Part 1 of 2: Improving Profitability Through Proper Planning and Quality Control
Money losers in a bar come in many forms, and you will want to check your financial records carefully to make sure that you are not being affected by one of these:
- No plan. Many bar owners have no clear plan of where their bar is headed and what they need to purchase and do to get there. Many say "I only want to run a bar." However, running a bar, like anything else, is a goal, and goals always require a plan. You should know where you will be expanding and how. You should know what products you need to order and when. Keeping everything on paper in the form of a business plan and purchase orders can help make it clear to you.
- Lack of local products. Many bar managers will justify their lack of local beer by stating that their bar's style or type does not call for local beer. In fact, local beer and local food products are often the best-selling items in any bar. Many customers like or support the local beer, and visitors from other areas are often eager to try the local fare. Always offer local products, even if your bar has a uniquely international or exotic theme. As an added bonus, local products are often easier and less expensive to ship and buy, ensuring higher profit on your initial investment.
- Spoiled food and drinks. Spoiled product is lost profit. In some cases, such as a major power disruption, this can be hard to avoid. In most cases, though, spoilage is caused by ordering too much. This is avoidable. Keep track of your inventory and past purchasing patterns and buy those products that you need in the quantities they were needed in the past. Frequent checks on inventory tell you when you are running low and when you need to stock up on certain products.
- Cutting corners on quality. Many bar managers use a variety of ways to reduce quality. In many cases, they do this not to consciously deprive customers, but out of the mistaken belief that low quality costs less. They think that offering less for more will result in larger profits, when, in reality, cutting corners usually keeps customers from coming back. Quality products—be it fresh fruit in drinks, generous portions of drinks, or pleasant bathrooms—will bring the types of repeat customers who will ensure that you make money.
- Staffing problems. There are many staffing problems that can cost you money. Hiring or keeping unqualified or unproductive staff (because they are friends or family members, for example) is terrible for your bottom line. Selecting the wrong staff is a problem that can cost you a lot of money.
- Poor storage, wrapping, and handling of liquor and foods. Beer that is left out to get warm, meat that is thawed and allowed to spoil, and food and drinks that are incorrectly handled can mean waste or even food poisoning for your customers. You do not want the health department investigating your bar for poor management of food and drink. Make sure that you control how food and drinks are stored and handled. Food and drink preparation areas should be clean, and staff should keep all products that need to remain cold in the refrigerator or freezer. Food and drinks should be stored and served at their appropriate temperatures to ensure that your customers stay safe.
- Poor attitude or atmosphere. Customers want a place where they can relax and get great service. If your bar is unpleasant, you will lose money by losing customers. You need to make sure that your bar is an inviting place not only to drink and eat, but also to linger.
- No customer concern or no customer market research. Bar managers are busy people, and while they may not overlook customers on purpose, far too many lose sight of bar patrons as they worry about the many other elements of running a bar. Not catering to customers, however, can ensure that a bar will lose a lot of money. Not only will unsatisfied customers not return, but they will often share their experiences with other people—potential patrons. In order to avoid losing money, it is important for bar managers to not only please customers, but to impress them enough to make them wish to return. Regular market research will reveal not only who your bar's customers are, but also what they want.
This article is an excerpt from the The Professional Bar & Beverage Managers Handbook: How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Bar, Tavern and Nightclub, authored by Douglas Robert Brown, published by Atlantic Publishing Group. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission of the publisher. To purchase this book go to: