Welcome to the fifth installment of our series, “Interview with a Bar Owner.” In these posts, bar owners like you share industry experiences and tips, not to mention an amusing anecdote or two. So read on and connect with a fellow bar owner!
The vital statistics:
Kurt Jensen has been the boss at the 8th Street Ale Haus in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for 5 years.
TH: What do you like most about being a bar owner and managing a bar business?
KJ: I love the current fervor of craft beer. The people who drink and create craft beer are so passionate. That passion is infectious and a positive influence on all aspects of bar life. The people who come to our bar, especially the regulars, have made opening every day a true pleasure. Bars have a great sense of bringing people together and the craft beer patrons seem to be a particular loyal and friendly crowd.
TH: What is your least favorite part of running your business?
KJ: Dealing with all the aspects that aren’t seen by the customer. The hours of paying bills, scheduling, fixing all the little things that are broken. There is so much that constantly needs to be done to present a pretty face to the public. I don’t begrudge these necessary things because I get to work in a great business, but if we’re being honest no one likes paying bills or waking up to find their beer cooler broken.
TH: Say no more! That side of things sounds…less fun; what other sorts of challenges do you encounter as a bar owner? How do you handle them?
KJ: This question seems hard because all I can think about is the most recent challenge. The bar/ restaurant industry seems to be a string of challenges; daily, weekly, monthly: this menu idea doesn’t work, these reservations weren’t written down right, the ladies’ toilet doesn’t flush, we posted personal stuff to our business facebook page, waitstaff communication problems, the beer didn’t show up for a special event, etc. We strive to face our challenges as they come up, fix them for the future, and then move on to the next.
TH: Great plan! It sounds like you speak from a wealth of previous experience. Is there anything you wish you’d known before you became a bar owner?
KJ: How many new beers and breweries would be opening up. The amount of new information is staggering and I would have kept better tasting notes from Day One.
TH: It is overwhelming, trying to keep track of the newest brews. It’s gotta be hard on staff members, too. And speaking of which, what do you look for when hiring staff?
KJ: Passion and drive. We can teach beer and how to serve, but the person has to have that desire to learn. Getting hired is easy enough here, but keeping your job is hard if you aren’t motivated to get better.
TH: How do you keep staff up to date on what you’re selling?
KJ: We have a monthly meeting with our servers to discuss beer styles, upcoming events, and sample some new brews. Our bartenders are here almost daily to brew or stock and keep up to date themselves. It goes back to the passion; they want to know so that they can try things they haven’t tried. They know that if they don’t know what is available they can’t properly sell to our knowledgeable customer base.
TH: Sweet—a knowledgeable staff member makes a great impression! How do you keep your customers “in the know”? Does an informed customer have any impact on your business?
KJ: We use the TapHunter app linked to our website and Twitter account to keep our customers informed. We post special events on our Facebook page and have a weekly email list for our 500+ Mug Club. We have people coming in all the time to try a beer that they saw, maybe something that they were looking for or something that seemed intriguing. Craft beer customers know so much about what they are looking for, you just have to let them know what’s available.
TH: We’re happy to hear that TapHunter is among your suite of tools! Can you tell us a little more about how you use it?
KJ: I use TapHunter to update our webpage menu, Twitter, and print menu at the same time. It has saved me so much time. Back when I had to manually change it all, sometimes it didn’t get done, so it has made sure that our social media is being done as the beers change.
TH: Besides TapHunter, do you use other tools/services to run your business?
KJ: We have a POS system, we have our lines cleaned regularly, we have a gas service for our CO2 and N, we occasionally run SEO analytics, we have linen service, and because this is WI we have snow removal service (it’s a good deal because he’s part of our Mug Club).
TH: Your bar sounds quite welcoming, and well plowed in the winter! We’d love to check it out. So that we know when we go, tell us: What is your most popular-selling drink?
KJ: Craft beer accounts for 90% of our alcohol sales. With our rotating taps, seasonals, special events, tap takeovers, etc., it is hard to pinpoint a most popular brew.
TH: It sounds like there is more than enough craft beer variety to satisfy the taste buds of TapHunter team members when we come visit. How has this craft beer trend affected your business?
KJ: It is our business. Craft beer and its continual expansion has been great for us. It has created a knowledgeable and curious customer base which is fantastic. The craft beer bar scene is always pleasant; full of great people with great conversation.
TH: Kurt, the thought of hunkering down over a selection of delicious craft brews at 8th Street Ale Haus is making us swoon. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. We look forward to a visit!
Follow 8th Street Ale Haus on TapHunter to see what Kurt and his team will offer you in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
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