Josue Matos was a college student when he decided he wanted to open his self-pour taproom. With little more than that dream, Josue visited his university’s small business development center, which helped him make his first pitch.
But it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk from there. Josue approached two banks with his pitch in the hopes of getting a business loan, but both banks rejected it. Realizing this process might require unconventional thinking and hard work, Josue began a 6-month journey. It culminated in a new restaurant-taproom in West Reading, Pennsylvania, called Beer Wall On Penn.
In this guide, we hope to give you a good idea about the process of opening your very own self-pour taproom. Using Josue’s journey as a contextual roadmap, you can start planning to open your self-pour location. It’ll help you organize the full proposal, from collecting your initial ideas to installing a PourMyBeer self-serve tap system.
Approximate Timeline to Pour
- Start with the Logistics
- The Business Plan
- The Location
- A Bank Loan
- Finding Investors
- Cost of a Self-Serve Beer Wall
- Paperwork & Brainstorming
- The Layout
- Brand Design
- Creating the Space
- The Essentials
- Specialized Equipment
- Final Preparations
- Hiring Staff
- PourMyBeer Install
- Marketing & Opening!
- Soft Opening
- Marketing Campaign
- Grand Opening
Create Your Business Plan
Building and opening a successful taproom, let alone a successful business, requires a lot of time and attention. Every profitable establishment begins with an effective business plan.
This task can seem daunting for someone who hasn’t created a full business plan before, especially when opening a taproom for the first time. Thankfully, there are plenty of online resources to help you get on track and figure out which questions you’ll need to answer in that crucial first pitch. There are even free Google Docs templates available to help you begin.
What to Cover in Your Busines Plan
Whether you’re based in the craft beer industry or looking to bring a new type of restaurant to your area, you need a solid business plan. It’s best to include:
- Executive summary: The purpose of the executive summary is to introduce and outline your business concept.
- Industry analysis: The industry analysis section should include evaluations of your location and your target market by identifying your core customers, which may provide insight on many demographics such as age, sex, household income and ethnicity. You should also conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, which is an examination of the competitive landscape in the area. Lastly, include a management team analysis, which provides a background of your management team and your investors. You can use resumes to your advantage.
- Investment plan: Your business plan should provide a cost sheet that details initial expenses and how you plan to spend capital.
- Pro Forma: It’s essential for investors that you include detailed financial projections. First, calculate estimated revenue projections for years one, two and three. Estimates should be conservative and realistic. Second, determine your total liabilities and costs. Your costs will include items such as lease, payroll, insurance, licenses, utilities, a banknote and taxes. Last, estimate your cash flow for years one, two and three. This will project the businesses future net income.
Regardless of what you include in your plan, make sure it’s thorough and organized. You’ll be presenting it to banks or investors to convince them to finance your business.
Find Your Location
Finding the perfect location for your business can be a long process, but it’s essential to be very careful and deliberate. Before you begin searching for available properties, you should make sure you have a good idea of how big of a space you need.
You shouldn’t need the exact square footage, but you should have an idea of the space you need, based on the type of establishment you want to open. Decide if you wish to run a small taproom or a full-fledged restaurant, which requires space for a kitchen.
Self-pour taps work well in open concept restaurants, where there is a lot of space for customers to socialize. Self-pour taps in such an environment tend to create a casual, friendly atmosphere. They’re also great for any craft brewing business. But if you want to brew on-site, you’ll need a larger and better-equipped space.
It’s best to be willing to travel to the locations that interest you. As you do this, keep in mind the demographics surrounding each potential site. It’s important to know what types of people you’ll be serving, as this will help you create your branding and marketing plans.
Depending on which state you are in, you’ll have a variety of tools at your disposal to help you explore the market. We recommend using Google for additional help. You can also hire a realtor for assistance.
While searching for locations, Josue used LoopNet, a platform that allows you to search through many available properties for lease and sale. Check out our tips on how to scout for a self-pour location here.
The critical element is to take your time and be patient. Though Josue found many exciting properties, the process of finding his perfect location took six months. He also explored on his own, researching and understanding each neighborhood and visiting to reevaluate.
Once you find the perfect space, it’s appropriate to celebrate. Pat yourself on the back and grab yourself a beer because you just hit a huge milestone.
