Saturday, 13 July 2013

Breaking into bar and nightclub business

Kampala revellers enjoy themselves at one of the city night spots.
Kampala revellers enjoy themselves at one of the city night spots. Ahabwe says running a night club is one of the hardest businesses because they are not only expensive to maintain, but also complex when it comes to running them. He points out dishonesty as one of the top challenges

My name is Innocent Ahabwe, the proprietor of Amnesia, a night club in Kampala. Right from my days at the university, I always had an interest in business. I began working in my Senior Five as a journalist at the New Vision.
At the time, I had older brothers and I would sometimes go to them for upkeep.
After some time though, I suggested that instead of always giving me money, they let me work and earn my own money. So that is how I began practicing journalism, working until 2009.
Much as I was employed, deep down, I felt I had to do something of my own.
The problem with being employed is that your abilities are limited by your employer.
But employment on the other hand was a way of earning capital to kick start my business and gain exposure to potential clients.
The birth of Virgin Island
When I decided to venture into business, I chose the bar business, mainly because I am an outgoing person and many times, most of the nightclubs I visited in Kampala were lacking. They were not the kind of places you could go to and have fun.
Most of these places had the VIP treatment policy, especially during the era of Bad Black.
You would walk into many of these places and fail to find where to sit or receive adequate treatment because certain individuals, especially celebrities, were regarded VIPs and thus seats were reserved for them.
I then decided to start my own hangout place to erode this monotonous.
I started with Virgin Island together with a few friends and the initial plan was to create a place where people could sit, relax and have fun.
However, after some time, I realized that many of these people would come to the bar and drink, and then later, they would move to other night clubs.
That is how amnesia was started. Both places are running now and I can say business is good.
Running a night club is one of the hardest businesses. They are not only expensive, especially in maintenance, but also very complex when it comes to running them.
You need a lot of personnel with different skills - from waiters to financial controllers, especially since people are paying for the drinks with cash, so there needs to be someone to handle all this.
Like all other businesses, the night club business also suffers when the economic recess sets in.
I opened up Amnesia during that time when the dollar rates were unstable, and it kept rising with each passing day. We pay our rent in dollars and so at the end of the day, we are greatly affected.
There is also lack of honest and on time deliveries by some of the service providers and at the end of the day, you end up losing a lot of money.
After opening the club, realising profits may take you a year or two, depending on the size of the bar.
Meeting goals
Many times when you set out for this business, you have goals and targets, but because of forces beyond your control, it may be hard for you to meet many goals. That is why you see many of the bars operate for a short time and shut down.
Many of these places do not come up with unique and new ideas for their customers. They tend to copy and operate like the already existing ones, and at the end of the day, you are not giving your customers anything new.
That is why I have made sure that the service and manner in which my bar is operated is different from the rest.
While many bars have a specific closing time, at Amnesia, one can get in at any time, even five in the morning. We also operate every day of the week.
The other aspect that I have put in place is the no-VIP treatment.
Here, everyone feels appreciated and is the boss, whether you are a celebrity or not. We do not make special reservations. The VIP section is open to everyone as long as they can afford to pay for it.
I do not have an estimated number of employees because many of them are not fully employed. They work on per hour basis, especially for the waiters and waitresses. But I employ many people from bouncers, financial controllers and cleaners.
The biggest challenge is the dishonesty among the labourforce.
In this bar business, you employ many people and everyone is looking out to get something for themselves. The cleaners are stealing toilet paper; the bouncers are making people pay on a day they are supposed to be getting in for free and many other small things.
If you do not pay close attention, you can end up losing a lot. You can find yourself having more debts than profits. The bills, especially the electricity and water bills are also high, since we are running full time.
The other challenge affecting many bar businesses is the recent police drink driving crack downs. This, at the end of the day, keeps people away.
Business tip
One thing I would advise young people, especially those who are just leaving the university is not to rely on degree to get employed.
For instance, for anyone who may want to engage in the bar business is that you need to be present at all times in this kind of business, or else you will end up failing. You need to personally monitor the operations at the bar if you are to succeed.
Taking step
The one thing I would say drove me into the bar business was the zeal to change the night club life in Kampala, and I have pretty much changed that.
I am one person that goes out a lot, and the one thing I noticed was that most of the night clubs I used to visit had a rather irritating VIP policy. I hated walking into these bars and feel less of a human being, especially with the VIP treatment that was being offered to some individuals. You would even fail to find where to sit as many of the seats would be booked for these VIPs.
All the staff, right from the bouncers to the waiters, would be waiting on these people, and at the end of the day, you would end up receiving no attention. That is why I ensured that at Amnesia, there was no special treatment.
Social networking and advertising through traditional methods and marketing campaigns may bring many new customers to your bar, but the atmosphere in your bar and how your customers feel in your establishment will keep them coming back.
Attaining success in a bar venture
Running any type of food and beverage business can be a challenge, and bars are certainly no exception. Finding the right bar supplies and equipment is only half the battle. These tips offer a few fundamental suggestions for those looking to beat the odds and run an efficient, profitable bar business.