A simple digital product got this bar an extra $49,000, plus moved them into a Physical + Digital hybrid.
Bars and restaurants are generally understood to be low margin businesses with few revenue streams.
But they don’t need to be.
For example, we built a "digital bartending school" that made us $49,000+ in addition to what we were already making.
(We also accept cash, PayPal, and barter, so this is just part of the story).
Is this a crazy “6-figure” business? No, but if you’re a bar or restaurant that’s operating with razor thin margins, this is found money that will give you some extra padding.
Here's why an educational experience made sense to us...
Our school runs Saturdays and Sundays for 1.5 - 2 hours for 6 weekends, and our expenses range from $300-$500 CAD per course depending on the number of students in the class. This covers instructors and product usage.
It maximizes the use of the space:
We run our school out of a bar that’s closed during the day. There are TONS of bars and restaurants that are closed during the day you could use, too.
It builds a virtuous cycle:
Students are super engaged so they come visit their instructors as customers during opening hours so that they can keep learning. We also encourage them to visit other bars.
It gives your team a way to shine:
Bars and restaurants are HOTBEDS of talent and nothing makes these folks happier than to share what they know.
It’s a great way to build community:
A rising tide lifts all ships.
It forces you to document your training process:
Creating a school forced us to document training procedures, gave us a very impressive way to train new bartenders, and vet possible hires for later.
It becomes the basis of a consulting arm:
Which leads to more 'found' money.
Now let's show you how I did it.
Step 1: We wrote a simple sales page in Google Docs.
I knew I wanted to create more revenue for our business, but I wasn’t sure where to start.
At first, I figured we’d bring cocktails to off-site locations like events, parties, bachelorettes, whatever. We would do cocktail catering for anyone with a pulse.
But I quickly realized I hated it -- too many logistics and we weren’t charging enough to make it worth it.
I wanted to build something simple, repeatable, and high-impact!
I started noticing that all of the companies I admired most had these behemoth pages that I couldn’t help but devour, and, eventually, buy from.
Many of these companies were in marketing, tech, finance -- none of them were restaurants, so at first I figured that there was no place for these huge-ass pages for hospitality folk.
Then one day I said screw it, let’s try it.
I did some research on sales pages and quickly discovered they’re actually not that hard when you use a model.
I started by answering the following questions...
- Who’s it for?
- What is it?
- What’s the time commitment?
- What will they learn?
- What do they get?
- How much is it?
- What promise / guarantee can I make?
- What proof do I have? (more on that in a bit)
Once I answered those questions in writing, I could use that copy for the sale page.
Step 2: We built a sales page with easy-to-use tools
There are many straightforward tools designed just for building landing and sales pages. When I got started, I used LeadPages, then ClickFunnels, and I’ve finally settled on the Elementor Pro plugin with WordPress.
Why? It’s mostly a matter of cutting expenses, and I actually find Elementor easier to use than the others.
Here are a couple screenshots I dug up from early days building the sales page in LeadPages:
You could also use one of the more expensive options to build it and then hire a developer to replicate it on your website (like on Fiverr). The $100-$200 you’ll pay the developer will quickly pay for itself.
Step 3: We collected “proof”, like testimonials, reviews, and customer photos.
The biggest challenge we had in selling a school that didn’t exist was proof.
When it comes down to it, that’s what marketing is — proving you can transform someone.
Here are some ways I found examples of proof that I could add to the sales page:
We hired great instructors and asked their colleagues how they’ve helped them learn / grow — turned those into testimonials.
When Neeraj wrote a review for us, he was actually talking about one of the instructors we brought on board. We just flipped the instructor’s name for the school, checked that that was okay with him, and voila, we had a testimonial!
He eventually took the course and confirmed that it was all true :)
We reached out to brands we worked with through the restaurant and asked if they would support our program:
Then we added a simple logo banner to bolster our credibility:
Recognizable brand logos add authority and built trust
We created content that showed we knew our shit:
Here’s a video where I give a look under-the-hood of our functional flair module. It’s professionally-shot and it highlights my own skills as a bartender and an instructor.
