Welcome to

Self-pour university

Have you ever dreamed of owning a bar?

Maybe you’ve been to outstanding bars and restaurants in the past, and you wish to replicate their service, offerings, and atmosphere. Or perhaps your dismal experiences have led you to think, “I could do better than this, and I’d love the challenge!”

People and partners open bars around the world all the time. Your best bet for making sure your eatery thrives is to get all the information you can on how to open a bar before diving right in. To help you understand everything from training your restaurant staff to gathering marketing ideas for your bar, we’ve developed this “How to Open a Bar” game plan.

This is where we show you how to take your self-pour idea from “idea” to a solid action plan to reality, in a direct line if possible. Over the years, PourMyBeer has helped hundreds of people go through this process to create profitable businesses, bringing their dreams and creativity to fruition. We have distilled this knowledge, bringing it together in one place for you to access and act upon.

As the market leader, we want to equip you with the right resources to begin your self-pour journey to success. That is why we started this university for you.

You’re here either because you visited a self-pour taproom, and you saw the self-pour magic in person. Or you’ve heard about it, and you’re contemplating opening up a self-pour taproom. 

Opening up a taproom isn’t for everyone, but lucky for you, opening a self-pour taproom is for EVERYONE. While we do have customers with backgrounds in hospitality, we also want to point out that the bulk of our customers come from other industries. A few of those previous professions that our operators come from are Network Engineering, Digital Advertising, Real Estate, Law, Construction, Pro-Golfer, Education, Healthcare, and many more! The reason we want to celebrate this is that we’ve proven that ANYONE can open a self-pour taproom. 

The success rate with self-pour taprooms vs. traditional taprooms for people with no hospitality experience is inspiring. 

We’ve taken our knowledge gained from helping over 400 people, like you, open up their self-pour taprooms and put it all in one place, which we call Self-Pour University.

We’ve proven through our actions and track record that we don’t just want to sell our technology to you. We want to arm you with the tools and knowledge you need to turn this from an idea to a successful business of your own. Don’t sit back and wonder what if? Talk with us and ask how! The time is now. 

Talk to us and ask how! The time is now. Let's get started...

Basic overview

Crave NC perfect pour beer at self-pour beverage wall

Understanding the bar and restaurant business

Bars, taprooms, microbreweries, and restaurants serve as places where patrons can gather, celebrate special and everyday moments, indulge in new tastes, and treat themselves to novel environments. Each type of bar has a unique vibe, from laid-back, high-energy sports bars to sleek, upscale bars. No matter what type of bar you want to open, you need to understand the steps to open a bar from beginning to end.

Barley Vine tap wall

Starting a Restaurant, Taproom or Bar

As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to begin jotting down notes about the bar, restaurant, or taproom you’re envisioning. Keep notes on your smartphone and update them every time you’re out at a dining establishment. What do you appreciate and think works? What doesn’t? These observations will help you later when starting the full-scale planning process. You’ll also want to begin scouting out locations, at least informally. Look for areas of opportunity and pockets where thirsty and hungry people are probably underserved. Doing this type of pre-planning before you begin your journey will help you tremendously when you finally jump into the process with both feet.

Milepost zero person pouring from PourMyBeer self-pour taps

Understanding the Process From Planning to Profit

What is the basic process to get from an idea to a profitable bar business? At PourMyBeer, we’ve broken down the steps into three levels. The first is what we call the “Bachelor’s” level. This level is where you begin to lay out all the nuts and bolts, such as how much capital you’ll need and how you can open a bar in your state and community. It’s also the level where you’ll translate your vision into words and numbers. The second level is where you move on to get your “Master’s” degree in learning how to open up your own business. When you become a “Master’s” level bar owner, you gather all the legal requirements and paperwork necessary to officially open your doors. You’re also jumping into some serious branding and messaging, so it’s a nice mix of creativity and practicality. What’s the final level? The Ph.D., of course! At this stage of the entrepreneurial game, you get the opportunity to perform one final flex of your business-opening muscles before unveiling your hotspot to the public. Each level helps you progress from having that awesome bar concept in your head to seeing the “Grand Opening” sign above your doorway.

