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What Are The Things To Do In Opening A Sports Bar?

Suppose you're contemplating opening a bar, then firstly – congratulations! Starting your own hospitality business is an exciting and rewarding (if a little nerve-wracking) process, and there's a lot to consider before you can open your doors. One of the first and most important aspects that cross a new business owners' mind is undoubtedly costs. While it's always recommended to factor in a buffer as there is no one size fits all costing template, it is possible to estimate overall costs and map out finances with a little careful planning. The bar and pub scene in Australia has significantly changed in recent years. While you might find a traditional pub in certain areas, most have adapted to the recent changes in preferences, tastes and the way we drink.

Not only are Australians drinking less, but there's also an expectation from consumers to be able to choose from a variety of menu options - some of which should be free of gluten or dairy, of course - to listen to current music, and be able to choose the type of experience they wish to have (coffee after 9:00 pm, anyone?). For regional establishments, this has made running a traditional business nearly impossible, but it's provided with an interesting business opportunity for others. The same applies to bars, and there's a growing trend of Australian business owners bringing in top chefs and local drinks and menu items to lure in customers, many of whom are perfectly happy to drink at home or a nearby, quiet restaurant. So you're fighting for their time and business, and it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.

If you've worked in the hospitality industry, you know how challenging this type of work can be. If you've run a business of any kind, you're likewise aware of the financial burden, time constraints, and significant personal commitment it demands. But with the right idea and the skills to execute a strategy, opening a bar or pub could be your more fulfilling venture yet.

FAQs About Opening A Sports Bar

Estimates suggest the revenue of the average bar is between $25,000 to $30,000 per month. Of course, your profits will depend on how well you run your bar and manage your operating costs.

The top Most Profitable Bar Foods

  • Bars without a kitchen: Pizza. If your bar doesn't have a kitchen, pizza maybe your best friend.
  • Bars short on table space: Burgers.
  • Bars with an established kitchen: Pasta.
  • Bars open early or late: Breakfast.
  • Bars serving wine drinkers: Tapas.

Essential Things Every Sports Bar Should Have

  • Wide selection of local beer. Let's face it, beer is the most essential thing a sports bar should have as since most customers prefer a cold beer while watching the game.
  • Tasty bar cuisine. A good sports bar is required to have decent food.
  • Large HD screens.
  • Ample location.

Bar Business Fundamentals

Regardless of where your bar is located or what you do, there are a handful of business fundamentals you can use to benchmark yourself against the competition. Knowing where you stack up – and figuring out how to come out ahead – will help you become a successful business within your chosen industry.

Define Your Usp

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One of the most important first steps to becoming a good bar is knowing your unique selling proposition (USP). What makes you different from everyone else? What value can your business offer that others can not? Maybe you have an incredible selection of whisky or gin. Maybe you specialise in craft beers, local wineries, or a unique theme with specialised cocktails. Whatever you hang your hat on to make you different should be the driving selling point for your customers. This isn't the time to be humble or modest – tell them why they should make your bar their new Friday night go-to.

Identify The Ideal Customer

Once you know what makes you unique – the next thing to do is find the people who'll appreciate your bar. Before you can market to them and bring in loyal customers, you need to know who you're trying to target. Defining your ideal customer involves a persona breakdown that includes their age, demographic, interests, location, etc. Take the time to figure out who is equally interested or passionate about your bar. Don't assume everyone will care, and try a 'more is the merrier approach with generic marketing. If you try appealing to everyone, you'll end up appealing to no one.

Determine Your Channels

After creating a bar that fills a market gap and knowing who will value that difference, step three is going out to find those people. Develop a marketing strategy to help you use your advertising budget wisely. Be where your customers are – figure out if that means online, on-premises or offline. Most likely, it's a combination of all three, but the important part is figuring out where to spend your money. If your customers are digital-savvy millennials, focus mainly on social media platforms. If your bar is geared towards retirees and lovers of rock'n'roll, then consider tailoring to radio or printed ads. Make sure your branding and messaging are consistent across all channels, no matter where you decide to be. Customers should recognise your logo, brand name and advertisement no matter where they see you.

Licenses And Certificates

You'll need to obtain several different licenses and certificates from your local council and state government before you can begin trading.

Business License

Business licenses allow bars to operate under the correct legislation and follow proper safety guidelines. You'll need to register your bar with your local council to obtain a business license.

Liquor License

Any venue that sells alcohol will need to obtain a liquor license from the appropriate state or territory government. However, the type of license you'll need will depend on your business operations. Liquor license fees vary depending on your location, state government, council requirements and business intentions. For example, in New South Wales, liquor license base fees range from $102 to $556, whereas in Victoria, fees range from $61.90 to $986.30.

  • Note: Before you can apply for a liquor license, you'll need a National Police Certificate, which will include a criminal record check and cost $42.

