Opening a bar is an exciting small business venture with many potential upsides, but it’s not always easy.

If you’re in the planning phase and looking for information on how to open a bar, then these tips should prove to be very helpful. If you’re already in business, then it won’t hurt to re-evaluate and see where you can apply some of these principles as you grow. Here are the things that are imperative for you to do well when opening a bar.

1. Determine your target market

man holding a bar menu

One of the biggest lapses in judgment that you can make when opening a bar is trying to appeal to everyone. A lot of new bar owners think that having more services and niche offerings will equate to more traffic and more customers. This will have the opposite effect more often than not. Consumers like to frequent businesses that fit their needs, preferences, personal interests and lifestyles. There is no way that you will able to tailor your business to match each of these things for every single customer. Figure out who you would like to serve and what you would like to offer them. The two will go hand in hand and should also play into your location choice. If you’re in a predominantly young, urban neighborhood, then your decor and pricing should reflect that. If you’re in a quiet, residential setting with mostly seniors, then you probably shouldn’t open a bar that’s best suited for dance parties and raves.

2. Decide on your concept and be consistent

One of the things that you need to be wary of is moving forward without deciding on a firm concept or theme. A dive bar is completely different in function, decor, and even pricing than a huge sports bar equipped with TV screens everywhere. Don’t assume that you can make those adjustments as you go. Decide on your theme and make sure that it’s aligned with the first tip above, your target customer. After determining your theme, make sure that it’s consistent throughout; from your decor, technology systems, down to the manner in which your employees interact with your customers.

SEE ALSO: Ten Things Restauranteurs Secretly Hate

3. Study your competition

man holding a cocktail

Originality is crucial in business, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Observe what other great bars are doing and emulate the things that they’re excelling at. This is especially effective if they serve a similar market that you’d like to tackle. Are they successful because of the owner and his/her connection to the community? Is it because of their location? Decor? Pricing? These are all things that you should be paying attention to and trying your best to emulate or avoid – if they do it poorly.

4. Point of Sale & Technology

In this era, if you’re not using technology to streamline operations and make decisions for the business, then you’re making a terrible choice. Not only are there a plethora of options available in the market, but they’re relatively affordable to businesses of all sizes. Your technology will make or break your bar. Period. And, point of sale is the heart of the technology that you use. But what does it matter if it takes sales consistently? Well, if your transactions run slowly or there’s a high likelihood of errors, then you can count on losing money. If your reporting is not up to par, then you aren’t making decisions from real data and you aren’t accounting for where you are making or losing money.

5. Your Staff

woman shaking a drink

Have you ever been to a bar and the bartender flashed a cold scowl at you, rather than a friendly smile when you stepped up to order? What about giving you eye contact but completely ignoring your attempt to order afterwards? Ever tried closing out your tab and the bartender ignored you for 20 minutes just to continue taking new drink orders while you waited patiently? If your staff is guilty of any of these things, among many others, then you can kiss the idea of having a successful bar goodbye. No matter what you do to your space or what tasty cocktails you offer on your drink menu, you will lose a lot of business because of poor service. The fact is that bars are so abundant in the US that if you drop the ball somewhere and it’s an important enough factor to your guests, they will simply opt to get their drinks elsewhere – it’s that simple.

So as you are opening your bar, keep these things in mind and be sure to continue to improve upon them consistently.

Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate who uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.