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Sarah Ward

How to Open a Dive Bar: 12 Critical Steps to Open a Dive Bar

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Learning how to open a dive bar, similar to a restaurant opening plan, is a set of critical steps. From sorting your labor cost to avoiding food spoilage to ordering your dive bar wine, there’s plenty to do. 

You can lean on plans for starting a restaurant, and learn about front-of-house and back-of-house staff. Guest retention strategies will come in handy. It’ll all come together in your dive bar business plan. Read on through this BinWise blog to learn all about how to open a dive bar of your own.

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How to Open a Dive Bar: 8 Basic Steps

Learning how to open a dive bar involves careful steps and no small amount of creativity. Diving into the history of dive bars can help you find your way. You can learn about dive bar food favorites and business legal needs. These eight key steps of opening a dive bar are the place to start.

8. Write Your Dive Bar Business Plan

Writing a dive bar business plan allows you to map out each part of your business. From the financial plans to your management structure, the business plan is the first step toward success.

7. Take Care of Licenses and Registration

Licenses and registrations can be a hassle for a bar business. You need a liquor license, a general business license, food handling permits, and more. Get it sorted now to be set up later.

6. Design and Concept Your Dive Bar

Designing and conceptualizing your dive bar draws from the map of how to develop a restaurant concept. This is all about finding the balanced aesthetic of your dive bar.

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5. Plan Your Menus

Your menus are one of the most important parts of your business. Planning them includes beers, wines, cocktails, shots, and your actual food offerings.

4. Start Your Hiring Process

Learning how to hire bar staff to equip your dive bar is one of the most tangible steps toward opening the doors for business. From bartender interview questions to hiring wait staff, get set up to bring in your crew.

3. Find Your Location

Finding your location is about what you want in a building as well as what’s available in your area. Start the search early to have more time to find the right place.

2. Gather Your Inventory and Equipment

Gathering inventory and equipment is a massive undertaking that will be spaced across your dive bar opening plans. Your equipment needs come first, to get your kitchen set up. Inventory comes closer to opening when it’s time to start cooking and mixing drinks.

1. Start Your Marketing Campaign

Once you have your dive bar name and concept set up, you can start your marketing campaign. From content marketing to small business marketing, these practices will draw in your initial business.

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How to Open a Dive Bar In a Saturated Market

Those eight steps to open a dive bar will get you headed in the right direction. Aside from the basics, there’s an element of dive bar planning you need to consider: the saturated dive bar market. There are many dive bars of wild popularity. To make yourself stand out among these spots, utilize these four techniques. 

4. Find a Unique Theme

Finding a unique theme sets you apart from all the boring, un-themed dive bars. Some excellent ideas are:

  • Steampunk dive bars
  • Library dive bars
  • Tiki dive bars
  • Board game dive bars
  • Art gallery dive bars
  • Rooftop dive bars

These unique dive bar plans will draw in customers curious about these specialty spots. Live up to the theme with exceptional decor to keep them coming back.

3. Create Signature Cocktails

Signature cocktails are always a good idea. One prime idea is to make some that are a play on your bar name. For example, perhaps your bar name is “The Skinny Whip” as an Indiana Jones-themed bar. In this case, a specialty cocktail could be a scotch drink with a skinny addition of low-calorie mixers.

2. Offer Live Entertainment

Live entertainment is one of the most enticing offers a bar can make for customers. You can bring in local bands. You could set yourself up as a host for major concert tours. Whatever it is, live entertainment will bring in your regulars as well as specific fans of the entertainment you obtain for your dive bar.

1. Ensure Excellent Customer Service

Excellent customer service is the constant goal of every business in the hospitality industry. Train your staff well, and follow the best hiring practices. Make sure your customer service is pristine, to give guests a reason to come back no matter the occasion.

Next Steps After Opening a Dive Bar

After you’ve opened the doors of your dive bar for business, the next steps to keep in mind include:

  • Keeping your inventory well stocked for everyday and special events
  • Managing your marketing to keep customers coming back
  • Frequently analyzing your competition to stay ahead of the game
  • Looking for growth opportunities, whatever that means for you and your goals

The goal of any bar business is to find continual success. That’ll look different depending on your specific bar goals, but moving forward in the right direction should always be top of mind.

"Key Takeaway: When you set out to open a dive bar you’ll have plenty of work ahead of you, but plenty of fun too! From discovering dive bar ideas for themes to using restaurant branding to shape your marketing, there are exciting plans in your future."

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Dive Bar

Opening a dive bar comes with plenty of questions. From the cost of opening a dive bar to the qualities necessary to open the doors, there’s plenty to learn. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will guide you further on the path of becoming a successful dive bar owner and operator. 

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Dive Bar?

On average it costs between $110,000 and $850,000 to start a bar. That applies to dive bars or any other type of bar. This large variance in cost depends in part on whether you own or lease the building where you’re setting up shop. The rest comes from startup costs, licensing, and equipment purchases. 

What Qualifies a Dive Bar?

A dive bar is qualified by a dark and cozy atmosphere. The dive bar atmosphere is marked by dim lighting, worn surfaces, cheap drinks, memorabilia, and easy company. It’s unglamorous and meant for anyone and everyone to enjoy. If a bar has a few neon signs, budget-friendly beer, and a companionable bartender, it’s likely a dive bar.

Do Dive Bars Make Money?

Yes, dive bars turn a profit that is similar to other bars. The trick to maintaining your desired profits at your dive bar is to keep sales moving. The appeal of your bar for customers is cheap individual drinks to make for a cost-effective time out. You can meet those expectations and still turn a healthy profit by offering a robust menu and upselling as much as you can.

Do Dive Bars Make Old Fashioneds?

Yes, you’ll find Old Fashioneds on the menu of dive bars, but you may find yourself with something different than the standard recipe. Dive bars don’t always have fresh ingredients on hand. You could find that your Old Fashioned has grenadine to replace the maraschino cherries, or extra tonic to replace simple syrup. That said, it’ll be a satisfying customer experience.

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Opening a Dive Bar: Diving Into Your Business Headfirst 

When you set out to open a dive bar you’ll have plenty of work ahead of you, but plenty of fun too! From discovering dive bar ideas for themes to using restaurant branding to shape your marketing, there are plenty of exciting plans in your future. Come on back to BinWise and BlueCart when it comes time to map out your inventory and order management needs.

The BinWise Pro beverage inventory program simplifies the process of how to do inventory. BlueCart’s order management software streamlines your order management system. Meet our sales teams and learn how BinWise and BlueCart can make your dive bar even better with technological support. 

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