Decided it’s a good time to be opening a bar? Congratulations – you’re getting into a potentially lucrative line of business. But don’t let the excitement prevent you from approaching the process methodically, because, unless you carefully consider several different factors, you may be setting yourself up for problems down the road. Let’s look at five things to consider when opening a bar:
1. Concept or theme
This is the first thing to think about when opening a bar because it will dictate so many other decisions. Your own preferences and personality will probably come into play here. For example, are you most comfortable in a sports bar? If so, that may be the best route for you. Or, is your personality better suited to a funky cocktail lounge, a microbrewery, or a pub? Take a lot of time with this question, as you don’t want to end up opening a bar where you’ll feel like a stranger.
People generally gravitate towards bars near their home or place of work, so ensure that your concept melds with the demographics of the area where you’re thinking about opening a bar. For instance, if you’re set on operating a funky cocktail lounge or tiki bar, you probably won’t want to lease space in an area dominated by luxury homes and apartments and/or tony office buildings.
Market research can help you with this particular step, as well as in narrowing down a concept for your potential operation if you’re not set on just one. Go to existing establishments in each area where you may be opening a bar. See what they offer and what customers seem to like. Talk to a few customers, tell them you’re considering opening a bar, and ask them what they would like to see in a new one.
3. Potential competition
No matter how appealing a particular area and/or empty storefront, there’s no sense opening a bar in close proximity of one whose concept is similar or identical to yours.
The only time when you may make in exception to this rule, without compromising your business: Your new bar will have some point of differentiation from a similar local operation. For instance, say you’ve settled on a sports bar—and an existing sports bar serves little in the way of food. You could create a niche for yourself by opening a bar with a sports theme—and a menu of great accompaniments for the drinks.
4. Ordinances and other mandates
Ensure that the storefront you’ve chosen is in an area where it is legal to operate an establishment of the kind you’re planning to open. Check into noise ordinances as well. You don’t want to get caught opening a bar that advertises service until 4 am, when local ordinances dictate that it must close two hours previous.
5. Technology requirements
Sure, you’ll need fixtures and furnishings, but a good POS system is also a “must” because of the major role it will play in managing your operation. Without it, you may go from opening a bar to closing it in very short order.
For best results, ensure that your POS system has a comprehensive inventory control component; such a component gives you tight rein over your entire stock. Desirable features include built-in tracking and measuring capabilities (for monitoring draft pours), integrated barcode scanning technology (to keep an eye on bottle levels and/or measure the amount of liquor poured from one night to the next), and automatic re-ordering (when stock reaches pre-determined levels).
A POS system chosen in preparation for opening a bar should also incorporate an age-verification solution (to weed out underage patrons) and be able to integrate with security cameras and digital video recorders.
As mentioned above, opening a bar can be a great way to make a living. Carefully thinking out the particulars will put you on the road to success. We’ll drink to that.