If you are anything like myself, the crooning of the Jimmy Buffett song Margaritaville can lower your blood pressure by a few points. The dream of living in some beach bum paradise is something that a lot of us can surely attune to. Owning and operating your own little beach bar can possibly make that dream a reality.
Unfortunately a lot of us think we don't have the funds to a carry out such a goal. You could be worried about the drastic change in lifestyle, and possibly petrified to make the leap. What if I could give you a few tips that might make that fantasy come to fruition. A little beach front bar in Costa Rica or a small bar overlooking the Pacific in Panama, or small bar in Thailand. You pick the destination the basic formula for success is the same.
A question you have to ask yourself, we all have dreams and aspirations. We all would like to retire before the inevitable 65. Life is a journey not a destination. If you don't have a enough money to retire now, you probably never will. So lets enjoy what we do and where we do it!
Working even part-time at your own business overseas can afford you the chance to semi-retire now. You have probably heard the expression (If you love what you do you, you never have to go to work). My goodness waking up every morning in a tropical local and working at your own business, what more can you ask for?
Now don't get me wrong, it can't all be sunshine and roses but if you are willing to put in the work and research, you can have a life that others can only envy.
I would imagine that you may already have a place in mind. If you don't I suggest you start thinking about it. I have a friend of a friend that has accomplished this feat in Costa Rica.
He didn't have any experience, but he was willing to listen to others that gave him good advice. Now two years after re-opening an existing beach bar and a lot of hard work, he is living the dream. So it goes to prove if you are willing to listen and work hard you can do just about anything, even if you don't have previous experience.
You are going to live there, so it better be somewhere that you will be comfortable in 12 months of the year. Don't rush into this project without some on the ground research. Paradise can soon turn into hell if you haven't done your homework.
Tropical countries can get bloody hot in the summers, (depending on your hemispheres). So hot and humid in fact, that for some of us northerners it is unbearable without air conditioning. Most beach bars are not equipped with that. After digging out after some of those horrendous snowstorms I'm sure most of us would be willing to take that chance.
Tourist business in most locals is generally a 4 month possibly 6 month run, if you are lucky. Which means you gotta make hay while the sun shines, and store it away like squirrel nutkin for the lean times.
Creating local clientele could be a little difficult because of the wage disparity. If not there will probably be a local ex-pat community that will give you a chance. Keep them happy and you can pay the bills through the summer.
Some owners find it cheaper to mothball the operation for the offseason then re-open in high season. Take a look at your fixed overheads and do your math. Hey if you can make enough money in 6 or 7 months, you can go travel or visit your envious friends back home!
Be a bar. Did you get that? Be a bar. Don't be a jack of all trades. It doesn't work. Let the restaurants have their glory, but be the best damn bar you can. Provide entertainment if wanted, listen to your patrons when needed.
Employ the locals, I'm sure you will have a large talent pool to choose from. If you are making great money, share the wealth with your employees and treat them well, but never flaunt it. A rich gringos bar owner can bring a lot resentment and unwanted attention, if you know what I mean.
Don't micromanage your bar, train your staff the way you want and just float around the bar mingling with your patrons. This is important, if your name is Johnny and the bar is Johnny's, then people want to see you. They feel special if you spend a couple of moments with them. That's what brings them back, and their friends too.
Food and Menu
Regarding food, don't make this the bane of your existence. You can blow a lot of your profit margin here if you are not diligent on stock control. I recommend something that is easy or deep-fried. I know I will crushing a lot of budding Jamie Oliver wannabees, but KISS applies here.(keep it simple stupid)!
Stick with a small bar menu with a few easy things on it. That way you don't need to employ a Wolfgang Puck wannabe to create them. When pushed a waitress or bartender can whip up a lot of bar food in the kitchen, if the cook doesn't show up.
A small bar kitchen will have much less maintenance. Also food items have an almost uncanny ability to disappear through your back door or down your employees throats the minute you are not looking. Usually all the expensive stuff too!
Keeping in mind that this is the tropics, don't go crazy with anything fancy. Your patrons want that rough feeling, so cheap and cheerful is the way to go. Having said that, there is one thing that you can keep up to a high standard, toilets. Men and women alike do not like the pig pens that are often represented as washroom's. Go that extra mile here and have a clean washroom and believe me it shall be appreciated.
Premises and Overhead
Remember your rent and overhead will always be there. Whether you are open 6 months a year or 12. The safest way to acquire a place is to negotiate a lease with an option to buy. A lot may change, or business might suck. There are so many variables that can enter this equation that you will be foolish to sign your life away.
You are in a foreign country and a host of things can arise. Be safe and give yourself a way out or a way to secure the place, if it turns into a goldmine as I hope it will for you. Either way, make sure you have enough in the kitty to take you through the lean times.
You can acquire an existing bar with a proven track record, which will be the safest route. As with all things though, it will cost you substantially more. A commercial real estate broker will be invaluable in your pursuit.
Now there is no easy way of putting this. Laws down south can are a little relaxed depending on who it applies to. I guess the same applies up north as well , but it is a little more flagrant south of the Tropic of Cancer. Keeping that in mind staying in favour with the local government and constabulary will do you no harm.
I am in no way instigating you to bribe anybody, but use your common sense. From my experience up here in the great white north, it is common practise to look after the local cops. Whether you are a donut shop open 24 hours giving them free coffee, or a local restaurant giving the occasional meal for him and his wife.
It happens everywhere, commonly known as baksheesh, where I spent a lot of my time in the Middle East. It doesn't make you a bad person, just a smart one. In a crunch they will be there for you, it is better to have them on your side than not, I'm sure you agree.
Often overlooked, this is very important as well. We all have opinions and ideas on the way things should run. Sometimes though we have to step back and look at the situation or business proposal from a different point of view.
Having a mentor in the same country, operating the same type of business as you will be incredibly helpful. This mentor can look at your idea and let you know if it is practical or not.
I guarantee that most bar owners will share their knowledge with you. All you have to do is ask. (Obviously as long as you won't be in direct competition with them). Having an unbiased and experienced viewpoint will either speed up your idea, or unfortunately crush it.
Either way, please listen. I have seen too many stubborn people over the years with tunnel vision. Refusing to listen or consider another viewpoint, and they usually fail in their pursuit. Admittedly there are some that prevail against overwhelming odds, but they are the few, not the many.
And to Wrap it Up
We only have one kick at the can in life, and a lot of us are more than capable to meet our goals. Unfortunately stuff always seems to get in the way. Not enough money, not enough time, too many commitments, the list goes on and on. It seems we can talk ourselves out of our dreams as well. I am not telling you how to live your life, but stop making excuses why you can't do something and create new ways of making it happen. Whether it is opening a bar or doing something you have always wanted to do.
We are all masters of our own destiny. If you got to the end of this article it means you are searching for something different in your life. I wish you all the success in the world and hope this little blurb may help you in your endeavours.
Don't Dream Your Life, Live Your Dream
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