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Okay, this kinda goes along with TikiChris's post, but I'm hungry for the opinions of those of you whom have actually considered opening a tiki bar. (The Red Robin tiki promotion thing got me thinking more seriously about this.)

1.) Money: What do you guys think would be the minimum amount of money to properly decorate and create a solid, authentic, retro, Kahiki-like tiki bar in an area like, say Ohio?

2.) Location: A few have touched on this, but you would not want your bar to be in the center of a college district for numerous reasons; a. College kids generally stick with beer and good-hard liquor! b. Not too many college kids are gonna pay the price we would be required to purchase our beverage, (not to mention the mugs that would be destroyed or stolen in a drunken fest).
I agree the "water" idea - being around a river, lake, whatever. But you have to look at property values there. You want upscale, but not unbelievably high rent district.

3.) Staff: Does anyone know if present day bartending schools even teach the old "Trader Vic" style recipes?
Would the old Kahiki or Playboy Club waitress types still fly in todays politically correct world? (Would people still accept grass skirts, tiny tops and leis?)

4.) Clientel: Who would we really cater to? I mean, would we target an older "baby boomer" crowd or thier offspring, like us - the young, hip, mature, (well, I'm talking in general) adult crowd?

5.) Music: Enough said, right? Not neccessarily. Could the old 'swing' music be incorporated with the exotica or would that be inconsistant to the tiki theme? (In my opinion, I think it could be gently combined if going for that "post war" theme that generated the tiki bar craze.)

6.) Can it be done? Would it work again? Or has that moment in time passed mankind by and we are merely collectors of the artifacts left over from that pat of history?

Bottom line - Obviously WE think it's a great business venture. But is it realistic? Would it be feasible and profitable? And if so, for how long? (That we can't answer).

I am seriously considering this idea in my area. I would really appreciate your feedback and opinions - especially those of you who have actually thought this through at one time or another.

Thanks.
-C.
:sheckymug:

While you're figuring the cost and location to open up this fabulous tiki bar, please keep in mind something else when you are figuring cost...Capital to open any new business is always on the minds of the future owner(s), but unfortunately what's not considered is the amount of additional money required for advertising and promotions. Yes, I work in this field, (billboard, radio, and print advertising) and unfortunately the advertising budget for quite a few companies (especially startup companies), is rarely available and funds are almost nill when it actually should be a serious consideration.

Just my 2 coconuts worth.

SugarCaddyDaddy

W

First: The restaurant business is a pain in the ass. You need to know the biz (or partner with someone you're sure knows the biz) before even considering a restaurant venture. Of course there are lovely stories of some former fireman starting Jack's Flapjack Shack in a trailer and becoming the biggest thing in Boise since talkies came to town (which was in 1997 I believe). But there are far more tales of restaurant failures big and small.

1: Money...A Kahiki type place right off? Jack started flipping pancakes in an old doublewide and look where he is now...

2: Location...Should be obvious and easy to get to. But "Location, location, location" means very little if a visit is described as "Awful, awful, awful."

3: Staff clothes..."Would people still accept grass skirts, tiny tops, and leis?" As long as they were made of some wash and wear poly-cotton blend. I think the Playboy Bunny waitress is a dead notion outside of Vegas.

4: Clientele...Everyone. Seriously. For something to really fly you'd best not focus on the thin slice of the hipster or nostalgia market (if you want that market skip the restaurant biz and invent some retro-riffic plastic gewgaws to sell 'em). I'd suggest a very family friendly restaurant with a very cool lounge attached (which means you get to give the lounge a swell seperate name). And skip any notion of Polynesian food or fine dining. I'd go burgers, pizza, steaks, or some similar mix (with a volacano that erupts chilli). This is the sort of food that people come back to over and over (if it's good). The Red Robin I checked out last week had the same decor as the one I used to go to in college, all brass and clutter only dustier and worn out. It looked miserable to me but people were pouring through the door and waiting for a seat.

5: Music...Exotica might fly in the lounge, though it might work better on special nights. In the family friendly restaurant it would just be thought of as "elevator music". But some happy compromise could be found in the mix. Despite the gnashing of teeth and rolling of eyes in Tiki Central a heavy handful of reggae would be well received. It's the Ordinarys idea of exotic. If you want to educate people musically get a radio show, not a restaurant. In Seattle's O'hana restaurant they play reggae all the time. Sure, it's not exotica or geographically correct but sitting under their bar's thatch roof listening to reggae is far better than hearing modern alt pop one block away in the Lava Lounge.

