There’s a real allure to running a successful restaurant or bar. Because gastropubs are so popular in Canada, you may be attracted to the idea of opening one or of turning your current bar or restaurant into a gastropub. Once you go gastro, you’ve made a commitment to serving interesting food, clever cocktails, and high-end liquor in a welcoming environment, which is a bit more complicated than just drawing another round of beers at the tap and making sure the TV over the bar is turned on. These tips on running a successful gastropub can help you head in the right direction.
Cultivate Your Customer Base
Diners and drinkers can develop a real emotional attachment to their favorite spots, and you can make that work in your favor. Develop an email list of your bar’s regular customers so you can send them newsletters keeping them up to date on what’s happening at your pub, whether it’s the introduction of a new cocktail, extended times for happy hour on an upcoming holiday, or a wine-tasting night.
A robust presence on social media can also help your customers feel like you’re the pub where everybody knows their name. Offer special discounts or buy-one-get-one deals to keep customers showing up, and keep up a flow of interesting nuggets of information (e.g., introductions to employees or recipes for your diners’ favorite dishes) to keep your visitors engaged. Restaurants and bars have to pay special attention to Yelp, where honest reviews can make your gastropub the hot new place to be or destroy your reputation almost overnight. Pay attention to Yelp daily, and interact with the reviewers publicly. If you get a bad review, stepping up to acknowledge problems and making things right can go a long way to proving you care.
Attract Talent in Your Bartending and Kitchen Crew
Customers go to gastropubs expecting to enjoy innovative food as well as intriguing craft beers or creative cocktails. Your head chef and head bartender become key hires to provide the offerings that keep up the buzz around your pub.
Understand and Comply With Government Regulations
As a restaurateur, you’re required to have various permits and licenses to operate from the federal, provincial or territorial, and even the municipal government. In addition to managing your gastropub’s taxes, you also have to report tips and gratuities properly and pay attention to regulations regarding food safety. Different provinces and territories also have special requirements regarding environmental public health and eating establishment standards.
Focus on the Right Attitude
If you go into the food-service biz with a primary goal of making money, your gastropub may not stay open long enough to gather the loyal customers that every restaurant or bar needs. Great restaurateurs focus on the experience of the customers, always with a focus of making their lives more enjoyable and adding something to their day. Treat your clientele as a community, and express your genuine care for them every chance you get.
Create Loyalty Programs for Customers
A loyalty program doesn’t have involve punching a hole in a bedraggled cardboard card once a customer has visited a certain number of times. Consider offering special dinners to your most loyal customers, so they get the first chance to enjoy the new treats your chef is trying out. Give your loyal customers priority reservations, or hold one-off events such as wine or craft beer tastings. Each of these perks helps customers know you appreciate them, which in turn makes them want to visit you more often — and as a bonus, you can gather some valuable data on your customer base as well.
By treating your customers as your extended community, you can create a sense of good will and loyalty to your gastropub that brings people back again and again.