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Running A Sports Bar? These Ten Things Make For A Successful Sports Bar

By Sanjay Gouda

Updated - Aug. 25, 2021 7 min read

Whether you have 10 or 100 TVs in your restaurant, understanding the elements that create a great sports bar experience requires organization, planning, and review. Here are the 10 major factors that every sports bar must have. Follow them and you will grow. Ignore them and your guests will eventually look elsewhere for the service standards.


1. The Latest Technology


The restaurant industry truly led the pervasion of HD TV. Since the 2000s, the technology has taken several leaps forward. Unfortunately, many sports-themed operators are still employing technology solutions from the 1970s. Your goal should be to make your average sports fan fantasize about having your A/V system in their home.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-The Latest Technology


With today’s matrix systems, content can be deployed to any and all TVs using a tablet or mobile phone to control all elements of the A/V. What’s even more apparent is that guests expect us to deliver a technologically advanced experience. This is especially true of the Millennials who frequent your establishment.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-The Latest Technology


Giving the guest a sense that you employ the newest technology to satisfy their viewing requests can be a point of enormous differentiation. The cost of these new technologies can feel daunting, but the urgency for your guests should justify it. By improving the overall A/V experience in your restaurant, you further prove to your guests that you are focused on delivering what they want to watch — where and when they want to watch it.


2. Sight-lines to a Lot of TVs


When is the last time you sat in your location and experienced your restaurant through the eyes of a guest? One terrific exercise is to sit at every seat and count how many TVs you can view from there. If the number is less than two, then you need to review your TV placements. They might need to be moved or more TVs may need to be added.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Sight-lines to a Lot of TVs


Your guests want to see multiple TVs that’s why they are visiting your location instead of staying home. Likely you installed those TVs before you ever saw your restaurant populated. The easy approach is to do a heat map and mark each table by the number of TVs it can comfortably view. Then ensure that you place the TVs to increase or maximize guests’ viewing. As a general rule, the viewer should be able to read titles on the screen.



3. Let Guests Know What’s Available


We know that guests are coming to you specifically to watch sports. If you are a sports-themed operator and your mission isn’t to create the easiest, most carefree viewing experience for your guests, then it might be time to change concepts. The most basic method of facilitating viewing is making clear what you can provide the guest for content. If you use the SportsTV Guide then you know what’s on.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Let Guests Know What’s Available


But are you sharing that info with your guests? By posting the list of games you can show, you are telling the guests that sports are a priority.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Let Guests Know What’s Available


One feature of the SportsTV Guide is our RSS feed, where you can embed your available programming right onto your website. No matter what your approach, informing the guest as to what you will show is a smart way to convince them yours is the best place to watch the game.


4. Comfortable Seats


Making your restaurant as comfortable as possible has been a standard in dining over that past 10 years. Whether you make overstuffed chairs/recliners available or just ensure that your bar stools have backs and arms, comfortable furniture can be a huge point of differentiation.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Comfortable Seats


For the typical football game, a guest is in your location for up to three hours. Passing that time in a seat that accommodates you well is a benchmark your guests will consider when picking where to watch the game.


5. Have Other Things to Do Besides Watch TV


There is not a game playing every day, or there might be some people not interested in the team playing. For these people, their needs to be something else to do at the bar. An arcade with games lined against the wall, a pool table, darts, or air hockey are some suggestions of other things to include. The bar does not need to turn into a large arcade, but the patrons need to have a variety of things to do. Otherwise, they will get bored and decide to spend their time somewhere else.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Have Other Things to Do Besides Watch TV


6. Hot Bartenders


Ok, so this headline sounds terrible, but it comes with a dose of reality. Hot isn’t exclusively comment on appearance. Hotness for bartenders can be measured by their personality, energy, mixology skills in addition to just appearance. Having an incredibly handsome bartender with no personality or pouring skill is probably worse than having your creepy Uncle whose pants are always falling down tending bar at your place.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Hot Bartenders


The sports-themed restaurant segment is particularly driven by regulars. One sure-fire method for converting new guests to regular status is having a hot bartender engage them. Train your team to pay attention to new folks, ask them questions about themselves, and make them feel welcomed.


7. Great Selection of Craft Beer 


While you may be wary of this conversation, your guests are not. The new norm is to have a ton of interesting beers both on tap and bottle. Gone are the days when Bud was a winning beer menu strategy. This is especially true of Millennials as they redefine consumer expectations across industries — especially ours.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Great Selection of Craft Beer


Even if you can’t implement more draft lines, at least review what you are doing with the ones you have now. It’s imperative that you know your audience today, but also appreciate that their make-up is changing. Remember, craft beer is going to become more important, not less. So, if you can’t adjust your taps, try adding some bottled options including growlers or large-format bottles to add variety and excitement to your beer menu. It’ll make for a better viewing experience if your beer is as nuanced as your Cricket Team.


8. Curated Food & Drinks Menu


The average person spends around four hours at a sports bar. If the bar does not offer food, then people will go elsewhere to look for food. The food doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It is better if it is something sharable like wings, pizza, fries, or popcorn. It is better if there is a variety of food, so everyone can find something that they are hungry food. The food and drinks also have to be b. Deals, especially around game day, are a must. If a person feels like they are getting extorted just to watch a game, they are likely not to return.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Curated Food & Drinks Menu


9. Perfect Sound Composition


If it’s a big game or a game in which the home team is participating, people want to hear the game. Loud, but not deafening. This balance can’t always be achieved, as bars are noisy by nature, and a bar that is loud by design is not the best place to hear much of anything. Put music on during commercials and timeouts, but let the audience hear the crowd and the announcers while there’s action onscreen. This also goes back to the crowd, as a flaky crowd will talk during much of the game, but a devoted crowd will wait for whistles to socialize.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Perfect Sound Composition


10. Great Atmosphere


In a good bar, you can tell what type of place it is just by walking in the door. A good sports bar will have sports memorabilia hanging on the wall preferably from their customer’s favorite team. The bar needs to be a clean and inviting place, with a layout that’s not too confusing. There also needs to be comfortable seating available. Restaurants and bars often have uncomfortable chairs to move people in and out faster. People are going to spend a lot of time at the bar, they should have a comfortable place to sit, and relax.


things-to-look-for-in-a-good-sports-bar-Great Atmosphere