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 not want to risk having a full glass of. Have you ever ordered a beer or cocktail that you did not like? Well, then you know how annoying that is! Self-pour completely kills this!
Pickled Monk, just like many other self-pour bars and restaurants offer a variety of wines on tap
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 having bartenders would. 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 absolutely unique, therefore we offer a high level of customization to help create your business personality.
The high level of customer satisfaction and the subsequent increase in sales is the reason 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 right location for 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.
Some locations will be in busy commercial zones like a downtown area or a developed highway strip, while others will be a bit far away from residential and commercial zones. Consult with the local town manager to check if the building is zoned correctly to open a bar. Some towns have restricted the sale of alcohol within so many feet of religious buildings, schools and hospitals, so be wary of that.
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. Pay them a 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.
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 into unhappy customers and a struggling business; make sure you do your homework and choose the right self-pour provider, too.
Understanding the local demographics is critical because not everyone likes the same kind of drinks or bar concept. A demographic analysis based on information available about the local population can help predict what their tastes in beverages may be like and 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 including 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.
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 novelty and many cities and towns have no self-pour locations at all. We recommend you seek out places that not only have the right demographic for the type of establishment you desire, but also towns or cities that either have no or very few self-pour bars.
On the other hand, it may be beneficial to set a shop close to your competition. If it is obvious that they are doing really 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 awareness of the concept. The other bars chose their location based on the ideal demographics of the area and 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 by 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 good reason to return, not just visit once. Unless you are located in a beautiful and popular touristy location such as Lake Tahoe (like our customer Tahoe Pourhouse), you really want to come up with a plan on how feasible it is for you to build your strong, regular customer base.
Lake Tahoe Poorhouse 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 has been measured out, you may find that it is not large enough for the original idea that you had for your dream self-pour taproom. If the space 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.
TIP: Be careful not to get a building in a location that has a history of housing one failed bar after the other. This is because people often associate the space with poor drinks, lousy food, bad ambience etc.
Besides your potential competition and the building itself, it is important to consider what other venues are in your area. If you know that there is a huge shopping center with lots of bars and restaurants, it might not be ideal to choose a location that is relatively close to that as it might not only be a quite expensive location, but it might 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 it is in near proximity of sports stadiums or office district, you are on a very good path to run a million-dollar self-pour taproom!
District Brewyards in Chicago is a unique project of 3 breweries utilizing self-pour only, they are located in a walking distance from the United Center stadium
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. Customers these days expect bathrooms at bars to be not only clean but also to have good design inspirations.
Even if there are pre-existing bathrooms in the space, they must have ADA approved doors, stalls, sinks, and toilets. The number of toilets should be determined by the number of seats in the bar. A local health inspector can help you get details about these in their respective areas.
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 more than a fair distance from the parking lot to your bar, they may choose to go to a place that is more convenient 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!
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.
Damico’s in Brooksville, Florida
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 lock yourself in financially on leased real estate if you are unsure how successful you’ll be in that 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 also 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 that may be 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.
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.
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 $13000.
On average, the technology per self-pour tap costs about $700 – $1000 excluding the cost of the draft system and constructing the wall. Self-pour yields higher volumes of sales 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. There are many financial solution providers who 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.
Self-serve technologies are changing the way businesses operate all over the world, Amazon, McDonalds, PourMyBeer and many other big names are leading the self-serve revolution.
We would be pleased to help you achieve your dreams with implementing our technology. (Why PourMyBeer link here) but we want you to understand that the age-old saying ‘location, location, location’ is still relevant.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!