How to Make the Best Bar Food Menu

Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
April 11, 2022
How to Make the Best Bar Food Menu

We’ll make this simple: If you serve food, you will most likely sell more beer. Adding a food menu to your brewery or bar program has many advantages. It creates a reason for people to stay and order more beers; it increases your revenue; it brings new customers into your space; it gives folks more reason to love your brand.

Sure, we understand that building a bar menu means tackling a whole new beast, paying for a food service license, planning for food cost, and investing in the labor and equipment necessary to operate a kitchen.

But the perks are worth the potential problems.

“If you do sell food as a brewery, you will also sell more beer,” says Tim McLaughlin, founder of GoTab, a revolutionary contactless ordering and payment web service that recently launched an all-in-one restaurant point-of-sale system. “We’ve worked with breweries that have done studies, and every single one finds they sell more beer when they sell food.”

If you do not sell food, now is the time to consider adding dishes to your menu. Fittingly, we have all the details you need to design the best bar menu.

And once you have your bar menu mapped out, Untappd for Business is the ultimate tool to build a menu for your establishment that you can publish to your website, digital menus, Facebook, and the Untappd app. Leveraging QR codes and well-designed custom contactless print and digital menus helps you create a safe environment for your customers and staff.

The Top 3 Reasons You Need a Bar Food Menu in 2022

A variety of dishes from Humble Sea Brewing Company
(Photography courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing Co.)

Here are the top three reasons why you should consider adding a food menu to your bar or brewery this year.

#1. A Bar Food Menu Means People Top Off Their Tabs

A food menu ensures that customers will on average spend more money at your establishment. Filling up on tacos or pizza means that your customers feel more comfortable ordering that extra beer. “If you have two beers on an empty stomach versus two beers and a taco then you can have a third beer and be responsible,” says McLaughlin, who notes that partners who use GoTab actually see customers spend on average twenty-three percent more on their tabs.

#2. A Bar Food Menu Means People Stay Longer

If people spend more time in your bar or brewery they will be more likely to spend more money ordering that last beer or extra plate of food. A bar food menu opens up all these possibilities to keep butts in seats longer. Do you want to run a happy hour special? Can you offer a late night menu? If you offer food at your bar or brewery, that means when folks get hungry (which they always will when drinking), they don't have to leave to find food somewhere else. Instead, they can stick around and simply order from your bar food menu.

#3. A Bar Food Menu Attracts More Customers

According to a recent study conducted by Eventbrite, seventy-eight percent of Millennials are looking to spend their money on an experience over buying something material. Adding a menu to your bar or brewery program elevates the experience you’re creating for your customer. According to a Restaurant Success Report from Toast, seventy-two percent of diners ranked high-quality food as the main reason they visit a food establishment. You could be missing out on a big segment of folks looking for a reason to go out to one place for beers and bites. It has been two years since the global pandemic first caused many bars and breweries to close, and many people are venturing out again, looking for a place that has it all. Adding a food program to your establishment gives people the best reason to visit your spot as they return to a more normal social life.

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The 5 Crucial Steps to Building a Bar Menu

A plate of fried fish tacos on a bar counter
(Photography courtesy of Spencer Davis | Unsplash)

Have we convinced you that a bar food menu is important to your business? If so, you might be wondering where to start. Following these five steps will build a good foundation for creating your best bar menu.


#1. Find a Concept to Fit Your Theme

The first step when designing a bar food menu is to decide what you want to serve. The best strategy here is to develop a menu around your brand identity. Think about the types of beers you serve and what foods would go best with them.

Beyond that, lean into who you are as a brand. If you’re a taproom near the ocean in Santa Cruz, you might want to serve fish tacos or California-type cuisine. But if you’re a local brewery in Wisconsin, maybe you want to focus on Midwestern comfort foods. Who you are as a business should dictate the direction of your menu.

#2. Brainstorm and Categorize Your Dishes

Start brainstorming a list of potential dishes in Excel or Google Sheets. Categorize your menus by appetizer, entree, dessert, or any other segment you see fit (you can get creative here, but just make sure that it fits your theme).

For example, “Between Bread” could be a category for sandwiches, “Small Plates” could be your appetizer section, or “Finger Foods” could be a creative way to display little bites.

#3. Calculate Your Menu Prices

This is probably the most important step of setting up your menu. You want to find that sweet spot with your menu prices that gives you a high profit margin but doesn’t deter your potential customers from ordering.

If you're building a bar menu for the first time, you’ll need to set your prices based on inventory pieces and food cost percentages. The best way to calculate your menu prices is by using a restaurant inventory system. Here is a great article that breaks down this process more in depth to get you started.

#4.Write Menu Descriptions + Pair with Photos

We eat with our eyes first, right? Writing eloquently, witty, mouthwatering descriptions to pair with expertly shot photos of your food will make the menu that much more attractive. Spend time crafting great descriptions, using adjectives that touch on people’s taste buds such as crispy, tangy, sour, sweet, crunchy, etc.

What makes each dish special or unique? Tap into that individuality and craft a great story to go behind your vision. Who is your chef? What is their story? How does your food fit into your overall bar or brewery theme? The more details and the more personal details you can share the better. We tie food to specific memories and social situations. Leverage that to make customers clamor to visit your bar or brewery, even if it's just to try the food.

#5. Design an Eye-Catching Menu

You’ve conceptualized all the dishes, priced them accordingly, and written out your menu. Now comes the fun part…putting everything into action.

Create a visually appealing menu to draw in potential fans. Untappd for Business has many built-in and custom design options to help you build the best bar menu.

