How to Increase Sales in Bars and Restaurants: An Interview With Nick Fosberg

by | 24-Oct-2022

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a hard year for restaurants and bars. On the forefront of every restaurant owner’s mind right now is, “How can I increase sales and make back the money lost to restricted floor space and decreased patrons?”

To help answer these questions, Jolt met with Nick Fosberg, author of the book, Bar & Restaurant Success, and owner of Fozzy’s Bar & Grill. Here’s what we found out:

Should people be advertising right now when money is tight?

Yes! If you’re looking to increase sales and drive customers to your restaurant, you should be advertising! As the old adage goes…It takes money to make money. If you continue to do the same thing over and over (not spend on advertising) and expect different results, your wish isn’t realistic.

The best way to profit from your paid advertising is with Facebook and Instagram lead capture ads. A lead capture ad is where you offer something that benefits the potential customer, and in order for them to receive, they must hand over their personal contact information for that offer.

When you get a “lead”, the person is raising their hand saying, “I want to do business with you!” They wouldn’t be taking the time to give you their personal information otherwise. Can you think of anyone more profitable to market to in the future about new specials or offers than those who have told you “I want to do business with you?”

If you want more information about lead capture promotions and the best way to profit from them, you can download this free report here “How To Attract New Customers At A Profit” 

If you’re really worried about spending money on advertising then you can go the free route, which takes managing your staff and holding them accountable. I personally focus on both paid ads and close oversight. .

Here’s the best way to use your staff to help you promote your offers / promotions. Create special offers and have your team spread the word on social media. It’s important that they don’t just share your post, but copy it and paste it to their social media pages. That way, you get the biggest reach for your efforts because Facebook business pages don’t have the reach individual profiles do.

If they copy and paste the promotions to their personal pages and you have 10-20 or even more employees following through, you’ll get thousands of more views and engagement. Plus you have someone else talking about your business which is more influential to those that are reading it.

Let your team know when hiring that they will be asked to assist with the company’s social media efforts. This makes for a more grassroots, team sharing approach that has the reach of running Facebook ads but without spending anything.

Another way to advertise without cost is by doing a presale promotion. This involves promoting a single dish, one or two that are usually well-liked across the board such as a lasagna or steak dinner, and having your team spread the word. The details go as follows:

  •  Make sure the dish is something that isn’t already on your menu.
  •  Set a goal with each team member to sell 2-4 tickets in the weeks beforehand. Then when they are all sold, you know exactly how much food you will need prep and how many people to expect.
  • Set the dinner for a slower day of the week, like a Monday or Tuesday.
  • Make it more fun for your staff by creating a contest and reward the team member who sells the most tickets.
  • Bring more people in by discounting the food and profiting on the drinks. For example, a $10 steak dinner where you break even on food, but make money on drinks. (This strategy works great for a bar vs restaurant. Restaurants need to be more food profit focused.)

Lastly, if your marketing is working properly you make money on every marketing dollar spent. And if you’re making money do you really have a budget? If your marketing is lacking, find someone who knows how to make your marketing work and can make profit on any money spent. Invest in your restaurant and in yourself to get the knowledge on how to do it yourself.

What are the biggest promotions you would offer at a bar right now?

The number one promotion I would run right now is what we like to call a VOP (viral offer promotion.)  This is a lead capture promotion that goes viral in your area. Basically, it’s an offer people can’t pass up on social media. You guide them from social media to a landing page on your website to sign up for an offer. When they sign up, they are sent the offer by email with a limited time to use it.

To execute a VOP, your offer has to be a great deal. Something that will draw people in. I recommend doing 50% off the tab good up to $20 off or a buy-one-get-one free offer. This means your margins won’t be as big, but think of the lifetime value of bringing in a new returning customer.

As always, if you want to ensure customers return, make sure they have a great experience. Since you captured their information, make sure you have a follow up system in place that brings them back in the door with follow up messages using email / text / and social media.

Lead capture promotions such as these are effective because you can track how well they did by counting the people that made it to your web page, how many filled out the forms, and how many walked in your doors. If you have a specific button configured in your POS system for this specific offer you’ll then be able to track every penny that comes in from this offer and compare that to what you spent on ads. This is measurable and trackable.

Because of current anxiety from the pandemic, make sure your marketing includes how you are keeping people safe. It’s important you include that in your procedures through your email lists, facebook page and/or ads, and internal notifications. And, as always, make sure your communications have a call to action (i.e. mention this ad and get a discount etc.).

How can bars optimize revenue with fewer customers?

Have a strategy to increase ticket value by knowing which items make the most profit and push them. Also, focus on ways to increase capacity where you can, such as carry out, catering and delivery. Be creative! People still need to eat but oftentimes need to be reached in a different way. Read this blog for an example.

Most bars should increase their prices. With almost everyone being under capacity you are only going to make it if you increase your prices. But be honest about why. People appreciate honesty and upfrontness and will be okay with the increases.


Nick Fosberg is a well-known marketing and promotional consultant in the bar & restaurant industry. He also owns 2 bar/restaurants in the Chicagoland area. He’s famous for creating some of the highest grossing digital marketing promotions in the bar & restaurant world all without spending a penny on marketing. All done through e-mail and Facebook posts.

If you want to reach out to Nick