Many of us have sat and wondered what it would be like to open a bar – more likely than not over a drink at our local. But most of the time, the dream doesn’t turn into reality.
Not for you. You’ve set your sights on opening your own bar, taking the plunge in what can sometimes be a scary but rewarding entrepreneurial adventure. To make it much less scary, we’ve created a checklist of things you need to do or consider before first orders.
1. Think of a concept
What will you do to make your bar stand out? What’s the unique selling point? What will drive customers to your bar rather than another one?
The answer doesn’t have to be something brand new, but you first need to consider the concept or theme that will define your bar and the people who eat or drink at it. It could be that there are too few places to go and watch sports in the area, or perhaps you’ve always dreamt of serving fancy cocktails.
Whatever it is, have the idea complete before you start anything else, as your decision impacts everything else, from finances to location.
2. Choose a location
With the hospitality industry in particular, location is everything. Open your bar in the middle of a bustling city like London and the footfall could be huge, but rent is expensive. Set up shop in a quiet town and the costs will be less, but so will the number of people visiting.
To find the right location, consider:
Who do you want to appeal to? If it’s city workers, then an area densely populated with businesses makes sense. Are you more of a student bar? Then rent a space near a University. While it’s true people will travel to you, it’s important you appeal to those closest, first.
Ideally, you’d like to be in an area with good transport links. But, if you’re not, you’ll need a parking area for those who are driving.
You’ll need to balance whether the increased customer-base of an inner-city location outweighs the increase in rent. It may be that you don’t want to be based in a central area, in which case rent will likely be lower anyway.
3. Create your business plan
Now that you’ve decided on your bar’s theme, design, and location, it’s time to put it down in writing. This should be a combination of all your previous ideas in a succinct way, so you can clearly see the direction of your new business.
You’ll also want to include ideas on how you’ll structure your business; will you be a sole trader or a limited company? There are pros and cons to both, but a limited company means you won’t be personally liable in the event of an accident (your public liability insurance can help with that instead).
4. Add up the costs
There are several costs involved in setting up and then maintaining a bar, so you’ll need to have an accounts system in place from the start.
Rent is something you’ve already considered when looking at different locations. Stock is equally as important, as without the required amount of food and drink to serve customers, you won’t be able to generate any income. Then there are systems that help with running a bar, such as sales and restaurant management programmes.
Two other essential costs that need to be considered (and we’ll go into greater detail in the next two points) are licenses and business insurance.
5. Obtain the required licenses
Not having the correct licenses can have a detrimental impact on your bar, so it’s important you clarify what you intend to do or serve before checking whether you need specific licenses.
You’re required by law to have food and alcohol licenses if you intend to serve either, so those are your basic essentials. But what you might not have considered is that you need specific licenses to play live music, recorded music, films, sports, and many other things that could help attract customers.
If you’re unsure, always check with your local council before committing on events or serving food and drink.
6. Insure your bar
As with any business, there might be occasions when things go wrong for your bar. Whether it’s a break-in, damage to property and stock, or an injury to an employee or customer, any issue will result in you having to pay for the damage.
Bar insurance can cover you in the event of any of the above happening. Depending on the type of cover you have, public liability insurance, employers liability insurance, and buildings and contents insurance all ensure you and your business are protected.
7. Hire great staff
A business is nothing without great staff, and no industry sums this up like hospitality. Your staff will be customer-facing all the time, so they need to do it with the professionalism that represents the business.
For bartenders or waiting staff, look for people who love what they do. A happy bartender means happy customers who come back again and again. As well as looking at skills, try and find people who have the values to make the business succeed: hard work and dedication.
Once you find the right people, it will become easier to find similar staff. People know each other from within the industry through previous jobs, so word of mouth will quickly spread about how great it is to work at your bar.
8. Spread the word
You’ve created a business plan, opened up your new bar, and have the best staff you could have wished for. Now how do you get people through the door?
Paid marketing is arguably the most effective and efficient way of getting the word out. Using ads, you can target a large number of potential customers quickly, and the audience can be as granular as you need. However, this requires some upfront investment.
Utilising social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter are an excellent way of generating business organically. At the least, you should set up social accounts, encourage users to share your page and content, and perhaps even provide offers.
Eventually, word will get out about how amazing your new bar is, and hopefully you’ll have floods of customers in no time.
Whether you’re in the process of building your bar or it’s still just an idea, you’ll want to consider bar insurance. Contact us to see how we can help.