Naturally, one of your main objectives will be to successfully run a busy venue. But how do you know your establishment is running well? What are the qualities of a successful bar? Listed below are some main indicative qualities to aim for:
Satisfied customers will return to a venue if they have a great experience. They’ll return again and again to repeat the same experience – they’ll return to feel the same positive and ‘happy’ emotions (associated with their great experience) they felt last time. If a bar has poor customer service, poor quality products or other negative qualities that invoke negative feelings in its customers, they are less likely to return as they don’t want to experience those negative feelings and situations again. So, if your customers are constantly returning to your venue, at the same level of ‘busy-ness’ (if your bar is consistently busy), you have obviously found the correct formula. Either your customers are re-returning or new customers are visiting as they have heard about the positive qualities of your venue. Keep it that way!
The ‘consistency of busy-ness’ of a venue is the first accurate indicator of its success. If a bar is consistently busy, chances are it is (or will be) a successful venture. Do your best to keep your offering consistent – obviously you have the correct recipe.
What’s the point of running a business that doesn’t produce the highest level of profit? Profitability is a huge driving factor in the hospitality industry. 99.9% of bars on Planet Earth exist to make a profit (in fact it’s probably 100%)! A successful bar will operate at the highest level of profitability without sacrificing other important dimensions like customer service. A venue’s operational strategies and techniques should be geared for maximum profitability. Fundamentally, a successful bar will conduct productivity and customer service techniques with the aim of reaching the highest levels of profitability as possible (productivity speaks for itself – greater levels of productivity means less money is spent on wages. Customer service is slightly less direct – use customer service techniques to impress your customers into spending more (upselling) or revisiting your venue. It’s also important to note that customer service can be sacrificed to create more profits – this is a fine line and should be judged accordingly.)
A successful bar will make as much profit as possible without sacrificing key elements such as atmosphere, product offering or customer service.
Consistent In Offering
A successful bar is clearly-defined and consistent and won’t fluctuate its genre of entertainment offering, product offering or service techniques. Like I said above, if your bar is consistently busy, you are obviously doing something right. The most successful bars I have seen have chosen one style and stayed with that style. I often see frustrated owners frequently changing the style of their unsuccessful bars to see if they can ‘try another market’ and attempt to make more money – in my experience, this has done more harm than good. If quality is king, consistency is queen. You’d be better off delaying the opening of a bar to determine its style, than opening prematurely and chopping and changing styles at a later stage.
A successful bar will be consistent in every aspect. A successful bar will chose one style and stick to it. A successful bar won’t randomly change elements such as entertainment offering, product offering or customer service techniques. If quality is king, consistency is queen.
Educates its customers
A successful bar may have a solid reputation as an educator or thought leader in its chosen niche. Customers love learning about their drinks (and food), particularly wine and beer. Educating customers can be done in a number of ways, ranging from master-classes and advanced training programs to simple written blurbs about each cocktail in a cocktail list. Educating customers could simply involve a venue’s bartenders being knowledgeable enough to stand at the bar and speak about spirits, beers, wine etc. (and therefore entertain). Educating customers in this fashion will bring paramount value to an establishment. Customers love learning about their drinks. They’ll boast about it to their friends and voila – word-of-mouth marketing is spreading like wildfire. I’ll discuss word-of-mouth marketing later.
A successful bar educates its customers in the products it offers. This can be done in many ways, ranging from master-classes and advanced training programs through to informal teachings from bartenders. Education can even be through small blurbs in a venue’s drinks menu. A successful bar is considered as an educator and thought leader in its chosen niche.
Handles well under pressure
I hate seeing bars crumble whilst at capacity (the busiest a bar can be) due to lack of preparation. It’s sad (and frustrating, if you are waiting for a drink) to watch a bar run out of stock, glassware and therefore happy staff (and customers). A successful bar will not face this problem. A successful bar will be prepared and ready for any situation. If a bar is properly stocked and prepared for its busiest period, everyone benefits: staff, customers, and management. Everyone stays happy, your customers spend more, and your bar makes more profit. Think of it this way:
A successful bar will not crumble under pressure. A successful bar can operate at capacity (the busiest a bar can be) without lowering customer service standards. Think of it this way: Your busiest period will generate you the most concentrated amount of income –it makes sense to be prepared to sell as much as possible in this time frame. Engineer your bar systems and train your staff to make sure this happens.
Lastly, and most importantly, a successful bar is all about the customer.
Customers are the reason your bar exists. A successful bar has staff whom treat customers like they would treat guests at their home. Treat your customers like guests! I can’t stress this enough. Trust me: doing this will make an incredible difference. This is a golden rule in the hospitality industry. Who wants to go back to a bar where customer service is terrible? Guests will want to return to an establishment where:
- They are greeted almost instantly (if the bar has a host/maitre’d) or,
- They are served quickly at the bar.
- Staff are friendly and warm, and remember the names of regular patrons.
- The whole environmental experience (ambience, soundtrack, furniture, decoration, other discerning features) is inviting to the venue’s target market.
- The price of products are matched to the quality of products (customers need to receive value for money – if you charge high prices for your products, make sure such prices are justified)
- Toilets are tidy and clean (tidy and clean are two different things) and smell acceptable.
- Entertainment is of suitable quality, and matches your target market (you wouldn’t play pub rock in a cocktail jazz bar!).
- They are addressed by their first or last names.
- They are called Sir or Madam (or Mr/Ms/Mrs).
- They are listened to.
- They feel positive emotions, and feel they can re-visit your venue to re-feel those emotions.
- They can learn about their drinks, and
- They feel like VIPs, regardless of their status.
A successful bar will have many regular guests – why? Because they are treated well and want to return. Loyal and regular customers are a product of great customer service.
On the flip side, a successful bar won’t need the following to succeed:
- High prices
- Ultra premium products
- Media coverage (magazines, newspapers, radio)
- Industry awards (although these are a good indicator, but sometimes industry awards can be biased)
- Star-studded guest list
- A radical concept, or something completely different from surrounding establishments
A successful bar is completely orientated around the customer. If customers did not exist, we would not have jobs! So, make your customers as comfortable and welcome as possible. Treat them like you would treat guests in your home.
A successful bar contains a combination of high quality internal and external attributes, as discussed above. A bar doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of awesomeness to be successful.
By illuminating these attributes, hopefully you’ll now have a clear understanding of what to aim for in the bigger picture. Hopefully you can carefully tailor your management objectives, strategies and tactics to reach these goals. To recap, a successful bar possesses the following:
- High customer attendance, and re-attendance (busy busy busy!),
- High return on investment (i.e. the bar is a profitable venture),
- High levels of consistency in atmosphere, offering and customer service,
- The ability to educate and inform guests,
- The ability to handle a high workload without failing, and
- Complete orientation around satisfying needs of the customer.