I am fortunate to work with many bar owners in the course of my work and to listen to their ideas, share their enthusiasm and watch as many of them go on to succeed with very profitable businesses.

Of course there are exceptions to this. There are certainly a large percentage of failures on the bar world and I recently came across two such bars, struggling to stay afloat. Each owner was very different in terms of their management style, the bars were distinctly different yet both catered to an older clientele due to their locations in more affluent neighborhood. They also shared the same problem: Both bars were owned by guys in their late 20s/early 30s, who were trying their hardest to fill their bar with 40 yr old + neighbors at each location.

It quickly became obvious what the problem was. The owners were not their own customers and as is the case in many businesses, YOU are not YOUR own customer. How a twentysomething runs a business will not instinctively be in a way that appeals to potential customers twice his age.

Him playing hip hop loudly at 9pm on a Tuesday night may not be what his target market want to hear, but this understanding often comes only after a failure.

Him populating the menu with HIS favorite dishes instead of his customers is him not being his own customer.

Him offering a Shots menu instead of a Martini menu is him not being his own customer.

Take some steps today to be your own customer.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What newspapers do my potential customers read?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What are the food & beverage trends in my demographic right now?
  • Are you asking your customers if they enjoy their experience?
  • Do you receive regular feedback from customers other than friends or family?
  • What’s important to them on a night out?
  • If they don’t visit my bar, where DO they spend their time?

If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, you’re more at risk of failure than those that do. While these are steps that should be taken long before you open the doors, as long as you’re still in business, you can “retro-fit” the experience you offer.