With no strict qualifications needed to enter the wine trade Davis explains that running a wine bar isn’t rocket science. “Running any business is about the individual and whether they want it enough. Running a wine bar is similar to many businesses that are in the public domain – being an excellent communicator is key.”
Communication is a skill you simply cannot learn. So before jumping the gun, this is where your first taste of working with the public and serving them wine, beers and spirits should begin, according to Davis: “Gaining the right experience before spending large sums of money is crucial. If you don’t have the academic skills that relate to purchasing, administration and book keeping it doesn’t mater – these areas can be farmed out to other people such as solicitors, lawyers and accountants.”
If you don’t have the experience, now is the time to go and get some. A period spent working in a wine bar will help to focus your own plans for the business, as well as giving you an idea of what music people like to listen to. You’ll also find out what wines and drinks people prefer and – more importantly – get an insight into the type of clientele you will be dealing with. Davis points out that knowing your market is vital: “You will need a knowledge of what’s happening on the street and what people in that area want, as well as learning how the younger set like to relax in a wine bar.”
Another thing to consider: many wine bars now operate a catering element, where a high-quality food operation is added to high-quality drinks. To utilise this additional source of revenue you will need to either have some catering experience yourself or hire outside help, which, with a high turnover in catering positions, may be a costly alternative – so think hard about catering.
Where to start
Your starting point in a business should always be 'do I really want to do it?' If you do and are driven by the idea, then gaining some kind of experience should be the starting point. Stephen Gould, director of recruitment and training at the Punch Pub company, one of the largest independent operators of leased and tenanted pubs in the country, says that buying a premises and starting from scratch may be putting a lot of risk in too early. He says: “A good way to gain experience is to become a manager of a wine bar in a leased or tenanted operation. You can then input your own ideas and judge the market before taking the plunge.”
Once that experience is in place you will have to balance the business side of things, which means preparing a business plan. This will involve setting out how much money you need to fund your project, where you intend to locate, and what you plan to do that is different from the other licensed premises in your area.