Broadway Market - PourMyBeer technology integrated with Bottoms Up

Understanding Self-Pour Technology

Ready to get started? Before moving on, you’ll want to know a little about PourMyBeer and self-pour technology. We didn’t invent the self-pour system, but we’ve perfected the art. Self-serve beer walls allow customers to take charge of how little or how much they pour. They do all the work themselves — and appreciate the opportunity to free up your waitstaff! PourMyBeer can retrofit self-pour walls to just about any space, and the taps can pour everything from beer and wine to kombucha and sake. Although you don’t have to integrate self-pour technology into your bar or restaurant, you’ll want to explore this trend. Consumers have consistently shown a preference for taking control of their food and drink experiences. Excited to get your education on how to open a bar in the most efficient way possible? Keep reading to grab your “degrees.”

Feeling ready?

So how hard is it to open a bar? At this point, you should be feeling confident in your abilities and that you know how to open a bar. All you need now is a dream — and maybe a little more information about self-serve beer wall technology. Contact us today for a free quote, even if you’re in the earliest planning stages. It’s never too early to start determining which features will set your establishment apart

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As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at cheers@pourmybeer.com or call us at 312-416-9989!

University modules

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Planning stage

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

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Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Congratulations! You’ve entered the ivy halls of discovering how to open a successful craft beer bar, wine bar business, or restaurant that sells adult beverages. Classes begin right away, so there’s no time to sit back and socialize on campus. Instead, you’ll want to dig into the books and start planning!

It doesn’t matter what kind of bar you want to open. You’re going to have to go through the basic steps that almost all successful business owners follow. From site visits to design decisions, our curriculum has you covered. Read on to begin developing the framework for your area’s next big bar, and download our checklist below to learn how to successfully get started when opening a self-pour venue!

Opening a self-pour venue checklist

SITE VISITS AND INSPIRATION

This is perhaps the most fun homework assignment you’re going to have as you uncover how to open a bar. Basically, you need to hang out at as many bars and restaurants, as you can, to gather inspiration and information.

You don’t have to stick to any special type of bar or taproom, and you shouldn’t limit yourself to the ones in your town. Go on road trips and check out other eateries and bars to see what they’re doing well and what they’re not.

When you’re on these inspirational visits, make notes of how customers respond to different elements of the bar. Do they seem to be annoyed by lagging server effectiveness? Do they love using amenities like an old-fashioned jukebox or air hockey table? Try to find at least one place with a self-pour beer wall, just to see how it works in action.

Pro Tip!

We recommend you physically visit 10+ locations while taking notes on things you like/dislike and what you think would work well in your future establishment.

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Business Plan

Writing a business plan is vital to keep you on track. While your business plan may change over time, you’ll need it for several reasons. First, it will help you concentrate on what matters most. Think of it as an evolving roadmap. You may take alternate routes, but you’ll always know the final destination.

Secondly, your business plan will help you define any problem areas before they get too big. Maybe you haven’t thought out one aspect of your business plan. Another aspect of it will showcase that it’s lacking, which enables you to go back and make changes.

If you need help coming up with a business plan for your taproom or bar, we have a quick-and-dirty way for you to begin. Just plug in your information and get a custom-ready business plan that many bar business entrepreneurs have used. It’s a great jumping-off point.

The final reason to have a business plan involves capital, as you’ll see in the next section. To access our business plan template, fill out the form below!

Business plan template

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

FINANCING

You need money to open a bar or restaurant. Unless you’re sitting on a boatload of cash, which would be highly unusual, you’ll probably want to get financing from a bank. You might also want to seek investors for your idea. Regardless, they’ll all want to see a copy of your business plan.

Why do lenders and stakeholders put so much emphasis on a business plan document? They realize that if you’ve gone to the trouble of outlining a plan, you’re serious. Plus, having a well-thought-out business plan minimizes their risk of investing in a small business.

How much financing will you need to open your bar? The answer depends on several factors, including where your bar will be located, how big the footprint is, whether you are renting or buying the building, what you intend to serve, and other factors. In some places, you can get away with opening a bar for low six figures. In others, you’ll need quite a bit more to launch your dream.

Again, the actual number depends on your city and state. Get as many real figures as you can to add to your business plan, so you understand realistically how much to borrow.

