11 Rules new owners need to heed

Posted: November 21, 2010 in advice on owning a bar
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1)You’ve Got to Motivate Them to Move
   
You are the new place. No one beyond a scarce few of your friends feels any loyalty to you and even they will not stick around past the first few weeks if you don’t give them good service, quality product and reasonable prices.
   There are only so many patrons out there and they  already have their favorite places and the new place is not one of them.
You’ve got to offer something  everyone else is not. Then once you’ve lured them in with a great special or novelty item, you’ve got to make them want to come back. Beyond that  it is imperative you make such an impression on them that feel compelled to invite their friends back with them or spread the good word.
2)The Good News is that some People are Open
   
There are some customers out there that have their name engraved in the barstool they sit at every night and they won’t even entertain the thought of trying out a new place. One day you’ll appreciate those kind of regulars when you get some of your own.
   But there are two other types the new place has the chance to entice. First there are the disenfranchised that don’t like any of the available watering holes for one reason or another and so are looking for a place to call their own. The problem with them is that the reason they don’t like any place is because they are hard to please which makes them hard customers for the new place as well.
   Then there are the open-minded people that are willing and waiting to find a good new place to add to there choices of places to go. The problem with these is that they have half a dozen favorites and like to support them all. But they are your target and the idea is to become one of their most favorites.
3)The Bad News is People are Fickle
   
It is unbelievably easy to lose a customer for life. The problem is they have too many choices and can so easily go down the road to a place they haven’t had a negative experience.
   Be it a bad meal, a server with an attitude or even another customer who was rude to them. We lost one customer forever because another customer switched channels on the t.v. from a game he was watching. He never said a word, we weren’t even there, he just never came back.
4)Like it or Not, the Owner is all the Difference
    Everything in an establishment is a reflection of the owner and they cannot pass anything off on their managers or staff because
they hired them and these employees represent them in the eyes of their customers. And that is why the owner cannot be too attentive to every detail and aspect of their place. For example, if a server is rude to a customer, the customer wonders why the owner has rude people working for them. Or if drink prices seem high, the customer figures the owner is greedy. If a meal is served cold the customer sees the owner as having low standards. Everything falls on the shoulders of the owners.
5)Free Drinks and Stiff Drinks Go A Long Ways
    It is impossible for any owner, let alone the new owner not to
make mistakes but luckily there is a subtle way to smooth things out. Drinkers love to have a drink bought for them, it is like a big hug. Forget advertising, buying people drinks every once in a while is the best way to spend your marketing dollar.
   By the same token, the next best way to endear your way into a drinker’s heart is to give them value each time you pour them a drink. They will notice that they received an extra count and it costs the owner pennies. Give them a great deal and you may just get the numbers it takes to sustain a business.
6)The Owner must be Gregarious and Appreciative
  
People who frequent drinking establishments love the attention of the owner. In their minds, that who is who they are supporting
and they like to get some credit. It doesn’t take much. Just a quick “hello” and “how’s it going” will do.
   It is also extremely important that the owner thanks the customer for coming in as they go out. This let’s the customer know that the owner realizes that they had a lot of choices about where to spend their time and money and the owner appreciates the fact the customer chose their place.
7)Everything is Atmosphere and Atmosphere is Everything
  
The staff, the music,the lighting, the temperature,the crowd…
everything in the building when a patron walks in is atmosphere.
Often people don’t know what it is that turned them off or on to a place and that subtle subconscious swaying factor was almost assuredly atmosphere.
   People will be drawn to a place that is always warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They like to be greeted by attractive pleasant servers that remember what they drink. They feel uncomfortable under bright lights and in rooms with no music.
    Making people comfortable is key to a watering hole and something the owner must hold paramount and train their staff to do the same.
8)The Competition-Study, Spy and Soak In
  
If a place is successful and established, they have plenty to teach the newcomers. They have to be doing things right to have survived. I’ve seen so many new owners never venture out beyond their own place – huge mistake. Sam Walton built Wal-Mart initially by spying on and learning from the people who were successful at doing what he wanted to do.
   The bar business is extremely competitive and difficult and the new owner can not afford to miss a trick. They need to take all the best ideas they see and not be too proud to implement them in their own place. Don’t reinvent the wheel, learn by your competitor’s successes.
   Another reason to go into other places is because that is where your potential customers are at. Be sociable, buy them a drink and invite them to your place.
9) Quickly Abandon Your Cherished Great Ideas and Adapt
  
Every new owner has a few great,new and fresh ideas and more than a few stupid ideas. Lose the ego and admit when you are wrong.
   Most novices think they have the next great concept the market has just been waiting for. And then in a month or so the dream hits reality. Survival is all about adaptation to reality.
   Keep what you are able to from you original idea, but give the people what they want. You can only learn that from number 8.
10)Constantly Work on the Help
  
Here’s a simple rule no new owner wants to believe: new places don’t open with a great crew. It’s simple, all the best people have secure jobs in established places where they make great tips and they aren’t going to give that up on the chance that the new place might be better. So the new place gets the left-overs.
   The key is for the new owner to understand the reality of the situation and not sit back and let the staff run the place. It takes at least two years to slowly acquire a topnotch, trustworthy crew and until then the owner has got to be in control and make constant changes, firing the shifty and slovenly and immediately hiring the local star servers that occasionally become available.
   Along this line, always remember that customers are drawn to great servers and repelled by bad ones. To the owner, they are all the same price, and so hiring attractive, pleasant and hard working staff is  simply a matter of good business.
11) Work Your Butt Off
   
The truth is that so many have the dream of owning their own establishment, but almost none realize the price. If new owners truly knew how much effort is required to make a place succeed,they never would have signed up in the first place.
   As I mentioned before, the key to success is the owner and the more time spent, the more likely to succeed. The commitment
to open a place ties up thousands of dollars. Often it involves one’s entire life savings. It did for us. And so any new owner with a brain will put in the effort to protect and grow that financial investment.
   For two years we saw our hard-earned nest egg going out faster than we could imagine even though we worked as hard as we thought we could. Finally, with our backs to the wall, we worked harder than we ever imagined we could. My wife took over the bar and I took over kitchen and we began to make money. But it cost us all of our time.
   And that, combined with the above, is the only way I know how to ensure success.
  

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