By Ray Foley, Heather Dismore

Promotions are special events going on in your bar on a not-so-regular basis. Specials and promotions are the second-best way of getting new customers (word of mouth is number one). Typically, promotions involve some sort of theme or event that goes on for a set period of time — a night, a week, or a maybe a month.

Here are a few examples of promotions that may be successful in your place:

  • “Insert-beverage-brand-here” parties: Your liquor representatives have special liquors or beer they’re always promoting. They have all the swag and tchotchkes to go with it: buttons, beads, bumper stickers, and so on. They may also have a staff of attractive young women to walk around your bar and hand out all the stuff. Just ask your salesperson and keep asking.

  • Trivia nights: This one is smokin’ hot at the moment. Teams and individuals compete on electronic trivia games in the bar.

  • Karaoke nights: Everyone can sing — or thinks she can.

  • Open-mike nights: You choose the genre — singing, telling jokes, or whatever fits your place.

  • Speed dating: Speed dating allows single men and women to meet several potential dates in one evening. Two people talk one-on-one for a couple of minutes and then move on to the next person.

    Check out 8minuteDating, Pre-Dating, or HurryDate to host an event in your bar. Most parties take place early in the evening and on weeknights when your bar may not be packed already. You also get the benefit of getting mentioned on the dating website.

  • Bartending contests: Invite all the bartenders in the area. Choose a theme, such as the fastest mixologist, the funniest barkeep, or let’s-name-a-cocktail-after-the-town.

  • Déjà vu celebrations: Have a grand reopening or birthday party for your bar.

  • New menu items: Try adding new ethnic dishes or cocktails. The change, even a temporary one, brings in a different customer. These changes could be simply seasonal, such as offering new summertime cocktails.

  • Customer contests: Hold a contest to name a new cocktail or dish. Or sponsor a contest to buy a recipe for the best homemade entree in the area.

Don’t forget to put your best foot forward during these events because you will have new (and potentially regular) customers in your place. If they get great food and service and have a great time, they’re more likely to come back.