The best of our 2016 series of exclusive pub management articles from Donal Ballance, including helpful tips and expert advice on running an Irish pub.


Creating A Destination Pub

The definition of a destination pub is a pub that people will go out of their way to visit. Think about that for a second or two. A pub that people will drive or take public transport out of their community or neighbourhood to visit. A journey that may be inconvenient and that will almost certainly pass by other pubs or restaurants, some of them excellent and all of them competing for that customer’s business. 

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5 Tips For Keeping Informed On Your Industry

Running a pub or restaurant is a busy occupation and it can often be unpredictable. That combination of busyness and unpredictability can easily prevent you and your management team from staying informed about what’s happening in your industry and in related industries. 

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5 Things To Remember When Responding To Negative Online Reviews

Even though the negative review may seem like a personal attack, it’s not. Even if some of the review is unfair or exaggerated, you need to bite your lip and simply apologise and thank them for the feedback. Trying to contradict a reviewer’s opinion will come across as both defensive and disingenuous. 

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Keeping Your Irish Pub Relevant- Part 1

Twenty years ago, at the height of their explosive expansion throughout the world, and especially in Europe and North America, Irish Pubs resonated with consumers on multiple levels, creating a destination venue in their community that had a unique attraction. The special ambiance and charm that permeated from great design, home-cooked food, friendly employees and great music brought a sense of Ireland to those who had never visited the country, but knew of its great pub culture. 

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Keeping Your Irish Pub Relevant- Part 2: Food

With very few exceptions, food is the engine that drives a great Irish Pub business, no matter where it is. Executing and maintaining a good menu is not easy, it requires a huge amount of care and attention to get it right and it requires a significant and ongoing investment in people, skills training and equipment. 

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Keeping Your Irish Pub Relevant- Part 3: Beverages

Craft breweries have proliferated, and great beer is now available everywhere and in a myriad of styles and flavours. Bars that would once have offered just a Budweiser or Heineken on draught now offer wheat beers, caramel stouts, hoppy IPA’s and fruit-infused ales, many of them created and promoted by enthusiastic local brewers. 

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Keeping Your Irish Pub Relevant- Part 4: Employees

Your frontline employees say as much about your Irish Pub as your design, food or beverage. They can be either the glue that binds all these elements together to deliver a memorable experience to your customer…..or they can be the jarring element whose behaviour or attitude overshadows the fine efforts of your kitchen and bar. More than ever, your frontline employees need to be relevant to your customers, active and quietly efficient contributors to the customer experience. 

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5 Tips To Make Inventory Count Easier

It’s Monday morning again and you are facing into two or three hours of beverage inventory count after a busy week. Not a pleasant prospect but here are some tips for making it a bit easier. 

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The 4 Vital Numbers a Pub Owner Needs To Know Every Day

If you choose, you can run your pub based on gut instinct and a hunch for what you hope is the right thing to do. However, we think there’s a better way of running your pub, and it’s based on generating accurate and informative insights from the data you already have at your fingertips. 

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5 Tips For Improving Your Beverage Alcohol Margins

Your most discerning customers are all about quality not quantity. Not every beer has to be served in a 20 oz. or 16 oz. serving. For some of your specialty brews, consider using a smaller glass that will encourage trial and still command a premium price. Not everyone wants to drink an imperial pint of beer with an ABV of 7.8%. 

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10 Ways of Coaching Professional Practices and Managing Unwanted Behaviour

Your Irish Pub employees are the lifeblood of your business, whether they are servers and bartenders who present the ethos of your pub to your customers, or the cooks and chefs whose care of foodservice can make or break you. But sometimes it just can’t be avoided, some of your people will display behaviours from time to time that you simply can’t have in your pub. 

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Pricing Your Menu Profitably & Competitively

If you adopt a cost-plus approach to menu pricing (that is to say applying a standard margin over your cost to set the price), it may not be the most effective way to maximize how much your customer is prepared to pay. Pricing your menu is certainly helped greatly by knowing what your raw costs are, but the success of your menu pricing is mainly influenced by how well you understand your guests, and how well you understand your guests is driven by how closely you observe their purchasing behaviours and patterns. 

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6 Tips For Making A Menu Change Quickly & Effectively

Making a menu change can be a lengthy, complicated and stressful process unless it’s managed correctly. How many of us have planned a menu change to take three weeks and have watched it morph into a six or eight week exercise? However, a few small steps that you take in between menu changes will help you enormously when the time comes for the actual change. 

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Scheduling Kitchen Labour Effectively

Of all the difficult costs to control in your pub, kitchen labour is one of the most challenging. In many respects, your kitchen, and the food that comes out of it, are the engine that drives your business, so you have to be careful about any changes you make that might have a bearing on morale or quality. 

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6 Tips For Minimising Waste In Your Kitchen

Waste or shrinkage is a feature of any kitchen, accounting for anything between 1%-2% of food sales. 

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Creating Effective Promotions For Your Pub

Anybody ever had a wildly-successful Wing Night or similar promotion only to find out after two months that the extra beer sales generated were obliterated by the hit you took for discounting the food? Or maybe you’ve run a deeply-discounted happy hour that packed the place but actually lost you money? 

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5 Tips For Ensuring Your Vendors Are Giving You Best Pricing

The support and integrity of the people and companies that supply your pub are very important to your success. But we must remember that our vendors are generally trying to make as much money as possible from supplying our pub, and that means we have to check periodically to make sure they are being competitive and fair. 

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The Value of an Employee Handbook in your Pub

The pub is a close-knit work environment where we sometimes expect that our policies and procedures should be ‘understood’, based on staff meetings every few months that address everything from dress and appearance through to tipping practices and the use of mobile devices. You say it once to everyone and you expect it to be so…and there’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s working for you. 

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5 Tips For Making Sure You Hire The Right People For Your Pub

If you’ve hired the wrong person for the job, it’s usually a week before you suspect it, another week while you look for a miracle and a third week before you reluctantly pull the plug. In the meantime, your good employees are ticked off and the bad hire has damaged your business in countless ways you will never know, from food prep through to guest interaction. 

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5 Things Pub Operators Need To Do Immediately After St. Patrick’s Day

While everything that happened on St. Patrick’s Day and on the days around it are still fresh in people’s minds, grab paper and pencil, sit down with your team for thirty minutes and take notes on what went well, what went not so well and what you’d want to change for next year. 

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The Challenges Facing Irish Pubs & How To Plan For Them

No matter where you operate your Irish Pub globally, the past few years have seen major changes to your business that have not helped your bottom line. Not long ago, having decent food, nice decor, lively music and a few Irish bartenders was a great formula for pleasing guests and delivering a decent profit margin. Today, we have to work a lot harder and smarter to bring guests through the door, impress them with our product and make some money in the process. 

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10 Signs That Your Pub Can Make You More Money

Nobody Checks The Difference Between The Product That Is Actually Sold And What The POS System Says That You Sold. Pub operators who monitor and investigate product variance (beer, liquor, wine, meat, poultry, fish, dairy etc.) will usually see a difference of around 2%-3%. Those who don’t monitor and investigate will see variance anywhere from 5%-15%. For a pub doing 1.5M, that can represent a loss of around 20K-70K per year. 

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The Pub Operator’s St. Patrick’s Day Checklist

Donal Ballance has prepared this handy Pub Operator’s St. Patrick’s Day Checklist to help your planning process which covers all aspects of organising and preparing your pub for the upcoming festivities. You can print out a copy for your notice board and tick off the list as you go. Headings include marketing, layout and furniture, food/beverage service, employees, merchandise, security and entertainment. 

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