6: "Could it be done?" Your best chances probably are with a sort of Red Robin-esque family Tiki joint (and you could put your heart into the lounge). Starting from scratch might be insane. Taking over an existing restaurant location and dolling it all up would make more sense (and there's probably a lot of restaurant or bar owners who'd love to sell their place to you). Or go even smaller and open one helluva Tiki cafe, terriaki joint, or donut shop. Or pour all your extra time and one tenth of the money into the most amazing home Tiki bar the world has ever seen, where the Denny and Lyman play, where never is heard the discouraging term "Chapter 7"...And the Mai Tais are drank night and day.

L
laney posted on Fri, Jun 21, 2002 1:34 AM

Well, I have been in the bar business for way too long now. To answer a few of your questions reguarding staff, I've never had a bartender who went to "school" they all started out as bar backs and worked their way up. Bartending is a learn as you go deal, especially with the everchanging popularity of various cocktails and the different recipies for the same drink at every bar. A good bartender is a fast bartender, get people with experience, not school. You can teach staff your recipies and have them handy behind the bar.
As far as skimpy outfits go, we are willing to wear them if we are making a lot of money. I currently work (as a waitress only)at a gentleman's club in Orange County CA. We wear very, very short velvet dresses but when I started we wore thong backed leotard things with long gloves and chokers. It is dark in there and there is plenty of other things to look at, if you know what I mean. I make enough that I don't mind the high heals and skimpy attire but if I was making what I used to at a sports bar I wouldn't wear it. Also if your girls are dressed sexy drunk assholes are going to try to touch them, be prepaired to kick them out! Maybe a sarong type outfit, shows curves but covers and can be worn by many body types. I think the Hawaiian shirts and pants is overdone. One last note, we need to wear bras, don't give them strapless uniforms, whatever you do.
I don't know about Ohio but here in CA one of the biggest costs is your liquer lisense. There are also entertainment licenses, dance floor, adult, etc. There is schooling that is required in some places, for serving alcohol safely. Some places just have beer and wine because of the huge expense. Just something else for you to look into. I'm sure Ohio isn't as strict as the state and city I work in.

L
laney posted on Fri, Jun 21, 2002 1:41 AM

What I'd do is look in the classifieds, get an established bar, go crazy tikiing it out. Get your girlfriend to wear the skimpy cocktail waitress uniform, you bartend and skip the food thing. Done!

South London Pacific is a new (opened w/in the past 6 months) & seems to be a relative success. Here are some observations as to why I think it's done so well (although I'm sure theandrewssister could probably sum up the SLP scene better than I):

  1. SLP is sort of an extension of the Club Montepulciano scene:

http://www.clubmontepulciano.com/

& thus, upon opening, SLP already had a sort of built-in clientel of various alterna-types & hipsters.

  1. SLP is a destination venue. It's not a local pub. Odds are that on a busy Saturday night many of the patrons were not from the nearby area. This also is a bit of a disadvantage for SLP b/c there's just nobody around on, say, Monday or Tuesday night.

  2. SLP is in London, a cosmopolitan metropolis w/ a zillion residents & visitors. In a city this size, there are bound to be a small to moderate core group to keep any sort of scene/genre specific venue in operation (as long as it's reasonably well managed & stays abreast of its customers' interests).

Additional Comments:

  1. Music: what seems to go overwell @ SLP is music w/ a beat.

  2. Food: SLP tried selling "tiki tapas" but its customers just weren't down w/ it.

  3. Novelty: A lot of people seem to go to SLP to see & be seen - it's not just a place to where some guy where's his loudest aloha shirt but also where someone will come in wearing a paisley-on-paisley suit (w/ paisley shoes) or some sort of latex/fetish garb, etc. SLP also has house music sometimes during the week...I imagine people into house music might find it novel to dance in an "exotic" & off the wall venue.

  4. Image: SLP seems to be going for an "in-crowd/in-the-know" sort of image. Anything that could be considered as too kooky or kitsch would probably not go over very well. Even though SLP serves fruity drinks w/ parasols (& both customers, & staff's tongues are firmly placed in cheeks), there's still a dominant edge to the place that might be lost or damaged if, for example, staff wore grass skirts or too much Martin Denny was played too regularly.

:sheckymug:

On 2002-06-20 22:28, sugarcaddydaddy wrote:
While you're figuring the cost and location to open up this fabulous tiki bar, please keep in mind something else when you are figuring cost...Capital to open any new business is always on the minds of the future owner(s), but unfortunately what's not considered is the amount of additional money required for advertising and promotions.

SugarCaddyDaddy

Also, unless you got a wad of moola burnin' a hole in your mattress, you're probably going to have to get someone or some entity to finance or invest in your tiki bar. Unless you can make a strong case as to how you can pay them back (& then some) thru the bar's operations you're going to have a rough time getting sufficient backing.

