How to Scout Locations for Self-Pour Establishments

How to Scout Locations for Self-Pour Restaurants and Bars

Who would have thought that the day would come when bars would commonly opt out of the traditional model for the self-serve model? The revolution is here, and it is taking over the U.S. by storm! It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world follows.

For customers, the magic lies in the ability to pour everything by the ounce, thus truly embracing the ability to taste unique and new drinks that they would normally shy away from trying a full glass. Have you ever ordered a beer or cocktail that you did not like? Well, then you know how annoying that is! Self-pour eliminates this issue!

With a touchscreen, a tap, and an RFID (Radio-frequency Identification) card reader, customers have the freedom to get their own refills (responsibly, of course!) which means they never have to wait for the busy bartender again.

According to industry sources, self-pour beer walls generate up to 40% more revenue than a traditional bar. PourMyBeer systems are customized and built to suit the requirements of your business. Whether you want 100 screens or 20, 1 tap per screen or four, we do it all! And it is completely up to you whether you choose wood, stainless steel, brick, or even waterfall! The fantasy has no limits, and we believe that every business is unique, so we offer a high level of customization to help create your business personality.

Pouring Wine from a Self-Serve Dispenser at Pickled Monk

Pickled Monk, just like many other self-pour bars and restaurants, offers a variety of wines on tap.

The high level of customer satisfaction and the subsequent increase in sales is why many bars and pubs are quickly adopting this technology. As innovative and cool as self-pour technology is, the fundamental principles of any retail establishment still apply to self-pour bars, with one of the foremost being locations.

The location of a bar makes a huge difference between its success or failure, which is why we decided to give you a piece of advice on how you should scout locations for a self-pour bar.

PourMyBeer infographic on how to scout locations for self-pour restaurants and bars
PourMyBeer self-pour technology

Zoning Ordinances

Some locations will be in busy commercial zones like a downtown area or a developed highway strip, while others will be far from residential and commercial zones. Consult with the local town manager to check if the building is zoned correctly to open a bar. Be aware that some towns have restricted the sale of alcohol within so many feet of religious buildings, schools, and hospitals.

Evaluate Options

You may visit one commercial space and immediately think about fixing it. We would not recommend this approach. Before you start sketching the bar design, visit multiple sites and compare them. Visit during different times of the day, during the weekends and also during weekdays. A little patience is a small price to pay when selecting the right location for a bar.

PourMyBeer Tip: Visit other self-pour locations in your area or take a trip to different states to check out what works and what does not. We also recommend you try talking with other self-pour business owners to learn from them. Ask them about what self-pour provider they use and if they are satisfied with them or not. Many technologies out there fail to deliver on promises leading to unhappy customers and a struggling business; make sure you do your homework and choose the right self-pour provider, too.

Local Demographics

Understanding the local demographics is critical because not everyone likes the same kind of drinks or bar concept. A demographic analysis with information on the local population can help predict what beverages people in the area drink. It may also determine whether the location is right to open a self-pour restaurant.

Each location has a different demographic than just its immediate neighborhood. It would help to get a demographic overview of the area’s age, income, marital status, occupation, etc. The government provides much of the demographic data available for free through the national census. Connecting this data with their bar and drinking preferences will take some additional research.

taproom with self-pour technology

The Brew Coop, San Francisco 

Before taking things forward, take time to understand the competing bars in the area. If there are ten bars in the area, with the self-pour concept, it may not be the ideal choice of location as this is still a novelty and many cities and towns have no self-pour locations. We recommend seeking out places with the right demographic for the type of establishment and have no or few self-pour bars in the area.

On the other hand, it may be beneficial to set a shop close to your competition. If it is clear they are doing well, and the concept is extremely popular in a given neighborhood, it could be proof that self-pour is in high demand in that area.

Ever wondered why you almost always find Burger King close to McDonald’s?

Oftentimes with a unique concept, the competitor already established the awareness of the new concept, and you can benefit from their marketing efforts. It is easier to go into an area where there is already an awareness of the concept. Other bars around chose their location because of the demographics. They have spent money on marketing to drive traffic to the location. Some of these people that other bars are attracting may not ever have been to a self-pour bar. All you have to do is divert this traffic to your bar instead of following trends and using smart marketing techniques.

Some bar owners take the road less common and open up at a place far away from town and the competition. With a unique and fun concept such as self-pour, the chances are, you will be worth the trip to patrons from the area. Make sure to be aware that if your business is a destination, you really want to give your patrons a reason to return, not just visit once. If your bar is in a beautiful and popular touristy location, you have it made! If not, you really want to make a plan to build a strong regular customer base.

Lake Tahoe Pourhouse only offers wines on its PourMyBeer self-pour taps.

The Building Itself

The building where the self-pour taproom will be housed itself matters as well. The exterior should ideally have big windows so that passersby can get clear visibility of the self-pour tech inside the bar. As for the interior space, it should align with your business plan.

Even the most spacious buildings can quickly become insufficient once you start adding chairs, tables, and other equipment. Once the space is measured, you may find that it is not large enough for the original idea you had for your dream self-pour taproom. If it is smaller than expected, you may have to downsize the restaurant or look for a new location if you don’t want to deviate from the original plan.

