5 Common Mistakes When Starting a Bar

5 Common Mistakes When Starting a Bar

Learn about the most common mistakes new owners make when starting a bar!

Posted by Victor Delgadillo on February 14, 2023

Did you open a bar and things aren’t going as expected? Running a successful bar is not fun – it’s a challenging experience that can’t be approached without a clear plan. Understanding bars as a business is slightly harder for owners who approach it as an experience they’ve enjoyed from the other side of the bar. If that’s your case, more power to you! The truth is you don’t have to fail, especially if you’re aware of the most common pitfalls of rookie bar owners. In this article, we’ll go over the five most common mistakes you might be committing with your bar and their respective solutions. Let’s get right into it!

1. Having the Wrong Selection of Drinks and a Poor Menu

bottles at a bar display

The selection of drinks you offer is defining for your bar because they’re obviously one of the few reasons why customers will go to it. Still, this mistake is too common and can harm your bar without you realizing it. When you open a bar, your opinion on what’s good for your customers might differ from your customer’s preferences. That’s why you must know your customers and satisfy their needs and wants before trying to go beyond. In the case of drinks, they are a fairly local and preference-based business. You must conduct thorough research and analysis to know what your offer will be based on your local customer preferences. That’s key to succeeding in this type of business!

How to Avoid This Mistake?

Perform a thorough market study and come up with a base offer that keeps your target customer satisfied and filling your tables. Once you define it and build up affluence, you can try and come up with new food and drink offers. Once you have real customers, you shouldn’t keep doing the same, but try to discover subgroups you didn’t know about and attract them more. For example, if your main target market is males within a specific age range who enjoy drinking high-grade spirits, get to know them and you’ll find niche preferences that can keep them coming back. You might find that a subgroup of your customers enjoys wine, whiskey, or imported drinks. This can also turn into more opportunities you can take advantage of with the right marketing strategies or promotions.

2. Poor Lighting, Environment, and Decoration

bar environment with dim lights

This is yet another big mistake owners make and surprisingly goes hand in hand with the first one. A bar has to be welcoming to its target customers, meaning that it has to be on par with their preferences. You can’t have a successful bar if the environment you’ve created for it doesn’t offer the right experience. Some customers might stay because of your drinks offer, but that won’t be enough to keep them coming back. Why? Because drinking at a bar is not just drinking – anyone can drink at home! Drinking at a bar is a full sensory experience and everything within your walls has to be tailored to keep your customers engaged and satisfied.

How to Avoid This Mistake?

Once again, the market study is key. You will have to study the bars your customers go to, conduct surveys, and more. You should recompile enough information to create a detailed profile on your customer's preferences, and that includes things like music taste, food preferences, sitting or furniture preferences, preferred entertainment, and much more. Then you must come up with a bar layout and design that fits the bill in all of those areas. This is closely related to the concept of your bar. You must achieve the following:

  • Find chairs or furniture that is comfortable for your customers
  • Create a playlist with music your patrons will enjoy, whether it’s dancing, singing along, or simply listening to it
  • Decorate your walls with specific ornaments or decorations that go well with the mood of the bar
  • And install proper lighting for every area that goes well with the overall concept

Lighting is crucial to set the mood in a bar and you have tons of options to choose from – even versatile or adjustable lighting. And finally, don’t forget about entertainment. It can be in the form of common bar games, i.e. darts, drinking competitions, trivia nights, pool tables, and more. Big TVs to watch sports competitions are almost mandatory as well. Some places install game consoles as well. Anything that keeps your customers coming back and is safe enough to play at an adult business!

3. Having Bad Organization Behind the Bar or an Inefficient Layout

bartender working behind the bar

Serving your patrons a cocktail, even during the busiest nights, shouldn’t take longer than five minutes. If that happens in your bar, there’s something wrong with it. This, even though it might sound simple, is a common complaint from customers and you must address it if it becomes too common even during lazy nights. There might be several causes but the most common two are a bad organization behind the bar or a very ineffective layout. Noticing a bartender with poor skills is easy but much easier to deal with. Bad organization can lead to your bartenders taking too long when pouring the simplest drinks. If your bartender takes more than thirty seconds to pour a beer, there’s something wrong, and it will annoy your customers. But an even bigger problem is if the layout is wrong or uncomfortable.

How to Avoid This Mistake?

Well, these are two different but highly related issues that can be fixed in one go. The key is to design a comfortable layout that doesn’t make your bartenders think twice about what they have to do. Your bartenders should be able to do the following three things comfortably:

  • Reach most of the things they might need without taking more than five steps
  • Be able to move comfortably even if there’s more than one person behind the bar
  • Reach the customers quickly and be able to hear them

Designing your layout with those three things in mind will ease your bartender’s work. Also, make sure to buy all the necessary equipment for your bar.

4. Not Keeping a Close Eye on Bad Practices

guy drunk at a bar sleeping

These are way too common in bars and if you don’t train your employees to avoid them they can get your bar closed. Things like not managing intoxicated clients correctly, pouring them drinks after they’ve reached their limit, not paying attention to altercations, and more can get you and your staff into legal trouble. These are things you must be aware of before opening this type of business because they are more common than you think.

How to Avoid This Mistake?

Create thorough operations manual and train your employees on how to behave. Even though some countries require bartenders to have a license to work, making sure they understand the law is always a good practice. Additionally, you can cover things that are not explicitly part of the law, such as helping endangered customers, providing means of transportation to drunken customers, and more. Simple things can help you rid your business of mistakes that might end up causing it to close or your employees to get into unwanted trouble.

5. Not Keeping Up With Reports, Losses, and Inventory Management

sales reports from a bar

Bar owners often make the mistake of not keeping up with their reports, which is a fatal mistake for any business. How else can you know that your business is doing well in terms of sales, earnings, and profits? Also, since it’s a business based on drinks, it’s much harder to keep an eye on losses. Your bartenders making mistakes, spilling drinks, drinking themselves, or giving them away can become common occurrences if you don’t pay attention. And finally, your bartenders outright stealing from your inventory or mishandling it is something you won’t discover until it’s too late. All of these mistakes can cause you to lose money to the point of losing the business altogether, especially if you’re not profitable enough to sustain heavy losses.

How to Avoid This Mistake?

Avoiding these mistakes is easy with three solutions you must apply at the same time. The first one is to install cameras in your bar’s working area. That’s the best way to deter your bartenders from stealing, drinking, or giving away drinks. The second solution is to apply inventory management practices or, even easier, designate an inventory manager to supervise that all bottles are accounted for. And the third solution is to keep a close eye on reports. You must always be aware of these important numbers:

  • Inventory at the start of the month and expenses. You should always know how much you invested in stock!
  • Your monthly sales reports and earnings
  • And your profits

These numbers when studied will give you clues as to whether everything is in order or if there are some missing bottles. The math never lies! You can easily gain access to these numbers using a POS system like Waiterio. Our system gives you access to daily, weekly, and monthly sales reports so you can always know if your business is working as it’s supposed to. Learn more about our POS here!

Bars Can Be Incredibly Profitable if You Avoid These Mistakes!

When running a bar, creating a delightful environment, offering the right drinks, good service, prices, and overall experience is a safe bet to satisfy your regular customer base. That’s all it takes to have a successful bar! However, in the practice, achieving that is often halved by these mistakes. If that’s your case and you feel like your business is suffering, don’t lose hope yet. Most of these issues have simple solutions that can help your business regain back its strength and become profitable again in no time. Are you ready to take on this challenge?

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