Are independent bars inherently better? We’re all told that we should be spending our money with local businesses to support the local economy and to avoid spending with large corporations.

Is that the right thing to do?

Well, like most things, yes and no.

Large Bar Chains

Large chain bars aren’t inherently bad, but there are a handful of factors that make it harder for them to be genuinely great bars. As with most things, there are pros and cons.

Pros of Large Bar Chains

  • Pouring deals can reduce pricing for the bar and customer
  • Consistant experience so you know what to expect

Cons of Large Bar Chains

  • Quality can suffer if the training isn’t cascaded well
  • Less dynamic than independents
  • Often has less personality

The difficulty of operating multiple bars, especially in the early stages is that getting consistency is tricky without spending all your time checking it. Many very large chains can use video to cascade information to all the team, but in person training is almost always more effective. That being said, video training is way better than no training!

Independent Bars

Where independent bars thrive is their ability to react to new trends and products quickly. While large chain bars need time to roll out products and training across an estate, independents can decide and implement immediately. The bartenders can often be briefed as they begin their shift by the person who created the serve for example. No confusion in the message here.

Also, especially with single outlet independents, the owner or at least operator will spend much of their time at the venue. This means they can manage the way the brand works in real time, making adjustments where they see issues quickly.

In Summary…

We love independent bars, but they’re only great when they’re great. People can be lazy in any bar, or just get the concept and the offer wrong. The difference is that small independents can fix problems much more quickly.

Pretty much all chain bars started off as an independent at some point, so the issue is not with intent or skill. However, the bigger a boat gets, the longer it takes to turn. Independent bars can be nimble and dynamic, reacting to their guests needs in real time. That doesn’t mean they all do, but they all have the opportunity.

Support great bars, regardless of whether they’re part of a group or owned by the guy behind the bar. Remember though, that if you don’t support them, they might not be there tomorrow.

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