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  • Writer's picturePhillip Bacon

Launching Your First Bar: A Knight's Row Strategic Guide

Updated: Feb 18




Thinking of opening a bar in the UK? It's a big but exciting step that mixes hospitality and business. At Knight's Row, we know the ins and outs of the hospitality world, especially when it comes to money. We're here to help you navigate the financial side of starting your first bar. Our guide aims to provide you with practical tips and industry know-how to kickstart your bar journey with confidence.


Choosing the Right Location

The location of your bar can make or break your business. Consider factors such as foot traffic, the local demographic, and competition in the area. Whether it’s in a bustling city centre or a charming neighbourhood, make sure it aligns with your bar’s concept and ambience.


Identify and Capitalise on Opportunities

Even with challenges, the UK's night-time industry offers great opportunities for those dreaming of owning a bar, especially with the trend towards bars over nightclubs being seen across the UK. By planning strategically and having the right financial support, many bars thrive beyond their early years. To seize these opportunities, you need to do thorough market research, come up with creative ideas, and have a solid business plan that lays out your vision, how you'll operate, and your financial forecasts. Figuring out what makes your bar unique and having a clear idea of why it stands out are crucial to making your place shine in a competitive market.


Building or Buying?

Deciding whether to build a new bar or buy an existing one is a critical decision. Building from scratch offers a fresh start but comes with challenges like finding the right location and dealing with competition. Buying an existing bar can be a great option, offering the advantage of an established customer base and operational systems. Consider working with a team of experts, including a business broker, commercial real estate agent, lawyer, and accountant, to navigate this process effectively.


Selecting the Right Bar

When choosing a bar to buy, consider factors such as location, budget, and the bar's current reputation. It's also imperative to know the bar's financial and personnel records and check for any compliance issues or legal complications with local authorities​​.


Making It Your Own

After purchasing your bar, focus on integrating with the staff and regular customers, who are essential for the bar's success. Consider whether changes to personnel or the business model are necessary for alignment with your vision. Emphasise marketing and customer service to establish your bar as a go-to destination​​.


Strategic Financial Planning

Having a solid business plan is key. It should cover everything from your vision and market analysis to how you'll run things day-to-day, plus most importantly, your financial forecasts. This plan is like your roadmap and is vital for getting investors on board or getting loans.


You might use a standard bank loan, look into government grants, or seek out private investors. But there are other options, like crowdfunding or teaming up with others. Talking to the right lender who knows how to find the best funding options for your business is crucial. They'll make sure you have the cash you need to get your dream off the ground without getting into financial trouble.


Making a detailed budget is a must in this too. It helps you keep track of your startup costs, ongoing expenses, and how much money you expect to make. Think about things like renting or buying your space, licensing, stock, staff wages, marketing, and any unexpected costs. We can help you create a budget matching your business plan, making it easier to manage your money and plan for the future.


When considering the financial aspects of opening a bar in the UK, it's crucial to approach the venture with a comprehensive understanding of the potential costs involved. Your starting budget should be no less than £200,000, though you should anticipate this figure to increase as you establish your business. The costs of rent can vary significantly depending on the location of your bar, with figures ranging from £1,250 to £100,000+ PM​​.


Securing Finance

One of the most critical steps in buying a bar is securing the necessary finance. This is where a commercial finance broker becomes your ally. Specialising in commercial property finance, these professionals can guide you through the various funding options available, from traditional loans to more innovative financing solutions.


Why Use a Broker? A broker's expertise lies in their understanding of the market and their ability to negotiate the best terms on your behalf. They provide access to a wide range of lenders, including those not directly available to the public, ensuring you receive a financing solution tailored to your specific needs.


Preparing for Approval: Ensure you have a robust business plan that outlines your vision, financial forecasts, and how you intend to make your bar a success. Lenders need to see that you have a clear, viable plan for turning a profit.


Navigating Legalities and Licences

Acquiring the right licences is a critical step in the process. You'll need to understand the specific requirements in your region, which may include a liquor licence, business licence, and health and safety permits. Consulting with a legal professional who specialises in hospitality can save you time and protect you from potential legal hurdles down the road.


To legally serve alcohol at your bar, you must obtain a licence, which incurs a fee based on the rateable value of the property. Application fees for this can range from £100 to £1,905. Other licences may also be necessary depending on your bar's offerings, such as music and TV/sports licences, and if you plan to serve food, a Food and Hygiene certificate is essential​​.


Investing in the Right Tools for a Smooth Operation

Efficient systems and procedures are the backbone of a successful bar. Invest in communication software, employee scheduling software, task management tools, order processing, and inventory management systems. These tools not only streamline operations but also enhance employee satisfaction and customer service. For example, adopting a bar employee team management software like 7shifts can significantly improve scheduling, communication, and overall management efficiency​​.


Designing Your Dream Bar

The design and layout of your bar plays a significant role in attracting and retaining customers. Whether you're going for a specific theme or a more traditional look, your bar's design should reflect the atmosphere you want to create. Consider hiring a professional designer who can bring your vision to life while ensuring functionality and compliance with health and safety regulations.


Launching with a Bang

A successful launch can set the tone for your business’s future. Plan a grand opening that will create buzz and attract customers. This could include special promotions, live entertainment, or a soft opening for friends, family, and local businesses. Utilising social media and local press can amplify your reach and draw in a crowd.


Growing Your Bar

Your marketing plan needs to get people talking and bring in your ideal customers. Use online marketing, social media, and getting involved in the community to get your brand out there and build up your customer base.


Your staff represent your bar, so it's important to hire and train them well. Make sure they understand and reflect your bar's values, and provide top-notch service to your customers.


Crafting a Great Customer Experience

The atmosphere and how customers feel can make a big difference to your bar's success. Everything, from how it looks inside to what's on the menu, should match your bar's style and attract the people you want to come in. Getting involved with your local area by hosting events and special offers, and making sure you're doing things sustainably and responsibly, can make people like your bar even more and keep them coming back.


Knight's Row: Your Financial Partner for Bars

Starting a bar in the UK is tricky but can be really rewarding if you plan well, understand money, and know the market. With our help at Knight's Row, we make it easier for new bar owners to handle the money side of things and take advantage of opportunities in the hospitality industry.


At Knight's Row, we're here to make sure you succeed. We offer personalised financial services tailored to bars, covering everything from getting loans to planning your budget. Our knowledge of the hospitality industry means we can give you the best advice and solutions, so you can feel confident about the money side of running your bar.


Starting your own bar is a big deal, but with good planning, smart money management, and support from Knight's Row, it's totally doable. Contact us, and let us help you make your bar owner's dream a thriving reality.

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