Council Certificates

In most cases, you'll need to apply to your local council for the following certificates:

  • Zoning certificate
  • Fire safety certificate
  • Occupation certificate
  • Compliance certificate
  • Certificate prices vary by state and your exact requirements but range from $50 to $500+.

Food Licences

If your bar serves food and drinks, you'll need to apply for a food licence before you can. Licencing requirements vary by state and the size of your venue. Please visit your state government website for more information.

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • New South Wales
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia

Music Licenses

If you plan to play music in your bar, you'll need a music licence to cover copyright issues. Prices range from $210 to $1,700+ depending on the size of your venue and which package you choose.

Marketing

Marketing is an integral part of building a successful business and should be accounted for in your budget. Yet, these costs are often overlooked when calculating the costs of opening a bar. To drive awareness for your new bar, consider investing in the following marketing initiatives:

Website 

With 90% of guests researching a venue online before deciding to visit, having a website for your cafe is essential. User-friendly website builders like WordPress and Wix allow you to build your website from scratch. Both options are free to set up, but you'll need to upgrade to a paid plan to access advanced features. Prices start from $60/ year. Alternatively, you can hire a freelancer to create a website for you. A basic website build will cost between $300 to $1,000, depending on your exact requirements. Check out Airtasker for web developers in your area. You'll also need to purchase a domain name for your website, with prices starting from $10/year. 

Social Media

Creating a presence for your bar on social media is a great way to showcase your offering and reach a new pool of potential customers. It's vital to dedicate time to building a community of followers by regularly posting on social media channels, like Instagram and Facebook. Posting images and videos of your venue alongside offers and upcoming events generates free exposure for your business. In addition, social media advertising is a great way to boost awareness in your local area. Before opening your doors, consider investing in social media adverts to promote your bar and drum up excitement. While there's no limit to how much (or little) you spend on social ads, we'd recommend budgeting $100 to $200 per month as a starting point.

Startup Costs

Startup costs refer to any one-time expenses, such as purchasing furniture and bar equipment, that you'll incur before starting trading. Startup costs can differ dramatically depending on several factors like the size of your venue and the amount of equipment you need. However, most new bar owners will need to invest in the following categories before they can welcome customers through their doors:

Choose A Location

When choosing a location for your bar, you should consider a handful of key factors. Here are a few guiding questions to help you find the right spot:

  • What competition is in the area? You need to find the sweet spot between too much competition and not enough (if no one else is around… there's a chance that means the area doesn't have enough interest).
  • Is the building in a spot where there will be high foot traffic? Will people be organically close to your bar, making it easy for them to spontaneously pop in, or do they have to go out of their way to find you?
  • Can you afford the rent? Ask nearby stores and consult other property agents to get a feel for the market rate. Look into the turnover as well. Are other bars well established, and it'll be hard to build up a customer base? Or, on the flip side, do most bars struggle and only last a year or two before folding?
  • Is your building close to your customers? Make it easy for them to get to you. If you want people to come in after work for drinks with colleagues, be close to their offices. Avoid surrounding yourself with buildings that attract different demographics – like primary schools.
  • Pick a venue that encourages the vibe and atmosphere you're looking to create. Consider the architecture, age and feel of the space. Beer gardens, sports pubs and 50's themed bars need different design layouts.
  • Make sure you have all the right utilities, such as bathrooms. Will they be in-house or, if you're situated inside a building complex (e.g. hotel), are there ones nearby? Can you ensure they'll be clean and well-maintained?

Commercial Space 

Before starting venue hunting, outline the type of bar you want to open and its concept in your business plan. This will help shape your decisions when researching suitable premises – a speciality cocktail bar will need a very different space to that of a sports bar. Once you've confirmed the type of venue you're looking for, the next thing to consider is if you want to lease or buy your commercial space.

Leasing

Leasing a property is the most significant expense for a new bar, and the rent price will depend on your venue's location. If leasing a commercial space is the best option for your bar, you will need to budget the following: 1 to 3 months rent for a refundable deposit. Commercial leases are often long term, usually a minimum 5-year lease. To secure the space, an upfront deposit is often required. Six months rent to cover yourself financially while your bar becomes established.

Buying

While purchasing a commercial space requires a significant amount of upfront capital, it also has advantages, particularly if you buy an existing bar or foodservice business. In most cases, your venue will already be set up for commercial purposes with a bar, kitchen, toilets and running water. If this is the case, the costly aspects of setting up a bar have already been accounted for, saving you time and money in the long run. However, if you want to buy a commercial space for your bar, you must pay a minimum 20% deposit, plus ongoing monthly mortgage repayments. So if a venue is on the market for $500,000, for example, at least $100,000 needs to be set aside to purchase the property. 

Renovations And Decor

The amount of money you'll need to renovate and decorate your venue will vary depending on the property's condition and if it's been converted for commercial purposes. For example, your commercial space might need a complete overhaul, like structural renovations, installing a bar, toilets and interior design work. If this is the case, the average cost of refurbishing a small to a medium-sized bar in Australia ranges from $80,000 to $170,000. For larger bars, this can cost upwards of $250,000. The best way to avoid spiralling renovation costs is to find a property that's already converted for commercial purposes.

