Thinking of opening a new bar? Scared to death of the potential hardships that may ensue and worried about how to deal with the ramifications of an ongoing pandemic? Concerned at the costs, hidden and known, you are likely to encounter? All of these fears are well founded but this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream of owning and running a successful bar. You should however prepare for a very rough ride, especially in the age of COVID-19. The success rate of bars is closely aligned to that of a new restaurant and recent surveys suggest that 60% of these close within a year and 80% don’t make it past five years, in other words there is a high turnover when it comes to the hospitality industry. Here are some tips to consider when it comes to making your move into the bar industry. Design – Form Over Function? There is a tendency to overthink things when it comes to the design of a bar when in all honesty what most bargoers are looking for is a good homely location to enjoy a drink or a cocktail. This doesn’t mean that you can rest easy when it comes to putting together your aesthetic, it means you just need to know precisely what vibe you are looking to project to your prospective customers. You’ll need to consider the theme of your establishment. Are you going for a high-end wine bar vibe or perhaps looking to open a good honest looking ‘local’ pub style of bar? Either way the detailing should work across the entire piece. Will you be looking to have a bar with lots of booths, are you considering the options of counter stools vs bar stools? Does your menu match the design ethos? Perhaps the easiest way to consider these aspects is first working out if your bar values form over function or vice-versa? I.e. Do you want the style of your bar to come ahead of the functionality? Whenever you walk into any bar you can tell pretty much straight away which one of the two styles it represents. Decide which is more relevant for your market, and stick with it. Location, Location, Location While it’s true that visitors will trek to the ends of the world to find a well respected bar and are willing to enter even the dingiest of neighborhoods to drink at a much loved pub, when you are starting out you can not afford such luxuries. You’ll need to make sure your bar has great footfall and is near to other key locations in the vicinity. Does your location serve a strong office base, is it in an easily accessible location and are there any municipal guidelines that could hamper you? Do the research required before selecting the location of your bar. Look at your potential competition and see if there is a niche to be served by your soon-to-be newly opened venture. Accessorize In this day and age it’s not enough to merely serve great drinks and have a wide alcoholic menu, you’ll need to offer a strong level of catering as well. Make sure your dining offering, whether it be big or small, reflects the vibe you are going for and be aware that a bad meal (or even snacks and appetizers) could negatively affect a customer’s overall experience. In other words you can’t skimp on the food you offer, if the offering you provide is going to be small, make sure it’s bespoke and has character so that it might stand on its own. Start Small Knowing that this is a very competitive market means you need to start small, don’t look to fill a warehouse sized space, just because it appears to be good value. Some of the longest running bars are those who are deliberately, and perhaps even quaintly, cosy. In many ways a small bar helps to secure a loyal customer base. A tightly run locale is one that is easiest to maintain and then, should this prove successful, you can look to scale up in terms of capacity and size or even spread to a second location. COVID-19 is Here for the Long Haul We all hope and pray that the effects of the deadly pandemic will start to diminish in 2021 but in all honesty the long-term repercussions of the virus aren’t going away any time soon. Even though the vaccine will aid our move back to some level of normality it’s likely that some will still be very fearful of mingling in tight dark bars long into the coming years and as such you should plan accordingly. Whether this means limiting the capacity of your indoor area or just making sure that you ‘drink-out’ takeaway options are top quality, you need to be ready for a likely shift in the mindset of the bulk of your customers in the medium to long-term.