With the location settled, you can start considering things like where you want your beverage wall to be, how many tables you’ll want and how to organize them.
You should also research how to acquire a liquor license in your area. The policies and fees differ based on your location, but you can find all the information you need starting with a Google search. Generally, you’ll want to visit reliable government websites associated with your city or area, as the info there will be the most accurate.
We recommend contacting attorneys to help negotiate liquor licenses. You should be able to find a few local attorneys who specialize in liquor licensing.
Most of this will probably happen near the start of your journey, but financing is something you need to keep in mind throughout the entire process. As far as collecting investments for startup costs, there are several routes you can take.
Generally, there are three main ways to find financing — through a bank loan, investors or self-financing.
Arguably the most direct approach to getting some initial funds for your new business is to apply for a small business loan through a bank.
Banks generally do not give loans to businesses that haven’t begun yet, but it’s still worth looking into even before you open.
To increase your chances of securing a loan, make sure you have business partners from the food and beverage industry or who have a strong financial background.
At any stage, this approach will require that you have a solid business plan and you’re prepared for credit score evaluation. Approaching a smaller, regional commercial bank might increase your chances of getting a financial boost.
You can also try appealing to investors. Finding a good investor or team of investors can be the fuse that lights your success. People more often go in this direction when opening new self-pour businesses, especially at the ideation stage.
Most of the best entrepreneurs in the world will tell you that often the best place to find professional contacts and potential investors is through your friends and family. They’re the most likely to trust you when you come to them with a solid business plan that’s worth the initial capital requirement.
If you plan carefully, you’ll be able to pay them back with the profits you make down the line, so don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, old classmates or even ex-coworkers for a stake in your company, if you think they’re reliable and trustworthy.
It’s also helpful to find investors who are already involved in the restaurant or food and beverage industry. For one, they may be able to provide valuable advice going forward. It’s also a good sign to other investors and banks to have such a connection and may persuade another party to invest. Creating a network of local restaurant or bar owners may help you find a reliable candidate.
If you have the initial capital and trust your own financial management skills, you can easily become your own investor. However, it’s not something we’d recommend if you’re starting your first business or are new to the industry. You should at least have an advisor to help you make tough decisions.
Keep in mind, however, that if your advisor isn’t a stakeholder, they may not be as invested as you are in your company’s success, so make sure you know what you’re doing before committing.
Cost of Self-Serve Beer Wall
While the rest of your expenses will be similar to a regular restaurant or bar, a self-serve beer wall is unique.
For one, it’s easily customizable. Based on your budget and the funds you have for the startup, you can opt for a simple or more extensive setup. The beer wall will consist of taps and screens. You can choose how many taps you’d like and pair them with monitors, which can support single or multiple taps at once.
The price can vary from a few thousand dollars to a six-figure expense. The exact cost is up to you and how many beers you want to serve simultaneously.
Regardless of what you choose, self-pour taps can provide an excellent return on investment. They bring in plenty of interested customers and new business, which will ultimately help you pay them off quickly.
If you have an idea of how many taps and screens you’d like, you can request a free quote from PourMyBeer.
Paperwork & Brainstorming
In this stage, you’re going to start some serious planning for your new space. From the initial floor plan to the various permits, you have to settle all the required paperwork to get things running.
First, you may want to find a method of keeping all your files organized, in whatever way works best for you. There’s likely to be quite a few documents and pieces of paperwork. Having your own self-pour business is enjoyable and profitable, but it takes dedication and hard work to reap the rewards.
The Floor Plan
You’ve got a physical space to put your taproom, so now you can start drafting a floor plan blueprint for how you want it to look. Include every detail and don’t be afraid to create a few drafts or backtrack — nothing is set in stone yet.
Before you begin planning too much, you should have a working knowledge of your building’s layout, room sizes, framework, wiring and plumbing. The more you know before you begin, the less likely you are to make a mistake or have to make changes.
It’s a good idea to start with where you plan to install your taps, as they’re the draw of your establishment. Detail how many taps you’ll include and the layout, as you may choose to provide multiple small tap walls or one large row.
The overall layout will also depend on precisely what type of establishment you want to create. For a full-service restaurant, you’ll need to allow plenty of room for the kitchen and staff and keep tables spread out. For a bar, you may want to include a bar top or make room for entertainment, like pool tables.