PourMyBeer Tip: Be careful not to get a building in a location where one bar failed after the other. People will associate the space with poor drinks, lousy food, bad ambiance, etc.

The Area

Besides your potential competition and the building itself, it is important to consider the other venues in the area. If you know that there is a huge shopping center with lots of bars and restaurants, it might not be an ideal location. It might not only be expensive, but it can also mean that people will be less likely to take the extra drive to your spot.

On the other hand, if you find a great-looking building fitting your self-pour business idea and is close to a sports stadium or office district, you are on a good path to run a million-dollar self-pour taproom!

District Brew Yards in Chicago is a unique project of 4 breweries utilizing self-pour only. They are located within walking distance of the United Center stadium.

The Bathrooms

Bathrooms are probably the most overlooked aspect of a new bar. Although they are generally considered private spaces, in a bar, they are a public space. They are particularly relevant to a bar where people will be drinking. It is better to invest in a great bathroom design to ensure that it goes well with the rest of the bar’s design elements. You know the saying… you can tell a lot about a place by the cleanliness of the bathroom, so make sure someone is always on top of cleaning it.

Even if there are bathrooms already in the space, they must have ADA-approved doors, stalls, sinks, and toilets. The number of toilets is determined by the number of seats in the bar. A local health inspector can help you get details about these in their respective areas.

Safety First

Every state will have its own standards and codes for commercial purpose buildings. Find assistance from a local code enforcement officer to check if the building is up to code on the basics like fire alarms, proper wiring, sprinkler systems, and handicap-accessible doors.

The Parking Space

Parking is more important to a bar’s success than what many people realize. If people have to walk a great distance from the parking lot to your bar, they may choose to go elsewhere next time.

 If the bar is set up in an urban location where people walk and has public transportation, this shouldn’t be a problem. But, if you’ve chosen a location that requires people to drive to get there, parking is a must!

Damico’s in Brooksville, Florida

PourMyBeer TIP: It isn’t necessary to have your own parking space. A municipal parking lot or a private parking lot near your location can also be convenient for your customers.

The Lease Contract

Once you’ve narrowed down and chosen a location to open your self-pour bar, the next and most crucial step is signing the lease contract. Make sure to calculate if you’ll be able to afford the place. You don’t want to get stuck financially on leased real estate if you are unsure of the potential success at the location. This is true especially for new bar owners and new bar concepts that can’t count on reputation to bring customers through the door.

Before committing to anything, do a landlord and location background check. Ask other occupants in the building about their experience with the landlord and the building. Is he/she an easy person to deal with, and does he/she address problems quickly? Is the location getting enough foot traffic? Also, ask them what they think about a self-pour bar opening in the same building as them.

Many bar owners don’t realize that they have the right to negotiate the terms and conditions of the lease with prospective landlords. This includes rent and who pays for expenses like heating, lawn care, snow removal, etc. If the space requires repairs before you can open your business, discuss with the landlord which repairs will be covered by you and which will be covered by the landlord.

If the place has been vacant, the landlord should pay for any essential repair work needed. If the landlord starts making unreasonable demands, it is a sign to look elsewhere for a location. However, be careful with this because if the building is in a high-traffic area, you can’t negotiate too much with the landlord because he/she can easily find people to fill the space.

PourMyBeer TIP: We have never had any of our customers fail, but we always encourage caution as we want you to succeed. Even though it is something unpleasant to think about, but what if the restaurant does fail? How will you manage to pay rent? If such a situation arises, you don’t want to lock yourself in a long-term contract. The lease is legally binding, and the landlord can still demand rent. For a start, ask for a lease with a period of not more than a year or two.

Finance

Obtaining finances is one of the main challenges bars and restaurants face when they open up and is a very important consideration while choosing a location. Other than the cost of real estate, you’ll also have to account for the cost of licenses and permits. Costs of licenses and permits vary from one state to another. Idaho, for example, has the cheapest fee at $100, whereas California has the highest fee at over $13,000.

On average, the technology per self-pour tap costs about $700 – $1,000. This excludes the cost of the draft system and constructing the wall. Self-pour yields higher sales volume and typically brings the return on investment faster than the traditional model, but you still need to obtain the finances to start somewhere.

The last thing you want is for lack of finances to be the only hindrance standing in the way of opening your self-pour bar. Many financial solution providers offer bar equipment financing that you can make use of. 

We hope that this article will help you better understand what to look for when scouting for a self-pour taproom location. Here is a little recap of how much more efficient self-pour is compared to a traditional taproom.

PourMyBeer self-pour benefits infographic
Why PourMyBeer

Self-Pour “Do’s” and “Dont’s”

If you are curious about general “Do’s” and “Dont’s” when opening up a self-pour taproom, download our guide below to read later!

We just wanted to point out that the age-old saying ‘location, location, location’ is still relevant, and when you do your diligence in securing a great spot for your new business, you are on the right path to success!

From Amazon, McDonald’s, and Starbucks to PourMyBeer’s self-serve tech, technologies are changing the way businesses operate all over the world. If you understand the value of self-serve and are ready to add this unique spark to your business, we would be delighted to help you achieve your dreams!

Join the self-pour revolution today!

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