Drinking in a bar and owning one are 2 very different things, but alas many people don’t see the distinction. People invest huge sums, sometimes their whole life-savings and retirement funds, into opening bars or partnering with friends to do so, thinking it will be one big laugh to riches at the end of a few fun (and drunk) years ahead.
Reality soon comes knocking at their door when they start to stress about their empty bar that haemorrhages money every month and will soon see the partnership bankrupt and the friendship ended. But why is it so hard? Mostly what these people get wrong is that they don’t know the fundamental things that every successful modern bar needs. Here are some of those things:
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1. The Right Equipment
This is probably the most common thing bar owners get wrong. They invest in cheap and easy equipment to try and save money early on, and thus leave themselves wanting. Things like the most cutting-edge draft beer pumps and quality bar point of sales systems do cost extra money, but you get the payback when you deliver consistently frosty and cold pints with good heads, and can process orders and payments faster than your competitors, among other things.
So, investing in the proper equipment is absolutely essential, and that goes for bar furniture, decoration, and additional gear like refrigerators, the bar setup for your staff to work in, mixology gear, and of course the stock of beer, liqueur, soft drinks and everything else that you plan to sell.
2. Steady and Firm Leadership
Problems in any bar invariably start at the very top. A bar that is poorly led will inevitably perform poorly, be a place that no one wants to go, and eventually just become a giant financial albatross around your neck. Certain leadership traits tend to help set successful bars apart: like being a good communicator, taking ownership and responsibility when things go wrong, and leading by example in terms of good behaviour, such as not drinking while you’re working.
When the leaders show these traits, staff and others respond positively and it has a lasting and improving effect on business.
3. Reliable and Competent Staff
Next, you have to invest in the best people to get the job done right. Hiring a room of total rookie bartenders because they’re cheap and keen is not a good idea unless you have at least 1 highly experienced bar manager or head bartender to train them up and lead them. Your staff does need all the echelons covered: leaders, regular team members, and the learners who are just getting started.
Whatever their level, reliability is a must-have. They have to show up to work on time, finish their shifts when they’re supposed to and not before, and not mess around in the workplace. They need to take their jobs seriously, and be there for you when you need them to be.
4. Ambience and Atmosphere
You can have all the leadership skills and competent staff in the world, but if you haven’t invested in a space with an appealing ambience, comfortable and fun atmosphere and a level of cleanliness and hygiene that allows everyone to feel safe there, then you essentially have nothing. Consult experienced bar outfitters and designers to get the best results. They cost more, but they’ll deliver a space with universal appeal.
5. Marketing and Re-Investment
Finally, it’s critical that you take at least some of the money you’re making in profit and reinvest that back into your bar business. That extra money helps to upgrade equipment when the opportunity arises, as well as give staff pay rises and bonuses to keep skilled and talented people on board working for you. If you’re not willing to put money back in, you’ll eventually stop getting any money out of the business.
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