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How to Run a Bar

Buying a bar is just the first step- read this and find out what comes next!

For your business to thrive in the UK’s bar industry, you need to build good relationships, know your customers and have a thirst for success.

Bar and pub owners are feeling the pressure as more drinkers opt to buy low-cost booze from supermarkets and drink at home. To keep your patrons coming back, you need to keep evolving the business, while also staying true to your brand and image.

Supplier relationships

Building good relationships with your suppliers is key if you want to be in a better negotiating position. It’s important to remember, the quality and variety of spirits, wines and beer you have on offer behind your bar will drastically affect how successful your business is.

"We've changed the suppliers around a bit but we stick to just a few suppliers who we really work well with and we trust and we all help each other out,” says Simon Gordon, who runs a wine bar in London. “That way we get really good prices [that are hard to beat].”

Over the last decade, microbreweries have been taking the UK by storm, with pale ales and IPAs replacing the common beer brands. Finding local breweries or distilleries could be a great way to build relationships with entrepreneurs in your area and cut out the middle man.

Know your customers

It’s pointless offering pricey cocktails and 10 types of IPA if the customers that frequent your bar are locals wanting a few after-work pints. Alternatively, if you’re bar is targeted towards a younger crowd, you need to devise a drinks menu that is accessible, affordable and unique.

Simon Gordon strives to keep his prices in line with the clientele: “I’m really trying to get brilliant value [with our wine suppliers] because we’ve got a really young crowd here, and obviously they want good value, so I’ve managed to get the prices as low as I possibly can.”

The location and demographics of the area will dictate what type drinks are popular; however, once you establish a strong foothold within the local bar scene and you build up your brand, you can be more experimental with your menu and the liquor brands you stock.

Keep evolving

The hospitality industry can be fickle, patrons will happily move on to the next bigger, better bar if the space and service you provide isn’t ticking all the boxes. To keep your bar fresh and interesting, utilise the space and consider offering a food menu, or host events.

Simon Gordon saw a way he could keep his customers at the bar for longer: “We have expanded outside, we’ve got table and chairs all the way down and a nice BBQ which is really popular all year round.” The outdoor shelter also prevents patrons leaving if it rains.

If you have space to set up a small kitchen in your bar but you don’t have the time or inclination to run a restaurant, you could consider hosting a pop-up eatery. Offering a kitchen space to a local mobile food business could be a great way to keep your menu diverse.

If you’re limited on space, consider hosting events in your bar to attract new customers. Whether you’re putting on live music or a speed dating night, attendees are likely to post photos on social media, which is also great, free publicity for your bar.

Expect hard work

Flaring cocktails and pulling pints while flocks of thirst-quenched workers pour in through your door sounds like fun; but don’t be disillusioned that running a bar is one big party. It involves a lot of hard work, long hours, risky investments and stressful situations.

However, Simon Gordon says there is light at the end of the tunnel: "I started to get into it and it became a really full on job, but I've now got it to a stage where it's much easier. I've got managers who are good and well trained, I've got good staff, and the whole thing runs itself now."



Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com as well as other industry publications.

@Be_TheBoss

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