From delectable tapas dishes to siestas and sangria-fuelled fiestas, many Brits are attracted to the Spanish way of living - with tapas bars becoming increasingly popular across the UK.
If you've fallen under the same spell, you might want to take your enthusiasm one step further by opening your own tapas bar.
But what's the best way to go about opening a tapas bar? It'll be a challenge - but certainly not impossible. Especially if you are determined and methodical in your approach.
If you're not sure where to begin, you've come to the right place. In this guide, you'll discover everything you need to know about how to open a tapas bar.
Carrying out market research on the tapas bar market
The very first step in opening a tapas bar is to carry out market research. Doing so will not only enable you to verify whether there's enough demand for you to successfully open your tapas bar (and 'make bank'), but also help you develop the best strategy for selling your tapas.
Market research will not be complete without an in-depth analysis of three key factors:
- current industry trends
- who your potential customers are and what they're looking for in a tapas bar
- who your competitors are and how they're doing
The UK tapas bar market
Born in Andalusia several decades ago, tapas are snacks to be enjoyed with a beer or glass of wine. Traditionally, there are four main families of tapas: banderillas, a type of mini-kebab, platillos, small plates of slices of meat or veg, cazuelitas, hot casserole dishes, and croquetas, a type of mini breaded dumpling.
Since it's customary to order several tapas dishes for the whole table to share, tapas are considered a very lively and sociable culinary experience. With Spanish being listed as the UK's sixth most popular cuisine by a Giraffe World Kitchen survey in 2016, there's certainly no shortage of demand for entrepreneurs looking to enter the tapas market.
The popularity of Spanish food is such that major supermarkets, including Lidl and M&S, have taken to developing their own Spanish tapas selections.
The rules and regulations of operating a tapas bar
When opening a tapas bar, it's important that you respect the same regulations as you would when launching a restaurant.
There are several regulatory requirements you'll need to satisfy when it comes to food safety. Before opening your tapas bar, you'll have to register the premises with your local authority's environmental health service at least 28 days before you start trading.
It's important to note that this process doesn't cost any money. It simply involves allowing a local official to visit your premises to check out the space you'll be using to prepare food and ensure it's safe and hygienic. Click here to register for a visit from your local authority.
It's also mandatory for new business owners to draft a plan based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Principles. This plan will ensure your food is safe from biological, chemical, and physical hazards, as well as allowing you to identify potential hazards.
You'll also be required to comply with any rules established by the Food Standards Agency - a government body providing guidelines on hygiene standards, sampling, labelling, and traceability before opening your tapas bar.
Finally, if you wish to sell alcohol, you'll need to apply for a premises license. This will also enable you to play live and recorded music and serve hot food and drinks after 11 pm. For more information on how to obtain the licenses above, you can visit the Gov.uk license finder.
In the US, you will be required to register for a business license. You can visit the SBA website for more details on how to obtain this.
You will also need a food service license, a food handler’s permit and a liquor license for serving alcohol. Each state has its own Alcohol Beverage Control Board that regulates the serving of alcohol.
To obtain a liquor license, you must contact your state's ABC board. You can find a national directory of ABC boards here.
Scoping out the perfect location to open a tapas bar
Having checked out the tapas bar market, it's time to decide on a location when opening a tapas bar.
We advise choosing a location somewhere lively, like a busy downtown street with neighbouring bars. It's also important to choose an area that attracts the sort of people that enjoy laid-back dining out experience. If you're targeting young professionals who want to let their hair down after a stressful day in the office, for example, it's probably a good idea to base your tapas bar near the city's office district.
Also make sure that opening a tapas bar is easily accessible, whether it's via car or public transport.
Finally, you can also choose to take over an existing tapas bar. This will allow you to benefit from an already established base and an existing flow of loyal customers.
Choosing the legal form of your tapas bar
The next step in our guide on how to open a tapas bar is choosing the legal structure of your business. Choosing your tapas bar's legal form is a vital step as it will impact:
- How much your business is taxed
- Your taxation at a personal level
- Your responsibility for the company's debts in the event of bankruptcy
To help you make your choice, you can find more detailed information on the different legal forms available to you on the gov.uk guide for UK business owners and SBA guide for those of you based in the US.
The equipment and staffing requirements to open a tapas bar
Once you have chosen the concept to open your tapas bar, settled on a location, and figured out its legal structure, it’s time to think about the equipment and people needed to open and run the business efficiently.
First of all, you'll need to kit out your premises with furniture and kitchen equipment in accordance with health and safety regulations.
You'll also need to buy in your initial stock of ingredients and drinks, purchase a few card machines and a till, and all the resources required for the smooth management of your restaurant, including accounting and payroll management software.
Also think about marketing investments (including your menus, restaurant sign and website) and legal investments such as employment contracts and licensing costs.
The next step is finding staff you can depend on. The success of a restaurant depends significantly on the culinary prowess of its chef and the hospitality of its waiters. When drawing up your recruitment plan, estimate the number of people you'll need for each position, whether it be a kitchen or front-of-house staff, and then recruit enthusiastic people with the right qualifications.
Opening a tapas bar also requires you to take out insurance to make sure the restaurant is covered in the event of any on-site incidents. Depending on the size of your restaurant, you may also want to enlist help from specialists such as a chartered accountant or marketing agency, so make sure you factor these costs into your financial forecast, too.
Setting out the marketing plan for a tapas bar
How can one ensure the success of their tapas bar from the outset? Well, the answer lies in devising a strong marketing plan. This plan will list all the marketing actions you'd like to implement to acquire your customers and, in a second step, to build customer loyalty.
There are many options at your disposal here, including organising a Spanish-themed fiesta for your launch night, setting up a website and social media profiles, paying for a billboard to be put up in your town centre or having your tapas bar featured on online resources including Google Maps and city guides.
You should also consider inviting prominent food bloggers in to taste your dishes and integrate online reviews into your strategy from the start: controlling your online reputation in the digital age.
The costs of these actions vary and some might be more successful at attracting customers than others, so take some time to test different marketing actions out and focus on the ones that prove to be the most effective.
Writing the business plan of a tapas bar
Writing a business plan is another essential step along the road to opening a tapas bar.
The business plan is the document with which you will present your business idea and try to secure financing from your bank or potential investors, so you need to make it impeccable.
If you are not used to writing business plans, a good solution would be to use online business plan software.
There are several advantages to using specialized software:
- You are guided through the writing process by detailed instructions and examples for each part of the plan.
- You can be inspired by already written business plan templates
- You can easily make your financial forecast by letting the software take care of the financial aspects for you.
- You get a professional document, formatted and ready to be sent to your bank.
If you are interested in this type of solution, you can try our software for free by signing up here.
Securing funding to open a tapas bar
As we've seen above, the investment needed to open a tapas bar will be hefty enough. Luckily for you, however, several funding solutions exist. These include...
- Trying to obtain a loan from a bank or credit institution, but be aware that obtaining a loan for business creation is not always easy.
- Approaching private investors: your family and friends or angel investors
- Launching a crowdfunding campaign, which is also a good way to get people talking about you.
- Seeking state aid for business creators: in the form of a grant or low-interest or interest-free loan.
Now you know everything there is to know about how to open a tapas bar. We hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions or queries at all please do not hesitate to contact our team.
See also on The Business Plan Shop
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