Part 2. Ballin’ on a budget: how to promote your bar without spending a fortune

Jane Ryan

18 May 2018

Following on from Iain McPherson of Panda & Sons and Hoot the Redeemer, Part 2 of Ballin' on a Budget shares tips and hacks on how to get your fledgling bar noticed when your marketing budget is smaller than your tips jar

Vasilis Kyritsis, The Clumsies, Athens

‘We were five friends who decided to open a bar in Athens – the biggest city in Greece, but a small city world wide. It was 2014, just as the Greek crisis started. It was a disaster and completely unexpected. No one knew what was going to happen.

‘However us five friends decided to chase our dreams anyway and open our own bar, because despite the hard times we totally believed in our concept. And concept is the most important thing when you want your bar to succeed in my opinion.

‘Our concept starts as soon as you stand outside of the bar. It’s why we have a doorbell, because it represents going into a house – a home. A house for us represents hospitality.

‘The first thing we used was Instagram and Facebook because if you use these social media platforms you can receive a lot of publicity, especially if you have a concept to sell to people. But using Instagram and Facebook is complicated sometimes – you need to find the right hashtags for your bar, for example we decided to always use as a hashtag #theclumsiesfamily, so every time we post we always use this hashtag as well as cheers in Greek; #yannis.

We always use as a hashtag #theclumsiesfamily... as well as 'cheers' in Greek #yannis

'We also made sure there was a clear and consistent image to all of our promotional material, which was a staircase. The Clumsies is a two-story venue and what connects us is that staircase. If you see any posters for pop-ups or brand material you'll always see those black and white stairs.

The Clumsies' Instagram page
The Clumsies' Instagram page

‘We wanted to invite people to show what is happening in Greece so we did guest shifts. After we did guest shifts, we decided to make bigger pop-ups, and eventually we decided to make a pop-up that was one day only with several bars all under one roof.

The creative pool

'The common question is: "doesn't this cost lots of money?" But trust me, if you go to companies and share creative ideas with them they will help you.

‘That’s what we did, we went to companies and shared our ideas with them for a big pop-up with concentrated marketing and every company decided to help us.

‘At the same time, the new people and friends we invited became instant Clumsies' ambassadors worldwide. Bartenders who came and enjoyed Greek hospitality started spreading the word around the world.

‘We thought there was no chance of getting on the map if we didn’t have a parent company, but who can promote your concept better than yourselves? Who loves your bar better than you? I don’t think a PR company can love your concept more than you. So even if it’s not perfect, it’s going to come straight from your soul which is more important.

‘You will need to spend some time on this though. For The Clumsies we were spending nine hours a week on Instagram, 11 hours a week on Facebook and another six responding to emails.

‘One more tip – you might have a great concept and want to support it but at the same time you need to find the right staff that will help you – they’re going to be your daily heroes and they’re going to help promote your concept worldwide.’


Sullivan Doh, Le Syndicat and La Commune, Paris

‘We were four founders who each put in enough money to gather €60,000. We then asked 30 of our friends to all put in €2,000. That’s 30 people who are now involved in the business and preaching the message. With that €120,000, we went to nine banks and the last one said yes to a loan.

‘I don’t know if there is a truth about how to get on the lists such as 50 best bars, but from my personal experience, I think you need to be connected. Through social media we are all connected. But also go and see the others in your bar scene. Go to the bar shows, the pop-ups. Go and meet new people.

Le Syndicat - Sullivan Doh's bar in Strasbourg-Saint-Denis
Le Syndicat - Sullivan Doh's bar in Strasbourg-Saint-Denis

‘When I left Sherry Butt to open Le Syndicat I did a lot of guest bartending and went to all the bar shows to talk about what I was about to do and get people interested before I even opened the bar.

‘Just two days before we opened, [Imbibe columnist and drinks consultant] Jared Brown was in Paris and he dropped me an email to ask what’s hot in Paris. I told him I’m about to open a bar and he came and took a picture and put it on social media – so just being part of the community can lead to those type of things. He put it as his cover on Facebook, so even before the bar was open we already had a really good advertisement.

‘Believe in what you do. Don’t follow the trend. Make your own way. Be at the right place at the right time. When we opened Sherry Butt we just wanted to do a cocktail bar with our vision, which wasn’t that crazy, just making good cocktails and having a good whisky selection but it happened at the right moment when everything was getting crazy in Paris and so doing things well put us at the top of this wave and when people heard about Paris they heard about Sherry Butt.

‘Be connected. Get conceptual and give the customer a good time.’

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