How to Open a Sports Bar

In Brief
  • Sports bars are a popular restaurant staple in the United States.
  • To open a sports bar is a multistep process.
  • The first step is to create a concept for the sports bar.
  • Menu and location are also critical.
  • The right POS system and employee management are also important.
  • The final step should be a robust campaign to market the sports bar.
  • Entrepreneurs must decide whether to franchise or not.
  • Many ask whether the popular chain Dave & Busters is a franchise.
  • A number of sports bar chains do indeed franchise.
  • Though it requires a lot of hard work, a sports bar can potentially be one of the best restaurant franchises to open.

It’s Friday night and you want to relax and have a fun time. Where do you go? Like millions of other Americans, there’s a good chance you’re headed to your local sports bar!

Sports bars never go out of style and for aspiring entrepreneurs, can be a great way to get a foothold in the food and restaurant industry. But how do you open a sports bar? Here’s a quick look at how you can do just that!

So, How Do You Open a Sports Bar?

If you want to open a sports bar, just be aware that it’s a multistep process! Attention to detail is important, as is to ensure that you’ve checked off all the boxes related to legal compliance, employee management, marketing and the like.

It may sound complex, but a step-by-step basis is the best way to open a sports bar. Here’s just a quick look at the steps to open your own sports bar and if franchising can be an option that’s right for you!

1. Create a Concept

First and foremost, you need to create a concept for your sports bar.

Look around and see what your competition is. How will you beat them? Do you want a classic and traditional feel or something edgy and modern? What will the entertainment options be?

These are all important questions to ask before you dive into the bar business. Lock down your concept first and take it from there!

2. Determine the Menu

Pub in Ireland

Next, figure out what types of food and drinks you want to serve in your sports bar. The menu should closely reflect the concept you’ve chosen for your sports bar.

Will you go with traditional beer and wine or for more upscale craft beer and cocktails? Good old pub grub or something hipper and more artisanal?

Once you determine your food and drink menu, it’s probably a good idea to get a jumpstart on early marketing efforts to build interest in your business, such as the launch a teaser website and creation of some social media pages to promote it.

3. Choose a Location

After, figure out where exactly you want to locate your sports bar. Take the location of your competitors into account as well as your budget, access to public transportation and roads and other factors. Weigh all of these carefully to find the location that will work best for your sports bar!

4. Obtain Restaurant Licenses and Permits

Billiards Room in a Bar

So, you’ve got the concept and location all locked down. Great! Now, be sure to get all the permits and licenses in place.

Food permits, liquor licenses, company registrations and the like should all be completed around this time.

5. Obtain Entertainment Equipment

What’s a sports bar without entertainment? Pretty boring!

Invest in HD televisions and an excellent sound system to make sure your patrons will have fun and can clearly watch and hear any game on TV.

It can also be a good idea to think beyond just sports on TV. Consider space for live entertainment in the form of bands, DJs, comedians and the like to attract patrons even when the big game isn’t on!

6. Choose a POS System

Woman Pouring a Drink in a Sports Bar

This is an overlooked but key step for many businesses, especially those in the food and restaurant industry.

The right POS system is very important for any food business, as it serves as the main hub for online food orders, payment acceptance, sales, inventory management, employee payroll and even more.

Shop around and choose the POS system that looks like the best fit for your sports bar. Factors like cost, functionality and technology integration should all be taken carefully into account.

7. Hire and Train Employees

Okay, so you’ve gotten this far! But what’s a sports bar without anyone to run it?

You’ve got to find the right staff for your business, which can be tricky. After all, these employees will be responsible for everything from customer service to food preparation and everything else in between.

Place ads online and review any resumes received very carefully before you conduct any actual interviews. Factors like the applicant’s experience, attitude, success in prior jobs, references and more should all be looked at closely before you hire anyone.

8. Market Your Brand

Bartender Serving Patron with Beer

You’re almost done! Last but not least, be sure to market your new sports bar effectively.

Create hype and attention for your new sports bar through social media marketing, email newsletters, blog updates and other forms of digital marketing. Online reputation management is also very important in this day and age, so be sure to respond to any negative reviews on Yelp and other online review sites. Don’t forget to put out a press release and ask your friends and family to spread the word too!

Should You Start a New Sports Bar or Franchise?

Entrepreneurs who want to open a sports bar are faced with the question of whether to stake out on their own or go into franchising. When an entrepreneur decides to franchise, they buy a license to operate a business under the likeness and name of a previously-established brand.

Entrepreneurs who do indeed opt to franchise can benefit from ongoing corporate support, a partnership with an established brand and an established business model to work from.

Is Dave & Busters a Franchise?

Yes, the popular sports bar chain Dave & Busters is in fact a franchise. However, the company does not currently franchise in the United States, which means that entrepreneurs in the U.S. who want to become franchisees for the company are unfortunately out of luck.

What are Some Sports Bar Franchises?

As an alternative, entrepreneurs who seek to open a sports bar may want to look into these options!

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

Beef 'O' Brady'sInitial Franchise Fee: $37,500
Startup Costs: $791,967 – $1,327,475

Founded in 1985, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is a family-friendly restaurant is one of the most widespread sports bars in the country and features menu with an Irish twist.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Initial Franchise Fee: $20,000
Startup Costs: $122,079 – $398,508

Since its establishment in 1941, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has grown into the largest barbecue franchise in the United States. The restaurant features modern cooking techniques and responsibly-raised, quality meats.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings – Buffalo Wild Wings Facebook

One of the most ubiquitous sports bar franchises in the U.S. today, Buffalo Wild Wings was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1982 and has been franchising since 1991. The brand has garnered popularity for its wide variety of buffalo wings and signature sauces.

Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom

Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom – Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom Facebook

Established in 1976, Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom has been franchising since 2000. The chain specializes in craft beer and offers a diverse menu that includes pizza, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads and much more.

Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar

Boston's Pizza and Sports Bar
Boston’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar – Boston’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar Facebook

Franchising since 1968, Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar was founded back in 1964, not in Boston, but rather in Edmonton, Canada, surprisingly. The brand boasts a diverse beer selection and menu that includes wings, burgers, and yes, pizza!

Are You Ready to Get the Party Started?

So, are you ready to get the party started in your neighborhood? Sports bar can potentially be one of the best restaurant franchises to open for entrepreneurs who wish to get into the food and restaurant business. Take a chance and dive into the sports bar scene as your next business venture!

By Steve Longo and Jim Notaris


Callens Capital