Once You Have a Food and Drink Menu, Display It Proudly

HopCat beer and drink menu generated by Untappd for Business
(Image courtesy of HopCat)

Your menu means nothing (well not nothing, but definitely less) if you can’t find a way to display it proudly to your patrons.

Untappd for Business has a robust, well-designed selection of printed menus and digital boards.

Easily build your menu with our database of over two million beers, including descriptions, styles, and more.

You can even broadcast a digital beer menu at your establishment to your TV or other digital display devices with an Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Choose from a variety of built-in design options or take advantage of our FREE custom design of online and print menus. We’ve worked with a variety of establishments from HopCat to Cheesie’s Pub & Grub to P.J. Whelihan’s to develop custom menus that fit each of these brands.

No matter the size of your business, Untappd for Business can help drive customer engagement and increase sales with its custom menus.

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Three Examples of Breweries with Great Bar Menus

HopCat

HopCat logo
Logo courtesy of HopCat

With nine locations across Michigan, Indiana, and Nebraska, HopCat operates on one specific mission: Be a great place to find great local craft beer.

Operating nine establishments, each with their own unique identity, design, and taplists, poses its own unique set of challenges. Mainly, each location constantly rotates new beers across forty different taps that need to be maintained across a variety of custom print menus. Furthermore, each establishment strives to connect with its local community, finding new, engaging ways to serve its specific city or neighborhood.

Since 2018, HopCat has been leveraging Untappd for Business’ integrated digital menus and custom print menus to help organize and implement each location’s individual taplists and food menus.

On the food side, you’ll find a whole variety of perfect drinking food, including: the highly rated “Cosmik Fries” (i.e. beer-battered fries), “Shareables” like “Pretzel Nuggz,” sandwiches, salads, burgers, tacos, and “Killer Mac ‘N Cheese.”

READ THE ENTIRE HOPCAT SUCCESS STORY HERE

Sandwish, soup, and a side of fries from HopCat
Photography courtesy of HopCat

Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

Cheesies Pub & Grub logo
Logo courtesy of Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

With three locations across Chicago, the CPG Restaurant Group operates a series of unique concepts, including two Cheesie’s Pub & Grub grilled cheese restaurants and the Whiskey Business craft whiskey bar.

Operating several establishments each with their own variety of food, brunch, drink, and craft beer menus poses its own unique set of challenges. Mainly, each location needs to constantly maintain and update a rotating series of menus. Furthermore, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the CPG Restaurant Group wanted to find a secure, touchless way to display its menus to consumers.

The CPG Restaurant Group has been leveraging Untappd for Business’ QR codes and digital menus to help organize and implement each location’s drink and food menus while simultaneously providing a safe, contactless way for patrons to view what they can order. Partnering with Untappd has provided a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution for all three of the CPG Restaurant Group’s concepts.

With over 45K menu views at Whiskey Business and both Cheesie’s Pub & Grub locations combined, the CPG Restaurant Group reports that their experience with Untappd for Business has been overwhelmingly valuable. The Untappd for Business software has helped improve their bottom line and reduced printing and labor costs.

READ THE ENTIRE CHEESIE’S PUB & GRUB SUCCESS STORY HERE

Grilled cheese and tater tot plates from Cheesie's Pub & Grub
Photography courtesy of Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant

P.J. Whelihan's Logo
Logo courtesy of P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant

With twenty-six locations across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the PJW Restaurant Group operates a series of unique concepts geared to beer fans—everything from sports bars and pour houses to a fine dining steakhouse, taco concept, and pizza bar. But, the majority of their locations fall under the P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant concept, a sports bar known for the perfect blend of good food (such as PJ’s Famous wings), great beer and drinks, and fun in a relaxed atmosphere.

Operating a high number of establishments poses its own unique set of challenges. From a beer and food perspective, each location has its own menu that needs to be constantly maintained and updated.

For about the last year and a half, to help organize and implement each location’s beer and drinks menu, P.J. Whelihan’s has been leveraging Untappd for Business. From creating custom digital and print menus to curating bespoke training materials for its staff, P.J. Whelihan’s has partnered with Untappd for a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution.

So far with over 300k menu views, almost 15k check-ins, and just under 10k unique users, P.J. Whelihan’s experience with Untappd for Business has been overwhelmingly beneficial for a majority of its businesses.

READ THE ENTIRE P.J. WHELIHAN’S PUB + RESTAURANT SUCCESS STORY HERE

Honey racha mustard chicken from P.J. Whelihan's pub and restaurant
Photography courtesy of P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant

The 9 Foods on a Bar Menu that Make the Most Money

Burgers on a plat at a bar

(Photography courtesy of Jakub Kapusnak | Unsplash)

If these three success stories haven’t inspired you, we’ll give you the building blocks to craft your own bar menu. The million-dollar question. What are the most profitable foods? It won’t surprise you to hear that tasty, fried, salty, and crunchy foods go well with beers and make for the best bar menu. 

We suggest starting with at least the following foods:

  • Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Soft pretzels
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Wings
  • Fries
  • Popcorn
  • Cheese curds

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Brewery
Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
April 11, 2022
Grace is the Managing Editor for Hop Culture and Untappd. She also organizes and produces the largest weeklong women in craft beer festival in the country, Beers With(out) Beards and the first-ever festival celebrating the colorful, vibrant voices in the queer community in craft beer, Queer Beer. An avid craft beer nerd Grace always found a way to work with beer. After graduating with a journalism degree from Northwestern University, she attended culinary school before working in restaurant management. She moonlighted as a brand ambassador at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co on the weekends before moving into the beer industry full time as an account coordinator at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. Grace holds her Masters degree in the Food Studies program at NYU.