If you've leased/purchased an existing bar, it's unlikely to need major structural or interior changes, but you'll still need to make some alterations to bring your concept to life. In most cases, a lick of paint, new flooring and furniture is enough to create the aesthetic you're looking for. For a cosmetic upgrade, you should budget $5,000 to $10,000.

Equipment

Aside from leasing or buying your commercial space, purchasing equipment for your new bar will be one of the highest costs you'll incur. Equipment costs can vary enormously. New equipment can be extremely costly, but everything should work like clockwork, and you'll have a warranty if anything goes wrong. If your budget won't cover the cost of new equipment, purchasing second-hand or renting is a more cost-effective solution. You'll need several pieces of equipment to create and serve drinks, store inventory, wash glasses and keep your venue clean. As a starting point, consider the following:

  • Cocktail and beverage equipment, e.g. cocktail shakers, spirit measures, blenders.
  • Kitchen equipment, e.g. ovens, fridges, toasters, microwaves.
  • Workspaces, e.g. preparation tables, countertops.
  • Service equipment, e.g. trays, glassware, crockery, utensils.
  • Storage, e.g. shelving, bar fridges, containers.
  • Inventory, e.g. wine, spirits, beer, fruit juice, garnishes.

As a rough guide, here are some common pieces of commercial bar equipment and their price ranges:

  • Spirit dispensers – $20 to $50
  • Blender – $400 to $2,000
  • Fridge – $1,000 to $8,000
  • Dishwasher – $2,500 to $9,000

Bar Technology

To streamline day-to-day operations, process payments and create efficient workflows, new bars will need to invest in a point of sale (POS) system, and several options are available. Legacy POS systems, for example, operate and store data (such as payments) on local servers and often require a significant upfront investment to set up. On the other hand, cloud POS platforms store data on the cloud, resulting in greater flexibility (you can access your data from anywhere) and significantly smaller startup costs.

As well as a POS system, bars will also need a mix of technology and software to automate processes, market their business, manage employees and collect data to optimise and grow.

Hardware

  • iPads for your POS system – current models start from $499
  • Receipt printer – prices start from $250
  • Kitchen printer – prices start from $300
  • Cash drawer – from $75 to $200
  • Payment terminal – prices vary depending on your chosen provider

Software

  • Bar POS system – from $60/month
  • Loyalty programmes and marketing software – there are several free plans in the market as a starting point 
  • Employee management – from as little as $3 per user, per month
  • Table ordering apps – from $50/month

As an estimate, you should budget at least $1,500 for new hardware and a minimum of $120 per month for software subscriptions.

Staffing And Hiring

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Finding the right staff can be hard in any industry, but it can be particularly challenging if you're running a bar or pub. As you start this process, you need to consider the kind of hours your establishment requires and whether full-time, part-time, casual, contract work or some combination of the four suits your business. Things to look for when hiring staff include:

  • Motivation and the ability to take initiative
  • A positive attitude 
  • Flexibility and availability 
  • Hospitality experience, to the level that suits your business
  • Customer service experience, or a passion for working with people
  • Professionalism and an understanding of your business type, and the kind of behaviour that's expected 

In addition to this, you'll need to establish the position requirements for your establishment, like bar staff, waiters and waitresses, chefs, cleaners, front of house staff, security and management. Your employees will also need specific qualifications and training to work with alcohol and gaming machines, so ensure they have what's required before starting, or consider investing in this on their behalf if they fulfil other essential criteria.

Managing Staff

Working in the service industry means managing many elements of a business, including staff. To make this process easier, consider implementing:

  • Direct and team communication, e.g. through programs like Slack
  • Project management: this could be for managing upcoming events, entertainment etc. e.g. Trello 
  • Customer relationship management: this could include managing and storing leads and communicating with customers 
  • Email communication: like Gmail, Outlook etc. 

There's no right or wrong way to do this, but using online systems is an easy, secure and reliable way to communicate with everyone who touches your business and gives you a record of progress made. 

Pro Tip: run reports on your progress in all elements of your business, like social media following, an email database, revenue etc. This will give you a sense of how well you're doing and alert you to any areas that need special attention.

Regulations

Running a business that serves food and alcohol, may house gaming machines, and hosts entertainment comes with many regulations to follow. The exact licences you need will depend on your business, as different states in Australia have different requirements. What you need to apply for also depends on the type of business you're running, how and where you're serving alcohol and council and state regulations. To start, you'll need to be aware of your exact business details and have registered them with the Australian government.

Conclusion:

It's an exciting world to be entering as a business owner, entrepreneur and trendsetter. It'll allow you to create a fun, entertaining and high-quality space for people to unwind, get energised or have a great time.

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