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Bar Trends: The Latest in Cocktail Culture 2023

Maria Ortega
23 Oct 2023

The bar sector in America has changed drastically over the past decade, and all bar owners need to stay updated on industry trends to remain competitive. Knowing the latest industry trends helps business owners understand industry changes and adjust their business models, menus, and marketing strategies to accommodate them. Understanding industry trends can give a bar business an advantage over its competitors and make customers more likely to choose them.

With so much going on in the bar market right now, it can be difficult to keep up with what's new and popular - but never fear! In this article we will explore:

  • Bar industry overview
  • Latest trends in the market
  • Suggestions to master bar trends
  • Key learning

The current US bar market

The bar industry has always been a lucrative service in the American hospitality industry thanks to the increasing alcohol sales value which has been thriving in its market share over the past few years. This means that regardless of the adverse effect the global pandemic had on the hospitality industry, the market size still managed to secure a market value of 26.6bn USD in 2022.[1]

However, this market is becoming increasingly competitive as more bars open up and try to stand out from the crowd with creative concepts and unique offerings. Therefore, customers have access to an ever-growing selection of quality drinks and innovative experiences when they visit their local bar or restaurant.

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New bar trends

The bar industry is ever-evolving and full of creative trends that bar owners should be aware of.

Popular bar trends among customers are always changing, making it important for bar proprietors to stay in the loop with new trends. From cocktail concoctions to food pairings, bar owners should be aware of what they can do to make their bar stand out from the competition. A few bar trends that owners should be aware of include:

Increased demand for craft beverages

In recent years, drinking habits have shifted. The desire for quality and unique craft beverages has taken precedence over mass-produced beer and spirits. This trend can be seen in the bar industry, where more and more craft beer drafts line the shelves of pubs and bars. 

Consumers are no longer satisfied with drinking mass-produced lagers; they want to drink something that sets them apart, like hoppy IPAs or small batch ciders on tap. With the rising popularity of craft beverages, bar operators now must keep up with beverage trends while offering an array of flavor profiles that suit their customers' tastes. In addition, many bar owners are utilising locally-brewed beverages to supply this growing demand. This not only increases the range of drinks on your menu, but many customers appreciate bars that support local industries and other social causes.

Beyond popular flavors, craft drinks can be more economical since they require fewer ingredients, so drinks often cost less than what you would usually pay for cocktails. Moreover, this type of drink can provide some health benefits to your physical health as many recipes rely on natural ingredients and lower caloric content.

Implementing modern technology into bar customer service

The increasing demand for innovative ways to improve bar customer service has required the incorporation of modern technologies into its delivery. More bars are now taking advantage of self-serve ordering, online sales, and automated solutions in order to keep up with the changing landscape. This shift towards more comprehensive e-commerce POS systems has seen establishments gain an edge over their competitors while increasing customer satisfaction through faster transactions and access to dynamic product offerings.

Crucially, this move towards modern technology in bar management has provided a necessary upgrade in customer service which is now required to meet growing expectations and stay ahead of the game.

The rising popularity of sustainable practices

Over the past few years, business owners looking to make their bars stand out among the competition have begun to recognize the potential of using a strong sustainability strategy in their business operations. This green approach allows them not only to save money and valuable resources by reducing waste but also to create a unique selling point that will attract customers.

Additionally, many consumers have become increasingly interested in health-conscious and environmentally-friendly options. Consequently, business owners are taking advantage of this opportunity by promoting green initiatives as they realize that a ‘ business green’ doesn't just mean smaller carbon footprints - it can also bring bigger profits.

In response to the mounting need for more sustainable and eco-friendly practices, one bar business decided to implement a greener approach in its everyday operations. By replacing disposable plastic items with reusable cups, straws, and linens, the bar was able to reduce its plastic output as well as occasional waste from simple spills. This bar trend not only cut down on costs for the business but allowed them to help protect natural resources and take tangible steps towards creating a better world for us all.

Focus on a healthier lifestyle

Health-conscious drink trends are becoming increasingly important in this competitive industry as they saw a +55% in 2022. [2]. We are seeing a bar trend move towards supplying vegan food and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, which means that drinks are becoming healthier and more imaginative.

It's no longer just the classic gin and tonic on the menu. Bartenders have started developing specialty drinks with ingredients such as hard kombucha, agave plant CBD drinks and healthy elixir mixes. These new low-calorie drinks offerings allow health-conscious customers to enjoy an evening out while adhering to their healthful lifestyle. This rapidly growing trend is being enthusiastically embraced by both bartenders and customers alike!

TIP: Want to ensure happy customers? Read more about how to become a bartender and discover all the expert tips to ensure high-quality customer service in your bar.

Experiment with creative serving styles or vessels

There has been an explosion in creative bar concepts and beverage offerings, as bars continue to experiment with new serving styles and vessels. From alcoholic iced teas served in paper pouches, to unique custom mason jars for fun and artistic mixed drinks, beverage companies across the country are working diligently to increase foot traffic and provide something truly original for customers.

These creative bar concepts are gaining immense popularity as people enjoy the different beverage options and appreciate the extra touches given to the presentation. It will be interesting to see what other beverage innovations come from this trend of creative serving styles and vessels in the bar market.

