Running a Bar For Dummies
Running a bar isn't for the faint of heart. Besides the daily needs of running a bar — what tools and condiments to keep behind the bar, what to put on the tables and on the menu, and how to keep your employees well-supplied — you also have to deal with the rigors of management — like keeping your employees honest, staying on the right side of your state alcohol control board, and dealing with patrons who've had a few too many. The following information can get you pointed in the right direction.
Questions to Ask the Alcohol Control Board before Shopping for a Bar
If you’re interesting in running a bar, you’re going to have to get to know your local alcohol control board so you know what you can and can’t do when it comes to serving alcoholic beverages. Ask your state alcohol control board representative these important questions while shopping for your bar or bar location:
What kind of liquor license do I need? What’s the fee? How often do I renew it?
Where do I display the liquor license in my bar?
How many licenses are issued in the town?
What are the grounds for license revocation?
What are the restrictions on my hours of operations?
Can I serve food? Do I have to serve food?
Do I need another license for food? What’s the fee?
Do I need another license for music? What’s the fee?
What are the smoking laws I must abide by?
Can I open on Sundays? What time?
Menu Categories for Bar Food
If you want to run a successful bar, you must create the right menu to complement the beverages. Even if you already have your menu planned, consider the food categories in the following list. After your bar opens, you can keep an eye on what your patrons expect and think about adding items that may benefit your business:
Appetizers: An appetizer is a dish that’s served before the main meal in a restaurant. In bars, sometimes the only menu is an appetizer menu.
Full-blown menu: Many bars have larger menus these days. Your menu may start with the pub grub idea, and later expand further to include items such as salads, entrees (like ribs, steaks, and pasta), desserts, and even kids’ menus.
Happy hour: Some bars choose to only serve food during happy hour, a period of time designed to draw in a crowd with special pricing and promotions.
Pub grub: Pub grub is the affectionate term for typical bar food like wings, onion rings, cheese sticks, burgers, and so on.
Tapas: Tapas are snacks or small plates in the Spanish tradition. They don’t have to be Spanish food, just small portions of great dishes.
Condiments You Must Have behind the Bar
Running a bar is more than just mixing alcohol, mixers, and ice. You might be surprised by what you need to have on hand to keep the drinks flowing to happy customers. This short list contains items bar owners are often surprised to find that they need; keep it on hand and tailor it for your own business.
|Angostura Bitters||Real Cream of Coconut|
|Salt and pepper||Hot sauce|
|Lime juice||Worcestershire sauce|
Must-Have Bar Tools
Although keeping a toolbox behind the bar isn't a necessity (though it really isn’t a bad idea), if you’re running a bar, it makes sense to keep the following tools behind the bar to keep it running smoothly:
|Extra napkins||Shaker or comparable glass|
|Ice scoop||Stirrers and straws|
|Knife and cutting board||Tip cup|
|Muddler||Wine bottle opener|
Items Bar Servers Need to Carry
If you own or run a bar, your servers are your foot soldiers in a very real sense. You need to make sure that they’re well armed and prepared for anything. Post the following checklist for your wait staff so they (and you) can always be sure that they have everything they need:
|Band-aids||Pen (with small light, if you can find one)|
|Matches and lighter (where legal)||Table brush or cleaner|
|Wine opener or bottle opener|
What to Put on a Bar Table
If you run or own a bar, you want to make sure to supply your patrons with what they need to make their visit to your bar as comfortable and convenient as possible. The best way to do this is to make sure that certain items are within easy reach on the bar or at the tables. Snacks, condiments, and decor are the usual items, but check the following list often to make sure the items here are available and well stocked:
|Ash trays (where legal)||Napkins|
|Centerpiece||Pepper or pepper mill|
|Cocktail menu||Snacks (per house)|
|Ketchup||Sugar and sugar-free sweetener|
|Light or candle||Wine list|
How to Keep Bar Employees Honest
Of course, most people are honest, but you can take measures to ensure that all the employees in your bar resist the temptation to enrich themselves at your expense. Use the following practices to head off potential employee problems and handle them when they begin:
Check employee bags and packages in and out.
Conduct detailed weekly inventories.
Do not count out tips from the register at night.
Establish a no drinking or drugs policy for all employees.
Have spotters and mystery shoppers pull surprise inspections on a fairly regular basis.
If an employee is caught stealing or breaking a law, dismiss them with no second chances.
Install security cameras.
Keep storage rooms locked.
Non-sales must still have receipts.
Thoroughly count your register drawers every night.
Use only one door for entering and leaving.
How to Identify Intoxicated Guests in Your Bar
Sure, people go to bars to drink, but overly intoxicated patrons are a problem you don’t need in your bar. Not all drunks are happy drunks, and they certainly aren’t safe, so be prepared to cut off the alcohol supply or send people home before they get too intoxicated. Whatch for these warning signs to know when to take action:
Patron is drinking fast.
Patron is smoking two cigarettes at once — one is burning and he is lighting another.
Patron is spilling drinks.
Patron is engaging in loud, boisterous behavior.
Patron is very quiet. Yes, you have to watch the real quiet ones, too.
Patron is unable to pick up money or change.
Patron is annoying your other guests.
Patron has slurred speech.
Patron is becoming tearful or emotional.
Patron starts sleeping or gets drowsy.
If the patron falls off the barstool — it’s over! It’s time to notify the designated driver or call a cab.