

There are multiple types of bars. Some of them that you may consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Specialty Bar: They specialize in one or two things. For instance, it can be a Martini Bar or a Cigar Bar. If you decide to open a Martini Bar, expect to have more women customers since the drink is popular among women. Again, a Cigar Bar will attract people who want to enjoy a smoke while drinking
  • Sports Bar: This is a type of bar that will televise sporting events continuously on a big TV screen. Usually, these bars remain crowded, and the male species will usually flock to these bars. Things can get raunchy and drunk men can pick up fights.
  • College Bar: This type of bar attracts the college crowd – people who have just turned 21. With drinking becoming legal for them, you can expect people to have lots of fun and order a lot of booze. Sorority girls, frat boys, cheerleading squad, football team – you will find them all. But they aren’t among the most responsible drinkers. So, expect some mess
  • Concept/Cocktail Bar: These bars are specially for people with big spending capacity. Usually, the bars have something unique to offer and often attract tourists. For example, you may consider an open-air rooftop bar offering a sweeping view of the city. These bars are more about expensive thrills and new trends, and they often tend to be very extravagant
  • Irish Pub: They specialize in offering alcoholic drinks that come straight from Ireland. Usually, they have a great ambiance, and they are perfect for relaxation and de-stressing. They have that typical Irish feel complete with decorations and pleasant music

There are many more types of bars that you may consider. However, remember that the bar you are opening must have a high percentage of the target audience. For instance, if you are located in an area popular for expensive tourism, a Cocktail Bar Bar may be a better choice.

c) Products

Of course, the products you will offer in your bar will depend on the type of bar you are opening.

Here, you should provide an overview of the products you are selling, drinks and/or food. Whilst it’s always good to add details, keep the detailed menu for the appendix instead.

Instead, explain here what are the main products you will sell (if you’re specializing in specific drinks for example) which shall tie into how you differentiate yourself vs. competitors later (see Market Overview).

d) Pricing Strategy

In this sub-section, you must explain the pricing strategy of your bar. If you have multiple competitors in the vicinity, you cannot have huge pricing variation, especially for the drinks. Pricing will, of course, depend on the type of bar you are opening. 

For instance, if you are going for a College Bar with a major focus on beers, you will most likely charge the standard beer rates. However, if you are offering additional entertainment services, you can charge for that, too.

Similarly, you cannot expect to charge super high like the concept bars if you are opening a Sports Bar. Yes, there can be significant price variations in the food that you are offering.

Create a pricing chart and ensure to provide an average price range for your products. You don’t need to provide exact pricing for each product. For example, if you are selling beer, you don’t need to list each beer brand and its price. You can just use a range instead (e.g. $6 to $9 for a pint).

Adding prices to your bar business plan is very important: it will allow investors to tie your pricing strategy with your financial projections later on (see Financial Plan).

e) Legal Structure

Finally, your business overview section should specify what type of business structure you want. Is this a corporation or a partnership (LLC)? Who are the investors? How much equity percentage do they own? Is there a Board of Directors? If so, whom? Do they have experience in the industry?

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Bar financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads

3. Bar Market Overview

A complete understanding of the market where you want to operate is important for the success of your business.

For example, if you intend to open an Irish Pub in an area teeming with a college crowd, that will be a foolish choice. Similarly, if you want to open a Nostalgia Bar and try to attract a music-loving crowd, it will not work.

Only when you understand your target audience and weave your service offerings according to their needs, you will succeed.

Therefore, you must cover 3 important areas in the market overview or market analysis section of your bar business plan:

  • Bar industry status quo: how big is the bar industry in your area? What is its growth rate (or decline rate) and what are the factors contributing to its growth or decline?
  • Competition overview: how many competitors are there? How do they compare vs. your business? How can you differentiate yourself from them?
  • Customer analysis: who is your target audience? What type of bars do they prefer? How regularly do they drink? What type of drinks do they prefer? How much do they spend at bars every month?

a) Bar Industry Status Quo

How big is the bar industry in the US?

The US bar industry is estimated to be at $26.7bn in 2022, and it registered a growth of 16.4% in 2022. The primary factor driving the growth is the increased per capita expenditure on alcohol. Also, there are approximately 71,634 bars and nightclubs in the country.

Number of bars in the US (2012 – 2022, source)

How big is the bar industry in your area?

Once you provide the overall picture of the US, divert your attention to the area where you want to operate.

Yet, it might not be possible to find region or area-specific numbers online. In such case, you must estimate the size yourself. Read our article on how to estimate TAM, SAM and SOM for your startup.

For example, if there are 71,634 bars and nightclubs in the country with total annual revenue of $26.7bn, the average annual revenue for each establishment is $372,728. Therefore, if the area where you want to open your bar has 30 operational establishments, you can safely assume that the bar industry in your area is worth approximately $11.2 million.

How fast is the bar industry growing in the area?