On 2002-06-21 03:14, Tiki Chris wrote:
South London Pacific is a new (opened w/in the past 6 months) & seems to be a relative success.

i just want to add that i'm not too sure about whether or not slp will achieve any sort of long term success. scenes are always such fickle matters. the only other tiki bar in london is trader vic's that has a lot going for it:

  • the name;
  • it's established - been there since 65;
  • it's in the basement of the hilton on park lane;
  • caters to everybody (that can afford it).

woofmutt brought up some very good points, but i'd just like to add that some form of customer group targeting is a good idea. maybe, sort of like what lucasfilms does w/ the star wars movies, set out to attract every boy in his early teens w/in x number of miles to your novelty restaurant. if you can get the child to come in, then mom & dad come too & maybe even little sister. & if the kids have a good time, they'll want to take something commemerative home w/ them.

Ah, yeah...although I have some past experience in the restaurant business (some in high school, some various undercover stuff since then), I had NOT thought of the important advertising budget.

My only bar experience is in the 'security' area. I know nothing about mixing drinks - don't claim to know anything. Yes, I'd need experience. (I guess the Bartending Institute is to the Bar industry what the Private Investigator Home Study Course is to mine, hu?)

Going into this, I want everyone to know that I'm clearly aware of the success rates of restaurants these days - slim, very slim.
(Hey I read Entrepenuer every now and then).

I would not consider building an establishment from scratch, but rather renovating an existing business. Still an expensive venutre.

A smaller "tiki cafe" thing might not be too bad...to start.

I was suprised (Woofmutt) that you thought the 'fun food' like nachos and chili volcanos would go over better than traditional Polynesian platters - but you're right. Growing up in Ohio, we had very few Oriental or Polynesian restaurants 25 years ago. Now there are Chineese take outs in every small town. That, in combination with the fact that there is such a variety of places to eat now is a big factor.
(We only had a handful of nice, family places to eat. Probabaly much different in CA where you guys always had a variety of cool places to eat.)

Okay, I'm listening... I'm writing all of this down. (Thanks, by the way!)

What else?
:sheckymug:

If you are going into a place an renovating it, think about the history of the place you are trying to make a success. Some places have a "curse", you know a place that seems it has had 15 different businesses in the past year. Be aware of this "curse", sometimes no matter how good of a product you put foward it may be destined to fail.

A

'Ray,
When you talk to people about a new idea, often you'll get a overwhelming negative response. Its human nature for some to be practical, argumentative or just plain mean. It takes a 50 cent person with a 10 cent mouth to shoot down a million dollar idea. Just remember I'm ready to get on a plane, fly down and order a Dr Funk. Good Luck!!!
Al

A smaller "tiki cafe" thing might not be too bad...to start.

strangely you should say that but a market thats about to open up in britain would provide the opertunity to open tiki cafes or should i say tiki coffeeshops, you know the type of places tikibong would like.
Here in Edinburgh the first cannibis coffeeshop in the dutch style will open due to the change in the drug laws, and having lived in holland on and off, I've experanced quite a few, from the tourist traps of the A'dam to the local shops in the country. And the layed back tropical theme of tiki would work so well with this buisness.
The dim lighting, the exotic decoration, subtile music, the gentle burble of bamboo bongs and insted of booze cocktails, fruit juice cocktails. Tiki would capture that backpacker/traveller types and the suburbanites seeking to escape the mundane through the weed and your location.

I think you also need to think about why you're doing it. Obviously, because you love tiki and it's a fabulous idea. But how does the income aspect come into it? For it to be worth your time and effort will you need for it to pull in a 3-figure income for you? Or will you still love it if 5 years from now the business pays for itself, and not much more than that?

For example: my husband and I have our own little retail shop. We've been here 5 years, without employees. The store makes us a little profit, but realistically we'd make more money if we both flipped burgers at McDonald's. We have to be here 6 days a week (at least 50 hours), and rarely get vacations that aren't business-related. HOWEVER, we do get to spend every day together, which we love. We get to do all our internet playing during business hours. And if we get cranky or overwhelmed we can always just go in the back room and read rather do any "work". So don't just think about "what if" you're a huge success, and "what if" you completely fail- there are some gray areas in between you may want to examine.

If you go for it and somebody gives you a loan for the start-up cash, make sure to not only get enough to open, but to be able to pay your bills and employee wages for the first few months. The first few months may be slow while word gets out, and you don't want the lack of income to cause you to lose your staff.

Also, for our business loan the bank required that 10% of the amount we were asking be deposited into our business bank account and spent on inventory before they'd give us the money. So save your pennies, or go beg from your relatives. :) They also wanted collateral (about 70% of the loan amount, I think), which my mother was brave enough to provide. (Looking back on it- she was loopy!!)

They also wanted to know what we could sell off all the inventory and displays and equipment for, in case we had to go out of business before the loan was paid off. (Ebay's inflated prices will help you here, with your tiki decorations.) In addition, we were required to each get life insurance for the amount of the loan, and sign a form making the insurance money payable to the bank first in case one of us croaked before the loan was paid off.

