8 Essential Tips For Opening a Hookah Lounge

Picture of Connie Lin


The best hookah bars are great destinations for shisha smokers and anyone looking to relax in a laidback environment, hear some good music, and escape the typical sports bar or club scenes. In order to strike the delicate balance between a low-key restaurant and social bar atmosphere, here are seven tips — from tobacco to music — for opening a hookah bar in your city.

1. Top-notch wait staff

In the service industry, the most important investment is almost always in your employees. Especially in a hookah bar that requires shisha set-ups and coal refills on top of fulfilling food and drink orders, it is absolutely crucial to hire attentive, knowledgeable wait staff. Most hookah bars rely on repeat customers and veteran shisha smokers, so it is important to have friendly staff who are well-trained in hookah expertise and good at establishing rapport.


2. Cozy décor to enhance the hookah bar experience

Smoking hookah is a very relaxing and social activity, so arrange your lounge’s setting accordingly. Common décor themes include Bohemian, Middle Eastern, or Egyptian. Think dark walls, colorful furniture, mixed patterns, tapestries, and ornate accessories. Dim lights, comfortable chairs, and pillows create a relaxed atmosphere, encouraging customers to sit and chill for longer — and the longer they stay, the more food and drinks they're likely to order. Since most of your customers will arrive in groups, provide intimate booths and circular tables for them to smoke around together. Creating a cozy décor is not just about aesthetics; it significantly enhances the overall hookah bar experience, making customers feel at home. You'll have a tough time getting them to leave.


3. Hookah bar music

Your laidback vibe would not be complete without the perfect soundtrack. Typical background music functions too much like elevator music and doesn't really engage your customers. For increased customer satisfaction and longer stays, today's best hookah bars are giving their customers a say in the music playing. Jukeboxes have been a classic component of the bar experience for decades, but even more popular today are mobile jukebox apps that let your customers pick songs and vote on your pre-approved playlist without leaving their seats. Choosing the best hookah lounge music is key to setting the right mood, ensuring customers enjoy their time and keep coming back. Considering that studies show hookah bars are gaining popularity with the youth, especially college students, a mobile and social component could really set your lounge apart. 


4. A robust tobacco menu

Before opening a hookah bar, make sure you or your partners have a talent for eyeing the right flavors. Browsing the menu and choosing flavors is half the fun of smoking shisha – and there are endless possibilities. Make sure your hookah bar offers an extensive menu of tobacco options, from fruits to mints to florals. Not only will this make the process a lot more fun for your wide variety of customers, but it will also compel them to come back to taste the rest of your menu. To add even more customization options, allow customers to add ice or flavored water to their shisha or even blend multiple flavors. Indicate the popular or recommended items on your menu to aid the newbie smokers.


5. Hookah happy hour and promotions

Everybody loves a good deal and a good reason to do something more unique. For your less busy hours or weekdays, provide discount promotions. Great deals could include a discount on the hookah rental, specific flavors or bundles, or, of course, drinks — nobody can pass up a good happy hour opportunity. Discounted drinks may also encourage non-hookah smokers to come chill with their hookah-smoking friends. These offers are not just appealing; they are a direct example of how to promote a hookah lounge, attracting new customers and encouraging repeat visits.

hookah bar tea and drinks 

6. Soothing tea

Serving alcohol is in no way necessary at your lounge. Opening a hookah bar — or any venue — that serves alcohol can create barriers in terms of licensing, age limits, and safety from accidents. A very popular drink to serve at hookah bars is actually tea. Veteran hookah smokers will tell you that tea helps keep their throats smooth and greatly enhances the flavor of the tobacco. Mint and jasmine are particularly popular shisha-accompanying tea flavors.


7. An outdoor patio

If possible, offer the option to smoke outside. Back patios are a great place to let your customers smoke with fresh air, better ventilation, and a more open atmosphere. Setting up a few tables in front of your storefront works, too. If the weather is nice out, the outdoor option alone will have customers flocking to chill at your venue. 

8. Hookah bar marketing

When considering the success of your hookah bar, marketing strategies, and online presence are vital. Effective marketing for a hookah bar can include leveraging social media, hosting themed events, and engaging with the local community. These efforts not only boost your visibility but also create a loyal customer base.

To discover more about how we can assist you in leveraging the latest trends and insights for your hookah bar, enhancing your customer experience, and creating a unique ambiance, visit our website.

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on May 6, 2014, and was last updated on January 24, 2024.