You must show the expected growth rate of the bar industry in your area. This information may not be available via online research papers. However, assessing the growth rate will not be difficult.

You can approach each bar separately and ask for their year of establishment. You will get a clear picture of the overall growth rate. For instance, if there were 20 bars in 2018 and 30 bars in 2022, the average annual growth rate is 11%.

What are the current bar market trends in your area?

It is vital to understand the trends of the bar industry in your area. Understanding trends will allow you to devise marketing strategies.

Understanding trends won’t be easy. You must conduct research and talk with your target audience. Additionally, you must also study your competitors to understand their target audience, the products they sell, etc.

Some common questions you may ask the target audience include:

  • What type of bars do they prefer?
  • At what time of the day do they prefer to visit a bar?
  • How frequently do they visit bars?
  • What type of drinks and food do they usually order?

You can ask as many questions as you need to understand the evolving trends.

b) Competition Overview

Studying your competitors’ business models is vital. You need to understand what makes them successful or why they fail. A clear understanding of their products and services, marketing strategies, etc., will allow you to provide a better service.

If your competitors are offering nearly the same products & services, then what is their market share and how do they market their products & services to attract new customers?

It is always a good idea to do some research (if necessary, physically visit your competitors without revealing your business intentions) and create a comparative table summarizing their product & service offerings, marketing strategies, target audience, etc.

Here is a sample table that you can use as a reference:

Competitor #1Competitor #2Competitor #3
Locationxxxxxx
Business modelIrish PubSports BarCocktail Bar
FoodYesYesNo (snacks)
Signature drinksxxxxxx
Google Rating4.8 (687+)4.4 (186+)4.9 (1280+)
Pricing range
(glass of wine)
$5-7$5-7$6-11
Bar size1,800 sq. ft.2,000 sq. ft.2,400 sq. ft.
Staff457
TablesCounter
+ 5×4 tables
Counter
+ 8×4 tables
Counter
5×2 tables
5×4 tables
Other detailsTVTVLive performances

Bar SWOT Analysis

Try to provide a SWOT analysis as part of your competitor analysis too. It must be crisp and highly focused. SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats.

Here is a sample that you can use as a reference:

  • Strengths: 8 years of experience bartender experience and 6 years of senior management experience in a reputed bar, experienced staff with a minimum of 4 years of experience
  • Weaknesses: Startup cost, no initial brand reputation
  • Opportunities: A massive campus crowd of legal drinking age, no college bar catering to the specific needs of the campus crowd
  • Threats: Increasing rent due to increased demand for commercial spaces, a high street brand will start operations shortly

A clear understanding of your strengths and weakness along with opportunities and threats in the real market can help you to design your marketing strategy. It also helps potential investors to assess the risk and reward profile of your business.

c) Customer Analysis

This is the sub-section where you will provide a detailed analysis of your target audience. You will expand the data points your provided earlier in the Business Overview segment.

Some important points that you must include in your customer analysis include:

  • Age and gender distribution (you can get local demographic data from census.gov)
  • Per capita expenditure on alcohol
  • Frequency of bar visits
  • Average monthly income and disposable income
  • Average bill size per visit
  • Average yearly or monthly spending on alcohol and food at bars
  • Type of bars preferred
  • The expected price range for drinks and food
  • Inclination towards loyalty programs & free perks
  • Things they dislike about existing bars and what they expect to be improved

You can add as many data points as required to validate your business decision. The idea here is to display your deep understanding of the target audience and the needs, preferences, and expectations. This knowledge can help you to tailor your products & services to attract new customers.

4. Bar Sales & Marketing

This is the segment where you outline your customer acquisition strategy. Try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the different marketing strategies you will use?
  • How do you intend to track the success of your marketing strategy?
  • What is your CAC or customer acquisition cost?
  • What are your USPs?
  • What is your marketing budget?
  • What promos and offers do you intend to provide for attracting new customers?

Let’s expand a bit on a few questions below:

What marketing channels do bars use?

A few marketing channels that bars typically use are:

  • Signage
  • Content marketing (share content like best foods that pair with beer, wine, whiskey, rum, and vodka; how to make crystal clear ice balls or cubes at home, etc.) on platforms like blogs, social media, etc.
  • Word of mouth
  • Local listing
  • Instagram/Facebook ads, etc.

It is not necessary to use all channels. You can start by focusing on a few of them. You can include other marketing strategies later.

Also, you must have a fair and nearly accurate estimate of your marketing budget. Failure to display a well-planned and adequate cash flow for advertising and marketing can lead to investors losing confidence.

An example of a cocktail bar’s promotional content on Instagram

What are your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)?

In other words, how do you differentiate yourself vs. competitors? This is very important as you might need to win customers from competitors.