Hope some of this was useful!

Stefani

T

I can see a new Polynesian restaurant possibly working in a very large city like New York of Los Angeles if it serves real good food that's different than other restaurants. For example, gourmet Polynesian like Sam Choy's or Roy's in Hawaii and elsewhere. Otherwise, I would forget the restaurant idea. I just don't see why people would flock to a place that serves burgers and pizza just because there's a few tikis around. People probably go to Red Robin because it's a good place to take the kids. But my idea of a classic polynesian restaurant is more for adults. I see them as adult playgrounds, where one can drink and eat in an exotic and sexy atmosphere. Leave the kids with a baby sitter! My parents needed an escape once in a while, so they would leave us with a baby sitter while they attended wild costume parties and romantic restaurants. I actually enjoyed those nights. I guess people don't trust baby sitters as much these days as they did back then.

However, I think a new tiki bar with no food (or limited to small plates, tapas-style) that's done right would survive and prosper in a big city with a large bar scene, and maybe in a college town like Columbus. It should have excellent drinks. I don't think any school-trained bartenders would be good enough. It would be better to find a person that is already into collecting old cocktail recipes and has practiced a lot, either at home or at a bartending job. Music should be lounge and exotica with guest DJs on certain nights.

I live in Oakland, CA, and until 3 years ago nobody would be downtown at night except for the homeless. Then the Ruby Room opened in an old bar. They have different DJs each night playing various style of music from punk to old soul. The drinks aren't that great but the place is packed every night, even after the dot-com bust. The same goes for Radio, that opened about 1-2 years ago. It took a while to catch on, but now it's packed most nights. If it can work in Oakland, it can work in any city.

I have absolutely no idea about the cost.

stingray,
if you're really interested in starting a business, here are a few online resources that i think could be most helpful:

united states small business administration:

http://www.sba.gov

service core of retired executives (a free business counseling resource):

http://www.score.org

i could provide you w/ a list of other non-tiki business resources, websites, etc, but it would probably best for you to just email me personally if you're interested:

[email protected]

Stefani- You said: "my husband and I have our own little retail shop. We've been here 5 years, without employees. The store makes us a little profit, but realistically we'd make more money if we both flipped burgers at McDonald's."

Funny you should say that. My wife and I worked briefly together a year and a half ago (I was placed in a leather store with a high internal theft problem and she was the only experienced person that I could trust!) And we loved it! Yes, that is our idea - although one of us needs insurance.

A Dutch style thing hu? That would only go over in the Yellow Springs area (Antioch college). And not yet legal in the US, obviously - but a great idea! Imagine the mark up on the product and the MUNCHIES!

And Tiki Chris, thanks too. I have owned my own business before (In fact still do in a non-profit sorta way), so I am accustomed to the 7 days a week, 9 to 9 thing, with few - if any - vacations. I mean, I could do it, and I'd enjoy it! I would not need a 6 figure income to be happy. But would a tiki place even allow me to survive financially? That is the question.

But Stacey and I have been talking about this idea...and everything in between from a BBQ shack (for fairs / carnivals / car shows) to picking up dog poop. No, don't laugh, I'm serious! That is a real possibility. Of course the risk is that the BOTTOM could fall out. (I have some other puns that arent as clean).

Thanks again gang. Your comments are very much appreciated!

:sheckymug:

And not yet legal in the US

emigrate, it worked for the people that opened "Tikis" in Antwerpe. the UK's a lovely country and we speak english but where better to contrast the polynesian paradise against the wet misrable weather.
If any of the brit-tikifiles are thinking of opening a tiki bar wait and see how coffeeshops take off cause I recon a tiki coffeeshop will be money in the bank.

D

UK's a lovely country and we speak english but where better to contrast the polynesian paradise against the wet misrable weather.

Tiki Bar and Tanning Salon! get that Bronze Sun God look to go with the puka shells.

So 75stingray did you give up on this?
Man I thought this would be up by now.

don't do it in Dayton though, Columbus sucks but Dayton triple sucks.

Skip, where did you round up this thread? :lol:

On 2002-06-20 20:43, the75stingray wrote:
Would the old Kahiki or Playboy Club waitress types still fly in today's politically correct world? (Would people still accept grass skirts, tiny tops and leis?)

I didn't realize "politically correct" was even a term 15 years ago. Stingray had no idea what that was going to lead to :o

T

"Skip, where did you round up this thread?"

He said.....
"I am seriously considering this idea in my area"

So 15 years would be enough time?

"1.) Money: What do you guys think would be the minimum amount of money to properly decorate and create a solid, authentic, retro, Kahiki-like tiki bar in an area like, say Ohio?"

To raise, what? two million bucks that it would cost?
A Grass Skirt would be like a Quarter mill?

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