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How to Open a Bar

So, you're ready to open a bar. At least you think so. Good. In fact, that's really great - eating and drinking establishments are easily some of the most highly profitable business models in existence today. But why?

Simple. People are social by nature and need to eat and drink. It really IS that easy!

When people need a break from their daily grinds, more and more people find bars, taverns, restaurants and nightclubs to be a refreshingly great escape. Whether it's meeting with friends or coworkers for Happy Hour at the end of the day, catching the big game or just out for a quiet bite and relaxing cocktail, the appeal and hospitality encountered when going out on the town is unmatched in other industries.

When managed and marketed properly, the sky is the limit for a well put-together drinking establishment. There are many factors to take into consideration when evaluating whether or not owning a bar is right for you.

But what does it take and how do you get there?

Many issues and decisions are involved in developing, planning, opening and running a successful bar or nightclub. is designed to help those serious entrepreneurs who are more than excited about opening a new bar take the next step. We also want to help those professionals and veteran operators who wish to improve or expand their existing bar enterprises connect with the information and tools to enhance and improve their businesses as well. Besides lack of operating capital, not having a broad range of industry-specific information and background knowledge is another MAJOR reason many start ups fail. We want to help with that... by reminding you of the facts and helping you beat the odds.

A brief overview of some issues to consider when contemplating starting up your own bar enterprise include:

Initial Concept & Personal Commitment

Get your thoughts together and outline what your vision is, but, more importantly, make sure to settle important personal decisions before you proceed. Financial, family and time constraints need to be realistically. Again be realistic, but be prepared to be flexible as your business and family needs change. Running a bar takes a lot of time and resources in order to be successful. Answering the big questions FIRST makes other future planning possible and easier by far.

Market Research and Business Planning

A crucial next step is gathering accurate and useful information about your competitors, intended target demographic, local populations and communities, and examining what concepts and ideas thrive in your proposed business launch area.

In addition, acquiring financing for your venture can seem overwhelming, but is actually quite manageable and controllable when you have a solid business plan firmly in place. Many tools to help you with this critical beginning phase are available right here on this site. Investors and lenders clamor at the prospect of investing money in a smart, organized and well-mapped out business opportunity, even in tumultuous economic times. Banks, like everyone else, like to make money. They won't make money if they don't take chances, and, like you, they want to leverage their money and hedge their bets whenever possible. An impeccable business plan guarantees your success and a return on their investment.

Developing a Concept Right for Your Demographic and Strategizing

Once you have decided on a realistic concept that will potentially thrive in your market, it is important to expand on your ideas and decide how to best develop your concept to suit your business intentions. A corner sports bar requires a different business plan than an upscale city wine bar. What is going to work best for you and your guests? How do you meet their needs while following your personal business model.

Financing and Investors

Again, make sure to present a solid and realistic professional business plan in place that maps out the "A to Z" of your proposed business. Get estimates and quotes from contractors, vendors and professionals that will erect and repair your business and be your framework. Factor in operating costs (like initial payrolls, etc.) and securing products, services and supplies. Demonstrate how you will consistently achieve positive revenue growth through normal business operation and demand, marketing and promotion, and other tactics and how it will factor into a schedule of repayment and return on investment for the lender. We have a lot of links to great tools for this as well, such as Growthink's professional online Business Plan Templates, Venture Capital Strategies, New Money Sources, Funding Secrets and Investor Strategies.

Legal Issues and Liquor Licenses

Be sure to retain a proper legal advisor and examine all aspects of your planned business. Business law, insurances, and employee rights, etc. In addition, contact relevant agencies such as your city or state's Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Health Department and others.

An attorney is helpful when securing a liquor license for your establishment. Be sure to be well-versed and knowledgeable in the liquor code and laws for your operating area and follow the law at all times. If you compromise your liquor license, you are out of business. Period.