We hired a photographer for the first class:
Having a photographer around was a good move so we could capture all the learning and fun (and use the photos on the sales page):
We still use many of these shots today -- well worth the $300.00 investment in a photographer for our first class.
Looking back, I would have taken photos earlier. These end up being the best social proof. Get some friends and regulars at your bar, have a bartender teach them how to make a cocktail or two, and snap some shots!
We created surveys and asked students for testimonials as soon as possible:
If you aim to have a big impact on students right from the get-go, you don’t need to wait until the end of the 6 weekend experience to get a testimonial. You can send them a survey after 1 or 2 classes and get testimonials right away.
Ask what they’re enjoying, what they’d like more of, and if they’d recommend the course to a friend. If so, what would they say to their friends?
People sometimes get a bit spooked when you ask for a testimonial -- asking this way ensures it’s low key and that they’re telling the truth!
Step 4: Refer people to the website when they ask “Where did you learn to bartend from” (We got our 1st sale like this)!
Once I built the sales page and it was live, we needed to get people to actually visit it!
Instead of some complex traffic strategy, though, all I had to do was take all the people who were already asking me “where did you learn to bartend”, and simply point them to the page.
Now I had a great answer for them: “Check out the Nimble Bartending School at NimbleBarSchool.com!”
This eventually led to our first sale.
(Sidebar: when I told my partner we’d made a sale in our non-existent bar school, he was actually pretty pissed 😬)
From there, I would bring up the training to anyone who expressed even a little interest in bartending: cooks, hosts, servers, retirees, you name it.
Once we had a full class (took about 2 months), it was go time.
Step 5: We created a great outline for our classes and turned it into epic content we could share.
We wrote an outline of what each class would be about and a syllabus of the 50 most important drinks that they would be expected to know.
The best part is we turned the syllabus into an ebook that many bars now use for their own training purposes.
We keep on improving it as we go and eventually intend to publish it as part of our ‘textbook’.
Step 6: We created a certification process
One of the best compliments we received was from a girl who said she’s purchased tons of courses -- both online and offline -- and ours was the first she completed in YEARS.
A big part of that is having a certification process where you set a high standard and let students know about it from the very beginning.
What will they be expected to know? Where can they find the information? How will it help them in their life / career? What is the process they have to go through to earn the certification?
It gives them something concrete to work toward.
Step 7: Now my bar business has alternate forms of revenue (7 to be exact)
So now we’ve gone from a one-dimensional business (the bar) into multiple revenue streams that all build on each other. It started with a sales page, but it’s now an entire system (without adding anything risky or overly complex)!
We can test different inputs, make tweaks to the system, and improve the outputs - the success of our students.
And over time this will feed back into our inputs which will make the whole thing better.
Since building this program, here are some ways we’ve re-purposed our school:
[table id=50 /]
It took about 7 months from the aha moment to certifying our first cohort of students.
The best feeling in the world is watching students improve and get excited about the skills they’re building.
(That, and my partner isn’t pissed anymore about that first sale we made -- turns out he really enjoys teaching)!
What product, service, or experience could a sales page help your bar sell?
From owner to dishwasher, It doesn’t matter what your role is. You can create something that takes a resource (bar) and makes it better (bar + bar school + digital products)!
You’ll create more value, build a wider moat, and have cushier padding. More income streams mean more financial stability, security, and the space to get even more creative and continue to build.
It can make the difference between having razor-thin margins and being nicely profitable.
We built a bartending school. Here are some other examples that might make sense for your bar:
- The dining experience itself
- Cooking school
- Exclusive buy-outs
I hope this gives you ideas of ways you can bake more value into your bar biz and push it into a league of its own.
Here's a quick re-cap of the steps we took to build out our digital bartending school:
Kyle Guilfoyle -- NimbleBar.co
Article Contributors: Kyle Guilfoyle, Dan McDermott, Neville Medhora