Pro Tip!

Many of our customers, aka PourMyBeer family members, take the route of combining all three financing options, so don’t be afraid if that is what you have to do.

We Have Financing!

If you are looking for help when it comes to financing your self-pour restaurant, look no further! No money down, low monthly payments, and quick approvals! One of our partners, North Star Leasing, is very experienced in providing financing to self-pour operators. Learn more here.

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Choosing Location

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: Location, location, location. It’s everything. You could open the most incredible bar in the world, but if the location stinks, you’re not going to stay afloat.

Picking a bar location involves looking at many factors, including competing establishments, the area population, the demographics of the region, ease of parking, how safe the area is perceived to be, and more. At the end of the day, you want to choose a spot where patrons feel comfortable hanging out for hours and don’t have to work too hard to find your bar.

As a side note, don’t sign on the dotted line before checking out your state’s liquor licensing laws. The last thing you want to do is agree to open a bar in a place where you can’t feasibly get a license because of limits.

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Deciding What to Sell

What kinds of drinks do you want to sell, and what kinds of food or nibbles will accompany those drinks?

The good news is that a self-serve beer wall can accommodate a wide range of drinks beyond suds, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. This frees up your bartenders to handle high-level, higher-priced craft concoctions like signature cocktails and liquor shots.

Take the time to outline your starter menu. You can always change it later, but having a fleshed-out version will give you a sense of what your patrons will get when they come to your establishment.

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Become A Beer Connoisseur

Becoming an expert on all things beer is essential. This will help you for many reasons. First, learning about the basics of beer will help you educate yourself, so when a customer comes to you with a question, you’ll have all the answers! Second, it’ll help you enhance your customers’ overall experience. If you have the correct glassware, offer local craft brews, and add seasonal beers to your menu, you’re sure to draw a crowd to your self-pour establishment. 

Understanding the Bar and Restaurant Business

Bachelor's

Initial Design Decisions

You may not be an architect, but you probably have a good sense of your target interior design idea after seeing so many other locations. Sketch out some designs and talk with others about the general flow of your bar. Where will people enter? What will they see first? How will they get seated or grab a menu? What’s the atmosphere like?

Redesigned bar and taproom with beer wall.

Waffling between a couple of design concepts? That’s okay. Map out both and compare and contrast. Then, get ready to matriculate to the next stage of opening your bar: Getting to the Master’s level.

Self-Pour Do's and Dont's

To help put your business in the best possible position to be as successful as possible, we have compiled a quick guide containing the most important Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when opening your own self-pour business, based on experiences with our 400+ customers. Simply fill out the form below to download it!

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Master's

Guess what? Your Undergraduate years at “How to Open a Bar University” flew by, and now you are ready to quantum leap up to the Master’s level. This is where the rubber meets the road because you have your location, your financing has been secured, and your business plan looks pretty solid. Now you have to begin putting all the must-dos in place, starting with licensing and permitting.

As much as you may want to skip this step and move right to your Grand Opening, you must get your legal house in order. This means understanding state and local licensing and permitting regulations.

Without an up-to-date license or permit, you’re going to end up stalling. And you’ll probably incur some hefty fines, too. Do yourself a favor and go through the proper processes. Just be patient. Getting permits and licenses can take more time than you expect.

GETTING A LIQUOR LICENSE

Every state has its liquor license regulations, which can be frustrating if you’re new to the bar industry. However, we’ve taken the time to outline liquor license requirements in many states.

Just remember that some states and communities limit the number of liquor licenses sold per region. This could mean you’ll have to switch your bar location if you’re unable to obtain a liquor license where you want. In other states, you’ll be required to go through several steps to advertise your intention to apply for a liquor license and may even have to undergo a public hearing. Hiring a legal professional who works in this area may be helpful if you’re having trouble navigating your state’s licensing laws.

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Master's

Permits for Bars or Restaurants

In addition to getting a liquor license, you’ll also need to obtain permits to sell food and beverages for public and perhaps private functions and permits that cover other aspects of your business.

Some of the many types of permits you can expect to need to include are resale permits, a food handler’s permit, signage permits, and other licenses. Hopefully, you added these restaurant licensing costs to your business plan when you were an Undergraduate. If you didn’t, go back and update your plan to avoid sticker shock.