Again, some great online resources can help you create a floor plan. One good example is a platform called SmartDraw.
PourMyBeer has done installs for places that are taprooms only, with nothing more than walls and tables. But other establishments, Josue’s included, put a greater emphasis on food and are effectively full restaurants with tap walls. We can accommodate you in practically any case, so it’s your call.
For more information regarding “Do’s” and “Do Not’s” when opening up a self-pour taproom, download our guide below!
Self-Pour Operations “Do’s” and “Do Not’s”
You’ll need quite a few licenses to be allowed to operate a taproom legally. Hopefully, you’ve done a bit of research on acquiring a liquor license, as we mentioned previously. But you’ll also need several others, likely including:
- Business License: Business licenses allow the bar or restaurant owner to run their establishment within a particular geographic area.
- Certificate of Occupancy: A Certificate of Occupancy confirms that the business is in compliance with local building codes and is properly prepared for occupancy.
- Food Service License (ServSafe): If you plan to run a full-service restaurant or serve food at your bar, you need to have ServSafe verification. It allows you to prepare and serve food legally and confirms you meet industry standards.
- Signage Permit: Signage is an excellent way to increase awareness about your new establishment. However, you may need a permit to put it up.
There may be a few others, depending on the services you offer as well as your location. You can always reach out to similar establishments in the area if you’re not sure what you’ll need.
Designing your brand is one of the most fun and creative parts of the process.
You get to decide on your taproom’s name and how your design is going to look. Feel free to get imaginative and make sure you’re distinct from other nearby bars and restaurants.
If you want a sounding board for your ideas, talk about the name and design with your friends and family. They’ll likely provide valuable feedback from multiple perspectives.
If you’re not experienced with graphic design, find someone in your network who is and see if they’ll help you create a logo and color palette. You can also read industry news to look for inspiration.
If you’re looking for design resources, there are plenty online, many of which are free. Inkscape has a lot of options but has a steep learning curve for new users. Other options include GIMP, Krita, and Easel.ly. There are also many online tutorials available if you’re trying to tackle the design yourself.
Once you’ve got at least a title and logo, you can begin your marketing plan. You can build excitement and curiosity even without a completed taproom or design scheme.
Tease your brand on social media, get your family and friends excited and get your network to be your audience. We have piled up more branding tips for you here.
Creating Your Space
Once you’ve solidified your brand image, it’s time to get back to the inside of your building. If you’re ready to proceed with making your blueprint come to life, your next step should be reaching out to contractors. Double-check with them to ensure the building has the appropriate electrical wiring and plumbing for your needs.
You can begin purchasing fixtures, equipment and furniture — all the main things you need to run the business. This process is going to look different for every restaurant or bar owner, as it depends on how the space looks and if you need to do any significant renovations. Either way, you should reach out to multiple contractors.
Electric and Plumbing
For things like electrical and plumbing installation, it’s not difficult to find commercial contracting companies in your area that can provide you with an estimate. If possible, it’s helpful to get a few estimates before you sign the lease for a location, as the pricing can vary quite a bit.
A great place to start looking is a website called thumbtack.com. It provides contracting leads specifically for businesses.
Of course, running a taproom requires some specific pieces of equipment. Specifically, you’ll need kegs, kegerators, beer lines, beer gas equipment and the taps.
Our preferred partners are Micro Matic and Perlick. However, you may be able to find a smaller draft installer in your area that meets your needs within your budget and provides excellent service. Josue began operating through a company called Tap Pro Solutions, and it has been working well for his business.
First, you need to decide how many self-pour taps you want to install per screen. Have your installer give you a quote and assist you in planning the setup.
Make sure that the contractor you choose to hire has a history with restaurants or bars. If they have prior experience, they’ll be able to advise you on how to build up your space effectively and feasibly.
Josue went to a local bar early on in the process and asked around for a draft installer. In doing so, he met a representative from Tap Pro purely by chance. Remember, networking is always useful.
While you’re purchasing equipment and hiring contractors, it’s important to keep an eye on your budget. If you want an excellent way to factor out costs before committing, you can create a price inventory for all the items you need. It’ll tell you how much you plan to spend and allow you the opportunity to alter the list before buying.