Construction, Contractors and Zoning

Always review your plans with relevant city, state and federal agencies to make sure you are in compliance with all zoning and codes ordinances. Make certain to select and retain only reputable contractors and firms in the interest of making repairs or installations when building and/or renovating your establishment. Bonded and insured firms should carry liability insurance, worker's compensation insurance, and other related insurances and certificates as they apply to the nature of work to be performed. Many cities require electricians and plumbers, for instance, to have specific certificates to work within their boundaries. Request precise, detailed estimates and bids and never agree to work when ambiguities are unresolved. Get bids from multiple contractors whenever possible and appropriate. Ask for referrals. Observe and inspect work as it is performed and point out any deviations to the crew foreman immediately.

Vendors, Equipment, Supplies and Products

Meeting with vendors and suppliers is an extremely crucial stage of development for your new bar. This is when you can choose your look and how much you will pay; from your glassware to your cocktail napkins and also what you will serve, whether it be food, beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverages and what types, ingredients and styles of each. Your refrigerators, ice machines, glass washers, blenders, freezers and walk-in coolers need to run well and for a long time! Don't be afraid to barter, haggle and take all freebies available.

Make sure to demand the prices your neighbors are getting or better! Make vendors compete for your business! These individuals will be keen on seeing you be successful. Closed businesses DO NOT order their products. Thriving and growing businesses DO order their products, increasing those amounts each week! The decisions made in this phase will define your business as your customer-base experiences it more than anything else outside of the physical building and furnishings.

Employees, Human Resources and Management

Human resources is another challenging area for many operators and needs to be considered carefully. While we have an entire article devoted to this topic in particular, the basics are the same and resonate from every business type to every business sector. Beginning with your management, hire only experienced and capable people. Define your expectations and mission statement clearly at the onset of your employee-employer relationship. Assign reasonable schedules and workloads. Treat employees with respect and dignity and demand the same from them. Enforce workplace rules uniformly and discipline and reward employees consistently. Do not tolerate workplace harassment, drinking or drugs, weapons, theft or other inappropriate behaviors. Solve all disputes and problems quickly and correctly. Put the needs of the business first. Always be ethical. Follow all laws as they relate to your business and employees.

Training and Staff Development

Once you have a carefully selected staff in place, it is imperative to train them well and often. Have meetings at regular intervals. Make sure that every staffer knows their job description as it exists in YOUR bar and is extremely knowledgeable of their duties, your menus and recipes whenever necessary. They should be observed, tested and quizzed periodically to ensure compliance and guest service. Take advantage of vendor training and supplier tours whenever available. Incentivize and motivate staff. Most importantly, TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN and follow up on it. Always.

Menu Planning and Making a Menu that Sizzles and Captivates

Make sure to assemble your talent pool and begin to formulate and design a menu that gets and keeps attention. Sample your competitors and draw on your own experiences. Talk to other patrons. Many vendors will offer assistance, as well. Be realistic about what you can serve in your demographic, too. With all due respect, a "blue-collar" town may not be the best place to try out a high-end wine program and your shopping district may not want fishbowls of low-end swill at any price. You get the idea... right?

Successful Marketing and Cultivating a Consistent Crowd of Desired Guests

What good is any accomplishment if no one is aware of it? Marketing and Promotion is an absolute necessity if you want to stay relevant and packed with guests. There is a nearly limitless array of marketing methods and ploys, be they traditional or revolutionary in nature, that you may employ to funnel a steady stream of desirable visitors into your bar or nightclub and keep them there, night after night. Before you know it, you have a great traffic flow built up with a foundation of "regular" customers. Populating your establishment is key!

Staying True to Your Vision

As your business develops and takes on it's own identity, be sure to remember your original design and vision. Many bars and clubs fail when they look for and implement a "silver bullet" if they ever begin to struggle. Their guests become confused at the concept and lose interest in the operation. As prices go up, traffic goes down and you have yourself one heck of a business mess. Many bar owners will tell you they have thrived over the years by staying true to their original conceptual ideas and themes. By no means be inflexible - keeping up with the times and adapting to changing market conditions is essential in any business. Just as many owners have told us they continue to stay at the top by reinventing themselves as needed. It's YOUR bar.

As you look to take the next steps in bar, tavern, restaurant or nightclub ownership, let connect you and guide you with the tools and information you need to open a bar and be successful for years to come.

Explore our site and find all of the information you need to be make it in the restaurant and bar industry. We want you to succeed!

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