5 Tips on Opening a Bar or Restaurant
Small Business Spotlight on Phil Morgan, restaurant veteran and owner of Brooklyn’s Hecho and Building on Bond
This advice was given to us by Building on Bond’s owner, Phil Morgan. You can read the rest of the interview here to learn about his industry roots and projects over the years.
The bar and restaurant industry may be one of the oldest, but it’s not easy. Tough competition and tight margins were just two of the things Phil Morgan has learned to navigate over the years as he opened establishments in Paris, NYC, and Brooklyn. He shared with us 5 tips on opening a bar or restaurant for new owners as they venture into a market where something new is always happening.
#1. Be diligent with inventory from day one.
When I started out in Paris, my partners were managing a bar where the employees would throw back bottles of Jameson and calling it “spillage.” Tracking inventory closely grows your margins. At Building on Bond I know to the tenth of an ounce what our alcohol inventory is. This helps us forecast correctly and know where we can make improvements.
#2. Know the importance of community.
Opening a restaurant isn’t just about supplying great food or cocktails. You can be a place that offers a service to the community. For us, we let nearby AirBnB guests pick up their keys. We have an Instagram feed for the dogs that come to the bar. One of our regulars, an Australian guy, made some art that we’re using for our napkins. It’s that kind of thing that keeps a place tied in with the locals and helps it last even as new spots are popping up every week.
#3. Help people who are starting out.
You can make a big difference by consulting for people who are trying to make it in the industry or open something they’ve never tried before. There are a lot of other businesses I’ve helped by looking at their model, their financials, and asking them the right questions. You can do it for free if you want. It comes back around in the end because you’ll watch them grow and some will do really well. It feels good to have helped in that, and you never know when you might need their help down the road.
#4. Don’t try to fit your customer into a box.
You should always be sensitive to the way you interact with different types customers. You can be something different to each of them. For example, we have regulars that come into our bar and it’s their Cheers. They want to talk to everyone and our bartenders will chat with them for hours. And then there are people just want to sit and work on their computer or play on their phones and not be engaged at all. We are sensitive to both—our split is about 80/20 people who want to be engaged, but it will be different for every establishment.
#5. Understand how technology and media affect our business.
I’ve been in this business for decades, and it’s been really important to think about how technology affects your success. Even though our culture’s obsession with technology and Facebook and the news can seem like it keeps people from interacting, you never know when it will bring people closer. We embrace social media culture and know how much Yelp matters for people coming to us for the first time. We hold events that we broadcast on social media so people can share. We’re also a place where you can come and watch political debates. We’re super blue here and people with a love for the democratic process can come and be part of a community. So when the elections came around last year and it was a rough time for a lot of people, they came to us to talk, eat comfort food, and just be around other people who get it.
It’s never easy branching into new territory on your own, especially in areas where people have endless options for food, drinks, and entertainment each night. If you’re starting a restaurant or bar and want advice from others like Phil, you can use Townsquared to connect with the owners and managers of local establishments in your area.