Bar Mangement

Bartenders Who Focus On Up-Selling Make More Money.

By: Sideshow Pete

Sideshow Pete - Up Selling Bartender Serving Big Tips Hero

Nearly 85% of all customers that walk into a bar have not decided on a drink. Everywhere a Bar-Fly looks, everything a Bar-Fly hears, everybody a Bar-Fly interacts with can influence what they purchase.

My definition of Up-Sell: Influencing a customer’s decision to purchase an additional item, a higher priced item, or a higher margin item.

Undecided Bar-Flies will make their decision in 3 basic zones within a restaurant, bar, or nightclub. Each zone potentially influences what direction that patron will go for the evening.

What a Bar-Fly Sees:

  • Zone 1: Windows & Walls
  • Zone 2: Table Tops & Menus
  • Zone 3: At the Bar

Zone 1: Walls & Windows

  • Strategically place neons or metal signs, mirrors, chalkboards, digital screens
  • Promote high end, highest margin, image products, and best-selling Brands

Zone 2: Table Tops & Menus

  • Bar Top, Table Top, Posters, Chalkboards, LED and Dry-Erase Boards
    • Should be clean and easy to read
    • Highlight high margin items (maybe not be highest priced)
    • Use strategic colors
      • Dark backgrounds and light lettering (or vice versa)
      • Red, draws the eye, power color
      • Yellow, first color the eye sees

Zone 3: At the Bar

  • Bar Mats – If you have branded bar rails, FACE BAR MATS TOWARD THE CUSTOMER TO READ! It kills me when I see bar mats facing the bartender!!
  • Liquor Bottle Displays
    • Center top shelf Brands and work outwards
    • Group by Brand
    • Group by liquor type (vodka, whiskey/bourbon, tequila, etc)
  • Beer Bottle Line Up – 3 philosophies
    • Bottles should be grouped by Brands and/or styles (Bud with Bud Light, IPAs with IPAs)
    • Left to Right – line up high-end better beer to low-end domestics
    • Group long-necks with long-necks, short-necks with short-necks, cans with cans
  • Draft Handle Line Up – 3 philosophies, you’re pick:
    • Center better beer handles and work outwards for domestics
    • Start better beer handles on the side where customers approach the bar
    • Left to Right flow – better beer Left; domestic beer Right
  • Countertop Refrigeration
    • Shot coolers or fridges that promote non-alc beverages and mixers
      • Make sure lights function
      • Monitor sales to justify real estate value
        • If it’s not selling, get rid of it!
Sideshow Pete liquor bottles arranged behind a bar

A well organized back bar will help your customers focus on the brands you want to sell the most of.

A Sideshow Pete Ad:

What a Bar-Fly Hears:

Whether you’re the owner, server, or bartender, always be Up-Selling. Help them decide to spend more money. All you’re doing is helping them make a decision while increasing profit and hopefully receipt of a bigger tip.

IE: If asked, “What do you have on tap?” Always start with better beer draft options. Domestics should be mentioned last. A Bar-Fly makes their decision within the first 3 options they hear most of the time.

IE: If asked, “What do you recommend?” Have either a signature cocktail or a personal favorite ready. It might be a Red Bull & Vodka, a Boston Lager, a sipper like a Negroni, or maybe a Top Shelf Dirty Martini. Most of the time they’ll go with one of your suggestions.

Interactions that Influence:

Follow Up – A simple, “Would you care for another drink?” or “Want to try one of my favorites?” could lead to an additional order, shot, or a higher priced cocktail or beer.
Return Customer – This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  • A simple “Thank You” for coming in, or “See you again soon” makes a Bar-Fly feel included
  • Quality service – fun, pleasant, smiling bar and wait staff helps a Bar-Fly feel special
  • Messaging – information about weekly events or nightly features keeps a Bar-Fly informed
    • If you have a Happy Hour or drink specials, display them
    • If you have regular or special events, post them
    • Make sure your staff is aware and are verbally promoting
    • Hit Bar-Flies in the bathroom – easy real estate for posters or feature frames

The Used Car Salesman close –
“How do I put you in this car today?”

I haven’t done any research on this, but a used car salesman has to be one of the best Up-Sellers in the world. Many work on commission only. For them, it’s all about making the sale and Up-Selling a customer into a vehicle that makes the salesman more money.
Up-Selling at the bar can have a parallel strategy. The beauty is, everyone walking into a bar wants to, and is ready to buy. Should be an easy sale! Question is: Do you want to put them into a Cadillac Margarita or Tan Ferrari?

Cadillac Margarita:

1.5oz top shelf Tequila
0.5oz Cointreau
1oz Lime Juice
Grand Marnier float
Best served shaken and poured over ice or blended

Tan Ferrari:

1/3 Irish Cream
1/3 Kahlua
1/3 Amaretto
Best served over ice chips, do not shake or stir

Sideshow Pete Bartender serving customer upselling drinks making money

People love trying new things, be sure to make menus easy to read and easy to read. Avoid jargon that might confuse a Bar-Fly.


The bar business might just be the easiest sales job out there. Everyone who walks through the door is going to buy something. That purchase might be a beer, shot, cocktail, or non-alcoholic beverage. Your goal should be Up-Sell every one of them.

Why? The business makes more profit, and higher bar tabs lead to bigger tips.