Like your other equipment needs, you’ll have to order your furniture through official vendors. You can choose from large suppliers
Do some research on local companies that have furniture that fits your style or ask around your professional network for suggestions. For Josue, Cisco Brothers was a good option. He was able to find furniture that suited his restaurant.
Installing Your Tap Wall
At this point, your bar or restaurant should be looking about ready to go. You’ve got fixtures, furniture, plumbing, beer equipment and everything else you’ve decided on for your very own taproom. Short of decor, staffing and some finishing touches, you’re nearly ready to welcome in visitors.
Now it’s time for the pièce de résistance: the PourMyBeer Install.
Once you’re ready to roll out the red carpet, we’ll have one of our installers come down to your establishment and connect your beer equipment with our tech, making it a complete self-pour taproom. We’ll be beyond excited to officially welcome you to the PourMyBeer family.
While the previous steps of the process focused on your actual building, this step is a bit more personal. You need to hire a staff of reliable and trustworthy employees.
If you know what you’re providing to customers and how large your dining space is, you can put together a rough estimate for how many staff members you’ll need. Remember, you need enough for opening night, but you can always bring on new members.
If you are opening a self-pour taproom, you’ll be able to manage with as few as five or six people to open. But if you are opening a self-pour restaurant, you will need people to work in the kitchen, as well as servers and managers to work on the floor.
If you’re unsure how many employees you’ll need for a restaurant, you can conduct some research or ask other establishments in your area to get a good idea of how much staffing you’ll need. Josue has been operating Beer Wall successfully with between 10 and 12 employees total.
As you approach your grand opening, keep the staff well-informed. They must know your full plan and be aware of any deadlines. It’ll save you a lot of headaches if you keep everyone on your team on the same page at the same time.
We recommend setting up a Slack profile for your taproom. Require your employees to join the group and keep their notifications on so they receive any updates you send them.
When your tables are set, your food is ready to be cooked, your self-pour taps are bright and shiny and your finances are projected, it’s time to launch your business. Your opening event can be exciting and stressful at the same time, but with all the proper preparations, you’re likely to enjoy a successful launch.
You’ve already done a bit of pre-launch marketing to tease your new taproom, but now you can begin advertising in full force.
One of the best forms of marketing is to set up social media profiles for your restaurant. It’s free, and it allows you to post events, updates and pictures, announce menu items and interact with your customers. You can also start spreading the word to pages and groups that you think might increase your traffic.
If you’re near a workspace or a university, try to find a contact who might be able to do some light marketing on your behalf to their friends or colleagues. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, even in the age of technology.
While conducting the marketing campaign yourself gives you ultimate control over your message and wording, you may not have the time to devote to personal relations.
If you are willing to take on the expense, you can hire a marketing specialist to take care of it for you. He or she would be responsible for creating a social media calendar, finding potential events to boost your image, writing website and social media content, and any other tasks.
Opening Your Business
With everything in place and an audience of potential customers interested in your business, you’re ready to host opening events. The grand opening is a big deal, but you don’t have to go straight to it. It may be best to hold a few events beforehand.
We recommend hosting at least two to three soft-openings with your friends and family or people in your professional network. These people will be able to give you honest, candid feedback about the user experience at your place, and if things go wrong, the cost will be a lot lower.
Ask them to provide genuine feedback and critiques, and make sure they don’t hold back. This is your last chance to gather information and opinions before opening your business to customers. Have as many soft openings as you feel is necessary. It’s an excellent time to make any last-minute changes.
Give yourself some time to work out the inevitable kinks you’ll have as well. Allow for at least one or two weeks between your last soft opening and your grand opening.
When you’re ready, you’ll know it.
Everything is in place, you’ve hosted a couple of soft-openings, and you’ve worked through any issues and concerns. Now it’s time to begin your journey.
Set a date, spread the word out as far as you can reach, and make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before the event. Work with your staff and make sure they’re as happy as your customers, and don’t worry if a few things don’t go the way you expect.
As long as you put everything you’ve got into making your customers leave happier than they came, your opening should be a success. You’re part of the PourMyBeer family now, so we’ll be there to support you whenever you need it.
With PourMyBeer taps, you can get out there and make it happen. For more information or if you’re interested in our services, contact us and we’ll help you with getting started.