Be sure to understand how often you’ll need to renew your permits and licenses and use software like project management portals to remind yourself when the time comes to resubmit documentation or write checks.

Get Your Permits & Licenses Checklist Below!

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Master's

Initial Branding & Marketing Decisions

By this point, you’ve likely already chosen your bar or restaurant name. But do you have a sense of how you want to brand the location?

If you’re not familiar with marketing, branding is a way of setting the tone and personality for your business. For instance, some bars feature specific kinds of athletic or sports branding, often supporting local or regional teams.

In addition to figuring out what kind of “face” you want to show the public, you’ll need to consider your marketing elements. You’ll need a website and a presence on Facebook as a business.

But how else are people going to find you? While word of mouth can be inexpensive, it’s hard to measure, track and control. Consequently, you’ll want to establish a marketing plan that gets your bar’s name out there before you open and well after.

Does marketing seem like an overwhelming add-on? If you’ve already secured your capital, consider bringing on an outsourced marketer to help with the process. Ideally, try to pick a marketer who has worked in the industry before. You’ll save money in the long run by setting up a digital and print marketing strategy early.

PourMyBeer on Instagram
Duke's in NYC utilizes PourMyBeer

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Master's

Understanding the Draft System

Now that you’ve obtained the proper permits and licenses and begun branding, it’s time to learn how the draft system works! We’re here to tell you exactly how a project goes from a plan to a completed self-pour setup. So to walk you through the process, check out this Draft System Installation Checklist. You’ll learn everything from choosing the right dispensing system and how to properly clean the lines to other key factors that go into a draft system.

You’ll be on your way to installing your self-pour wall in no time after completing this checklist! 

Webinar | How to Keep Your Draft System Healthy

We hosted a webinar with our friends at Micro Matic and spoke with David Green, a Draft Dispense Trainer. In this webinar, he covers draft system essentials, maintenance and cleaning, and troubleshooting common issues. He provides tips and tricks and answers questions about keeping your draft system running smoothly. Fill out the form below to view the webinar!

Design, Permitting, and Installation

Master's

Getting Your Self-Pour Wall Installed

We’re admittedly biased, but we’re pretty sure you’re going to be interested in self-pouring technology. Getting your self-serve beer wall up and running is a streamlined process. The team at PourMyBeer likes to make the experience positive and satisfying.

When you work with us to establish your self-pour wall, you’ll get the advantage of our years of expertise. You’ll also be able to pick and choose which initial beverages you want to offer and start to see how to design your menu to include the self-pour concept.

Now, you’re just about ready to open. And that means moving on to get your Ph.D. in opening a bar.

Pizza Artista PourMyBeer Self-Pour Wall
PourMyBeer Wall in Goolsby's

Download Our Pre-Installation Checklist

This checklist will help you complete all the necessary prep work that must be done before the PourMyBeer team arrives on-site to install your self-pour beverage wall. Once you complete all of the items on this checklist, PourMyBeer can begin the installation process. Fill out the form below to access the pre-installation checklist and get one step closer to having your self-pour beverage wall up and running!

Whoa! This has been a big and information-packed section with a lot to take in. Now it’s time to sit back and relax because things are only going to get easier and more rewarding from here. Just wait when you see those first customers coming in with those huge self-pour smiles on, taking pictures of your impressive self-pour set up! 

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

You’ve earned your Undergraduate, breezed through your Master’s, and have landed in Ph.D. territory. You’re so close to being an expert. All you need now is to put the finishing touches on your bar or restaurant business and then let happy patrons flood through your doors.

Successfully operating a bar or restaurant means more than just taking a wait-and-see approach. You have to plan for the restaurant to do well, and that means making and hitting specific goals. If you’ve never run this type of fast-paced entity before, you might be overwhelmed at first. However, setting goals isn’t as hard as it sounds.

User Guide

Since not every staff member will be present at the training after your PourMyBeer installation takes place, it is handy to download our user guide and distribute it amongst your crew to make sure everyone knows how to play with your self-pour machine!