Here are some of the more unusual vessels we've seen being used for serving drinks and cocktails:

  • Bird-shaped cocktail glasses
  • Miniature baths
  • Toy ferris wheels
  • Top hats
  • Chemistry test tubes

You don't necessarily need to go this far, but use it for some inspiration for your drinks menu. Are there some unusual platters you could serve your drinks glasses on, or additions (beyond the paper umbrella) to have on the side? Perhaps you could theme a tasting menu? We encourage you to get creative!

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Suggestions to make your bar thrive using successful bar trends

Innovative stock management

Keeping craft beers and cocktails well stocked in bars can be a tricky job, requiring careful inventory management and ordering process. But with an innovative Bar Point of Sale system for managing stock levels, craft-beer and cocktail creators have a foolproof way to ensure their creations never run out of ingredients.

The POS tracks ingredient levels in real-time, sending out low-stock alerts so you're always prepared. This level of monitoring ensures that craft beers and cocktails are made as efficiently as possible. With this perfect solution, craft beer and cocktail creation not only becomes easier but also more enjoyable.

Implement advanced payment processing

Integrating payment processing services into your existing POS system can increase efficiency within your business operations, resulting in more satisfied customers. By staying on top of the latest industry trends and integrating payment processing services as early as possible, you can increase your competitive edge and continue to offer innovative experiences for your customers.

Implementing these services not only increases efficiency but also further ensures a seamless experience across all points of interaction with customers.

Improve your customer management with streamlined ordering services

Integrating a kitchen display system (KDS) into the bar operations can be the best way to improve customer order management for many bars. By utilizing the best POS systems for bars, all information regarding customer orders is immediately in front of bartenders, making it easier and faster to serve customers.

This also means that bartenders are better coordinated with kitchen staff, preventing billing errors and cutting down on labor costs, leading to more efficient ways of saving you time and money. With a KDS in place, bars can better address customer needs while improving their bottom line.

Powerful real-time POS reporting

By tracking customer habits and product performance through real-time POS reporting, bar businesses can unlock customer trends that serve as valuable insights for creating more accurate marketing strategies. With comprehensive customer data, bar operators are privy to customer preferences, like their growing interest in lighter drinks or the types of alcohol and mixers that peak customer taste.

Analyzing this customer data lets operators learn about customer inclinations and use those insights to craft informed campaigns that align with customer behavior and level-up brand loyalty. This allows bar managers to keep customers intrigued and coming back for more.

Accurate and effective marketing campaigns can be incredibly beneficial to the overall bar identity. By reaching more people through targeted advertisements, demand will increase as people will have more exposure to the business culture. An easy place to start is using social media; but don’t limit yourself - you could also explore marketing campaigns using email or leaflets. However, you will need to be consistent in your marketing efforts. Ultimately, it’s important that customers learn about what makes your bar unique and special, so you stand out from the competition.

Not only is this good for boosting customer loyalty, but also for raising overall customer satisfaction by providing better service with more informed customers. In conclusion, using an accurate marketing strategy when promoting a bar, brings a meaningful return on investment in terms of increased exposure as well as improved bar etiquette and loyalty program sign-ups.

Advanced menu engineering

Menu planning through your POS system can be a great tool to stay ahead of the competition. With a good POS system, you can easily access meaningful data that can help inform effective pricing strategies and shape your bar prices. Plus, by using automation, you can optimize your product portfolio selection. This allows bars to stay competitive in the marketplace by using forward-thinking pricing initiatives.

Furthermore, harnessing the power of automation through POS systems to stay informed on the most notable trends and stay adaptable in an ever-evolving market allows bars to more accurately set the prices they need to stay profitable long-term.

Additionally, integrating the use of a QR code to implement a self-serve ordering service in bars can be hugely beneficial. By scanning the code and accessing the dynamic menu, customers can quickly and easily order their desired drinks without needing to flag down a member of staff every time.

Not only does this give customers more flexibility but also reduces strain on waiting staff, enabling them to focus on providing quality service instead. What’s more, offering a digital ordering method will make your bar more appealing to tech-savvy millennials in the area. In essence, having a QR code available to provide customers with easy access to your drink menu helps boost ordering efficiency while enhancing customer experience.

Final thoughts

If you are still exploring the idea of opening a bar, market research is essential in order to attract and retain customers. Through market research you can determine the type of drinks and services that potential customers are interested in. 

Additionally, market research can help you to create an identity for your bar. Knowing who your target market is before beginning operations can help you focus on creating an atmosphere more tailored to those customers rather than simply offering the default pub experience. With market research, you have a greater understanding of how to make your business stand out from others around it and how to create a unique brand identity.

You also can now read our article about the best names for a bar to give you some inspiration.

On the other hand, when it comes to active bar businesses in the market, staying current on the latest trends is essential for success. Updated menus with modern flavors and seasonal ingredients are paramount, as customers tend to enjoy something new that piques their interest. If you become known for staying on top of these trends, customers will keep coming back to your bar for more.

Additionally, incorporating the latest technology into your business can also be beneficial to saving you time and money. Offering contactless ordering on mobile devices appeals to a wide range of customers who are used to convenience and speed when making purchases.

Lastly, presenting the bar in an attractive and stylish design will attract more people. Keep up with interior designs by watching business improvement shows and researching magazine articles for the most popular looks so you can stay ahead of the curve while still giving your space a unique identity. Keeping current with trends in the bar market is not only important but also imperative if you want to succeed in this industry.

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