Millions of people want to move abroad. Starting a business is often the easiest way to get a visa – and a lot of wannabe expats fancy themselves as the owner of a pub or bar.
A great many expats open bars each year – and most of them fail. Could you be one of the ones who make money from an overseas adventure?
CAN YOU HANDLE THE WORK?
A lot of aspiring bar owners imagine themselves surrounded by a happy crowd, pouring drinks and enjoying sparkling conversation. Sadly, many don’t think much further than that.
Running a bar is hard: physically and psychologically. Early mornings, late nights, hefting beer barrels and dealing with irritating or even dangerous customers. This is not an easy retirement option. You will be working long hours for, certainly at first, very low pay.
Then the question nobody really wants to ask themselves: can you handle being surrounded by alcohol all day? A sadly large number of expats – even those who don’t work in bars – fall victim to alcohol problems when they move abroad. Late drinking cultures and a relaxed atmosphere are a dangerous combination. If you think you might have any difficulties controlling yourself, this is probably not the career path for you.
Finally, do you have any experience in hospitality? Somebody with no history of working in, or running, bars or restaurants will find this endeavor far more challenging than somebody who knows the basic procedures, opportunities and pitfalls that go along with this kind of business.
WHERE SHOULD YOU GO?
You probably already have a destination in mind, but consider the following factors:
• What are the visa requirements? While it’s true that most countries will more readily give visas to people starting businesses, there will still be stipulations. Some countries will require you to hire a certain amount of locals, for instance. Speak to a specialist immigration lawyer for advice if you’re unsure.
• Is there a large expat population? Most emigrants who want to run bars or restaurants look to fellow foreigners for their customer base – whether they’re permanent residents or tourists. If this is your aim, can you be sure of a supply of customers all year – or will you only open seasonally?
• Do you know the language? This will make everything a lot easier, even if most of your customers will speak English. Hiring staff, building a relationship with suppliers and networking with other business owners will all be a lot easier if you can get along in the local tongue. If you’ve got your heart set on a non-English-speaking country then it’s a very good idea to start learning the language.
• Do you have the cash? It will be very difficult in most countries for a foreigner to get finance to start a new business – especially if they don’t have experience in the field.
IS THERE A MARKET FOR YOUR BAR?
• What demographic do you want to target? As mentioned above, are you looking to draw in expats and tourists, or do you want to appeal to locals? Do you want a young, fashionable crowd or a calmer bunch of older regulars?
• Will you focus on cocktails and spirits or beers and wines?
• Will you serve food?
• Will you provide entertainment?
Once you’ve answered these basic questions you can start scoping out the competition. How many similar bars are there in the area you’re looking at? If there are a few, are they all busy or will you be entering an already-saturated market?
If there are no bars like the one you’re imagining, why not? Is it because nobody’s gotten around to it or have several similar enterprises already opened and closed? If so, why?
All of these questions can only be answered if you know the area. Visit, and visit at all times of the year. Sit in bars and restaurants and get chatting to business owners and customers. Check out online forums and Facebook groups. Get professional advice – a lawyer or accountant in the area will be able to give you local knowledge as well as technical help.
If, after thoroughly doing your research, you think that you can make a good go of a bar in another country then get ready for a tiring but potentially very rewarding adventure. Opening a bar really can be a great way to integrate into a new country and, while it probably won’t make you rich, can provide a decent income if done well.