Franchise Spotlight: Bars

The bar industry is a long-standing and proven business model with wide-ranging support offered by franchises.

Buying a franchise is a compelling route into a sector as fast-paced and demanding as the bar trade itself.

Here is your overview of the UK bar market, what it takes to succeed, the attributes you typically need to secure a bar franchise, and the perks you can enjoy as a bar franchisee.

Sector overview

  • Franchises offer training, ongoing support and a proven formula in an ultra-competitive sector with comparatively high failure rates.
  • Bars and pubs are a £18.1bn industry comprising of more than 30,500 businesses in the UK.
  • The bar industry is a fast-paced, social environment with irregular working hours.
  • Experience in the bar trade – or at least wider hospitality industry – is often a prerequisite.
  • TripAdvisor is a great way to gauge a brand’s popularity.

The UK bar sector has adapted over the years to shifting consumer trends – from the renaissance of the gin and tonic to the rise of the hipster aesthetic!

But arguably the most notable shift is the growing centrality of food; the modern bar is as much a foodie destination as it is a place to mingle and drink cocktails.

This shift helps the trade offset the falling alcohol consumption and the impact of budget supermarket booze.

Is a bar franchise for me?

Do you relish the prospect of working in a fast-paced, social environment where you meet a variety of people?

Are you enthused, rather than daunted, by the challenges of managing a team of bartenders, overseeing the kitchen operation and fulfilling your obligations around licensing, payroll and accounts?

And are you willing to sacrifice evenings and weekends to the venture?

The bar industry comes with many requirements and standards to be a success; however, the franchise model offers a less burdensome alternative.

You trade under a recognised brand name, receive comprehensive training and support in a range of areas and you’re liberated from some tasks entirely – for example like designing your menu, setting prices or finding suppliers, as this will already be set-up as part of the franchise package.

Even with such extensive support, you must still possess a number of attributes to convince the franchisor you have what it takes.

Experience in the trade is often – but not always – a prerequisite. Bar franchises tend to favour candidates who possess the following characteristics:

  • Enthusiasm and drive
  • Strong social and communication skills
  • Decent physical fitness – as it’s a fast-paced environment, with long hours spent on your feet
  • Willingness to work long, unsocial hours
  • Knowledge of your development area
  • Financial means to contribute to significant start-up costs – including the lease, fixtures and fittings, stock and staff

The structure of bar franchises

What kind of bar do you want? Whether you favour a cocktail bar, sports bar, cafe-bar or bar-restaurant, this should be informed as much by the demographics of your local area as your personal preference.

For example, if bricks-and-mortar bars seem dauntingly expensive, then you might instead consider a mobile bar franchise.

Mobile bars are hired for a wide range of corporate and non-corporate events, with the former often a good source of repeat business.

Including birthday and Christmas parties, weddings, festivals and exhibitions, there are enough sources of custom to sustain demand all year round.

Any aspiring franchisee must research a franchise thoroughly before entrusting their money, time and career prospects to the brand. You should be particularly rigorous in an industry as competitive and demanding as the bar sector.

Your due diligence, which should include putting questions to the franchisor, speaking to existing franchisees and visiting existing sites as a customer, should examine the following:

  • Reputation – TripAdvisor being a simple way to gauge perception of the brand
  • Your own observations as a customer: quality, range and pricing of food and drinks; service standards; layout and decor
  • Fees, and the resources and support you get in return – for instance, training, finding premises, fit-out, recruitment plus marketing support and collateral
  • Training provided – such as bar and kitchen management, dealing with suppliers, using and maintaining equipment, using computerised systems (point of sale, accountancy, payroll, etc), licensing and compliance, recruitment and so on
  • Assurances about finding a prime trading location – such as in a city/town centre, suburban high street or pedestrianised shopping area
  • Opening hours

Once you’ve signed the franchise agreement, it generally takes 6-12 months to find a premises, fit them out and open your doors to start trading.

When your first bar is established and thriving, your franchisor might permit you to acquire additional locations to supercharge your income.

Some bar franchises also offer master franchise opportunities – granting you the right to recruit and manage franchisees within a large territory.



Joshua Antoniou

About the author

Joshua Antoniou is now Global Account Executive having started at Dynamis in the Customer Service department. He also writes for BusinessesForSale.com & FranchiseSale.com.