Fireside Chat Center

PourMyBeer has been hosting Fireside Chats with industry professionals and self-pour operators. During these chats, we asked the operators various questions about how they’ve found success, simplified their operations, and created a buzz around their establishment. We spoke to operators from different venue types to provide the most informative and insightful content for you. In each of these chats, you’ll learn something different. The advice given by each of these operators will help you simplify your operations and make them more successful.

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

Establishing Goals and KPIs

Goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are your friends when owning a business like a bar or a taproom. Plan to gather data starting from the day you open, such as how many people you served, average spending per person, which items the patrons purchased, and more. Collect as many data points as you can, and use a high-quality bar or restaurant software to help you capture data points.

Soon, you’ll start to see patterns, such as when waves of people tend to come in versus when your bar only has a couple of customers. Use this information to help guide your goals and next steps.

For example, let’s say you see a lull in activity on Fridays between 6 and 8 in the evening. You might set a goal to improve activity by 50%. You could then develop measurable KPIs to support those goals, such as “serve 20 more customers than usual every Friday at 6, and 25 more customers than usual every Friday at 7.” Then, you need to figure out how to make those KPIs come to fruition, such as with special coupons targeted through your Google or Facebook ads.

You should never run out of goals for your business. In fact, you might have more goals than you expect. Just make sure you don’t bite off too much at one time. Having a few major goals in the pipeline is more than enough, particularly if you’re just starting.

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

Hiring and Training Restaurant Staff

You can’t be at your bar or restaurant 24/7. Make sure you have well-trained staff and managers who understand how to keep operations — and drinks! — flowing.

Investing in training is one of the smartest things you can do for your business. Educated staffers will feel empowered to make smart decisions and know how to treat your customers right. Make sure your training encompasses everything from problem-solving to what your staff should wear to work.

To stay in compliance with state and federal employment and training regulations, be sure to check with a human resources specialist. You don’t want to unknowingly violate any laws when it comes to hiring or letting people go.

Opening Duties Checklist

To prepare for a busy night, your bar or restaurant must be cleaned, stocked, and ready to go. We created this checklist with the opening duties your employees should follow before opening your establishment’s doors. Download this checklist, train your employees on the procedures, and have it handy for all staff, so you can be confident that the night will go smoothly. 

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

Maintenance of Your Beverage Wall

Now that your beverage wall is installed and customers are enjoying the benefits of self-pour, it’s important to make sure you are properly maintaining it, and we want to help you maintain your wall. With PourMyBeer technology, you get a 3-year replacement warranty because we want to give you the best support possible. 

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

Marketing Your Bar Successfully

As a capstone to your PourMyBeer Ph.D. education, ensure you’re staying up-to-date when marketing your bar. Thoughtful and consistent marketing helps increase restaurant profits, build a loyal customer base and establish strong branding.

Over time, be sure to investigate the marketing ideas for bars and restaurants used by your competitors and other establishments around the globe. You can learn a lot by checking out bar-related news now and then. Be sure to visit other establishments’ websites for marketing and on-site event inspiration.

Opening, Operations, and Building a Community

Ph.D.

Untappd

In 2018, PourMyBeer integrated with Untappd because our team strongly believed that our self-tap technology and screens, combined with Untappd’s powerful product database, would yield a service model guaranteed to make your beverage sales skyrocket. With the success we’ve seen with dozens of our customers already, we know that PourMyBeer’s Untappd integration is a powerful tool for boosting any establishment’s beverage sales. With this being said, even if your bar or restaurant does not include self-pour, Untappd can still be a very powerful tool for increasing your foot traffic, thus boosting your beverage sales.

Learn From Other Self-Pour Operators

We asked our customers, which we like to call PourMyBeer family members, to give us feedback on different areas of their operations to help you apply it to your own! After asking 18 questions based on Physical Location, Food Sales, and Branding, we received responses from self-pour operators with varying business models. Download the results of the survey below! 

Feeling Ready?

So how hard is it to open a bar? At this point, you should be feeling confident in your abilities and that you know how to open a bar. All you need now is a dream — and maybe a little more information about self-serve beer wall technology. Contact us today for a free quote, even if you’re in the earliest planning stages. It’s never too early to start determining which features will set your establishment apart.

beer in a glass