A few examples of USPs are:

  • Happy Hours: Enjoy a 30% discount on all drinks at food between 2 PM and 4 PM
  • Free Drinks: 2 drinks on the house for bills above $200
  • Price Match: Find a bar with a lower price for the same drinks and we will match the price

Your USP will depend on your business model, competitor analysis, and target audience. Whatever your USP be, it should appeal to your potential customers and attract them. Plus, The USP you offer should be convincing enough for investors and lenders.

5. Management & Organizational Structure

You must address 2 things here:

  • The management team and their experience/track record
  • The organizational structure: different team members and who reports to whom?

a) Management

Small businesses often fail because of managerial weaknesses. Thus, having a strong management team is vital. Highlight the experience and education of senior managers that you intend to hire to oversee your bar business.

Describe their duties, responsibilities, and roles. Also, highlight their previous experience and explain how they succeeded in their previous roles.

It is also important that you explain how their experiences and qualifications help you in implementing the bar you are proposing. If they have specialized training and education (such as business management, bartender certification, etc.), add that information.

b) Organizational Structure

Even if you haven’t already hired a senior manager, bartender, waitress or waiter, barback, security guard & bouncer, and other relevant staff members, you must provide a flowchart of the organizational structure defining the hierarchy of reporting.

Such a flowchart will demonstrate your management skills and plans to the interested investors or lenders. If necessary, they may even suggest changes to improve the management structure.

An example of a bar organizational structure

6. Financial Plan

The financial plan is perhaps, with the executive summary, the most important section of any bar business plan.

Indeed, a solid financial plan tells lenders that your business is viable and can repay the loan you need from them. If you’re looking to raise equity from private investors, a solid financial plan will prove them your bar is an attractive investment.

There should be 2 sections to your financial plan section:

  • The startup costs of your project (if you plan to start a new bar, purchase new equipment, renovate your bar, etc.)
  • The 5-year financial projections

a) Startup Costs

Before we expand on 5-year financial projections in the following section, it’s always best practice to start with listing the startup costs of your project. For a bar, startup costs are all the expenses you incur before you open your bar and starting making sales. These expenses typically are:

  • The renovation / refurbishment of the building / space
  • Equipment & furniture
  • Initial inventory
  • Licenses & permits

As an example, it costs on average $148,500 to $239,000 to open a hard liquor bar with 80 seats in a premium location.

Note that these costs are for illustrative purposes and may not be fully relevant for your business. For more information on how much it costs to open and run a bar, read our article here.

Startup costAmount
Refurbishment & branding$50,000 – $100,000
Equipment$92,000 – $123,000
Insurance, Licenses & permits$500 – $3,000
Initial inventory$6,000 – $13,000
Total$148,500 – $239,000

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Bar financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads

b) Financial Projections

In addition to startup costs, you will now need to build a solid 5-year financial model for your bar.

Your financial projections should be built using a spreadsheet (e.g. Excel or Google Sheets) and presented in the form of tables and charts in the business plan of your bar.

As usual, keep it concise here and save details (for example detailed financial statements, financial metrics, key assumptions used for the projections) for the appendix instead.

Your financial projections should answer at least the following questions:

  • How much revenue do you expect to generate over the next 5 years?
  • When do you expect to break even?
  • How much cash will you burn until you get there?
  • What’s the impact of a change in pricing (say 20%) on your margins?
  • What is your average customer acquisition cost?

You should include here your 3 financial statements (income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement). This means you must forecast:

  • The number of customers over time ;
  • Your expected revenue ;
  • Operating costs to run the business ;
  • Any other cash flow items (e.g. capex, debt repayment, etc.).

When projecting your revenue, make sure to sensitize pricing and the number of customers as a small change in these assumptions will have a big impact on your revenues.

Source: Bar financial model template

7. Funding Ask

This is the last section of your bar business plan. Now that we have explained what your bar is about, the products you sell and to whom, what’s your strategy, where you go and how you get there, this section must answer the following questions:

  • How much funding do you need?
  • What financial instrument(s) do you need: is this equity or debt, or even a free-money public grant?
  • How long will this funding last?
  • Where else does the money come from? If you apply for a SBA loan for example, where does the other part of the investment come from (your own capital, private investors?)

If you raise debt:

If you raise equity

  • What percentage ownership are you selling as part of this funding round?
  • What is the corresponding valuation of your business?

Use of Funds

Any bar business plan should include a clear use of funds section. This is where you explain how the money will be spent.

Will you spend most of the loan / investment in paying your employees’ salaries? Or will it cover mostly the cost for the lease deposit and the renovation?

Those are very important questions you should be able to answer in the blink of an eye. Don’t worry, this should come straight from your financial projections. If you’ve built solid projections like in our Bar financial model template, you won’t have any issues answering these questions.

For the use of funds, we also recommend using a pie chart like the one we have in our financial model template where we outline the main expenses categories as shown below.

An example of a Funding Ask slide for a bar business plan (source)

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Bar financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads