Become a Bar Owner: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to own and manage a bar. Learn about the various job duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career as a bar owner. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a Bar Owner?
  • 0:58 Step 1: Gain Experience
  • 2:02 Step 2: Earn a Degree
  • 2:56 Step 3: Decide the Details
  • 3:33 Step 4: Get an Alcohol License
  • 3:59 Step 5: Hire Staff & Market

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Bar Owner?

Bar owners are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of a bar and meeting long-term goals for the establishment. Owners can work hands-on at the bar or delegate responsibilities to a management staff. Like any other business owners, those who run bars may have to deal with issues between staff members or difficult patrons.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Not mandatory, but investment money is required
Licensure Alcohol license required
Experience Entry-level experience in food and beverage service is common
Key Skills Leadership, managerial, organizational, customer-service, and problem-solving skills
Salary (2016)* $60,297 (median salary for bar and restaurant owners)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Entrepreneur Magazine, *

Now, let's walk through the steps bar owners generally take in this career path.

Step 1: Gain Experience

The best way to understand how a bar works is to spend time in one. Individuals can get an idea about the pace, lifestyle, and mechanics of how the bar works by taking an entry-level position as waitstaff in a restaurant or bartender or bar-back in a bar. Individuals hoping to own and manage a bar can use the opportunity to assess the lifestyle to determine if it is a good fit.

As you gain entry-level experience, be sure to build up your customer service skills. Customer service skills are the type of soft skills that require more practice than training. Aspiring bar owners can learn to effectively serve customers' needs and find the best processes to make customers happy by practicing those skills as a lower-level employee.

Success Tip:

  • Learn how to lead. Even owners who hire management will have to step in to inspire staff or delegate responsibility. Individuals can build leadership skills by showing appreciation of team members, setting a positive example, and motivating others.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Bar owners can improve their chances of success by receiving training in the fundamentals of running a business establishment. With an associate's degree program in hospitality management, students explore fundamentals in managing the accounting, marketing, and human resources of a food establishment. Some individuals earn bachelor's degrees in hospitality, which explore the same topics and also include general education courses and, often, a hospitality internship. Another option is the bachelor's degree in business administration, which focuses on business principles in human resources, marketing, and accounting.

During your studies you may want to write a business plan, which can help bar owners forecast the budgets, staffing, and inventory necessary to operate at a profit. Aspiring business owners should take courses in marketing, finance, and management to aid in business planning.

Step 3: Decide the Details

Deciding upon a location and style of bar will determine the direction of the bar. These factors will impact the clientele that will frequent the establishment. After settling on a location, determine if buying or leasing a property is the better decision. Other factors, such as history of the location, accessibility, and parking, should be considered before acquiring the property. Lastly, determine the name of the establishment. The name of a bar gives potential customers an idea of what to expect before they walk in the door, so be sure it upholds the concept of the bar.

Step 4: Get an Alcohol License

Liquor license laws can vary from one municipality to another. In addition, a bar may need one or more types of licenses depending on the type of alcohol it will sell. Bar owners will have to know the regulations to obtain and maintain their liquor license, and they should contact their local alcoholic beverage control board to find out what they have to do to get a liquor license.

Step 5: Hire Staff & Start Marketing

A bar staff ensures that the standards of the bar are upheld and carried forward, so staff should be chosen after careful consideration. Management positions should be hired first, then the wait and kitchen staff. The final step left is to begin marketing. While word of mouth is generally the best means of advertising, other marketing options, such as promotional events, social media, and traditional print, should not be overlooked.

A career as a bar owner requires experience in the industry, investment money to open the bar, and a liquor license. Many bar owners gain industry and business training in an associate's or bachelor's degree program.

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