Friday, 8 August 2014

8 Top Tips for Running A Successful Drinks Business

Photo: Daniel Krieg (CCL)
Please don’t think I profess to being the best manager or business owner out there; there’s lots of things I could do better, but after 4 years in the game, a lot of lessons learnt and a few awards under my belt (note from the editor - he's far too modest, he won Britain's Best Pub Landlord this year), it’s fair to say I might know a thing or two, and if I can offer up some advice and pass on a few things I’ve learnt then it’d be humbling to know I may have helped.

Running an on-trade drinks business is not the lifestyle many think. You’ll be working 80 hours a week, weekends and evenings included. Friends will take a backseat, and no matter how many times you make the effort to get cover to see them, something will always come up. That said, it's the most rewarding job to see people enjoy themselves and your products and hospitality, and there's also the satisfaction of supporting jobs and helping people to afford mortgages, holidays, cars etc.

Here's my recipe for success. Add your own recommendations in the comments below!

1. Scrutinise everything you do...

I review everything we do constantly, at least every couple of months, to see how we can improve, be efficient and improve the customer experience.

2. Know your customers inside out and see your business through their eyes.

They are your money-maker, and nothing is more important than them. If they have recommendations or criticism then treat it constructively, not defensively.

3. Know your strengths, but more importantly, know your weaknesses.

I am terrible at back-office administration, and I know my place is on the floor with my staff, so I employ an Operations Manager to deal with the day-to-day accounting, bookkeeping etc that I can then oversee. Granted this may be a luxury in the early stages, but it’s imperative you balance the books and know where you are making money and where there is room for improvement.

4. Track as much information as possible.

POS till systems these days are excellent. They’ll tell you when your busiest times/days are, which staff are making you the most money, show you trends, keep track of stock and can even do the ordering for you. Also track customer information via Social Media, or in the form of Comment Cards - these will help you gauge what people think of you.

5. Know the experience you want your customer to have...

...and then tailor your products and service around that.

Do not cop-out on your product list; stock things you can advocate and feel passionate about. Customers have so much choice that you need to offer them a reason to choose you over your competition. Offer a point of difference.

6. Work in your business.

You CANNOT run an on-trade business from the wrong side of the bar. Your staff and customers WILL NOT respect you. I have seen and heard of far too many people who fancy ‘running a bar, pub, wine bar etc...' as a side venture and their businesses have fallen by the wayside because all they are interested in is inviting their friends down and drinking all the profits. This makes me incredibly angry, especially where jobs or the survival of an outlet are at stake.

7. Staff are your BIGGEST ASSET and your greatest liability.

Work harder than your employees and they will respect you. This will inspire and motivate them to get the best out of them. Treat them, thank them, and develop them to gain loyalty and efficiency for your business.

8. Use Social Media.

Social Media is easy and it is essentially a free marketing tool. Don't underestimate its power or reach, nor should you just use one; you'll need all of them - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest etc etc. Just know which ones work best for you.

It's a tough job, and will take up time - but there are tools to help. Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are great for scheduling posts when you are busy.

I could go on for hours, but I think I’ve got the most important points across. Most of all, enjoy yourself and be driven. Your passion and hard work will pay off and your customers will know when a place is well-run, and when the staff are happy.

If you have anything to add, or disagree with what I say, then comment below - I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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