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the battle for consumers, especially young consumers, in the tavern industry has just begun
In the past two years, pub parties have become one of the social currencies of young people. Behind beer, cocktails, foreign wine and red wine, there is a picture with a strong sense of story and scene: three or five friends, talking, and realizing short-term relaxation and freedom under the action of alcohol.
At one time, there are many entrants. The main elements are going to the party, the sense of atmosphere, slight drunkenness, healing, making friends and taking off orders. At the same time, due to the low threshold of opening a store and the high profit of drinks, the tavern looks like a good business.
However, consistent with the feelings of consumers, the development of this industry is quite lazy and free. It was not until Helens was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on September 10, 2021 that the industry ushered in the first share. Like the stimulation of a glass of wine, Helen’s made the 100 billion track hot. The competition war between the pub industry and consumers, especially young consumers, has just begun
So, is it really easy to open a tavern?
Why can’t most pubs chain up?
What problems should we pay attention to when entering the Inns?
What impact has Helen brought to the industry?
How will the pub develop in the future?
We interviewed 8 tavern industry practitioners and got some truth from them.
The taverns to be mentioned next in this article mainly include a large number of Qing bars, coffee shops with “day coffee and night wine” mode, and dining wine integrated taverns focusing on Jianghu dishes. The Qing bar can be divided into cocktail bar, fine brewing bar, beer supermarket and other forms.
(the practitioners of Beijing morsol bar, Tang bar, a chain bar, Shanghai Boho bar, tender bar, Harbin wheat field hummingbird fine brewing restaurant, a chain bar in Hangzhou, and Xiao Z, the founder of the new cocktail mountain, accepted the interview of chaos Jun and thanked him for his contribution to this article.)
Is it really easy to open a tavern?
Chuangxiang tower, Changshou Road, Shanghai is a commercial park. There are more than 30 catering merchants in this small area, including more than 10 liquor stores, including Qingba and small restaurants integrating food and wine. Such a large store density makes the boss of Boho bar in it face a sharp increase in pressure.
The park on Changshou Road in Shanghai is the epitome of the tavern industry. Urban people can’t live without pubs, nor can they live without the lingering stories behind pubs.
After the reform and opening up, with the entry of western culture into China, bars also began to take root. In the 1980s and 1990s, Sanlitun north-south Street spread to form a bar street, which has a certain relationship with a large number of foreigners living in the nearby embassy area. Later, it became an ideal place for literary heroes and rock youth and the golden age, such as Wang Shuo and wild children. The same scene also appeared in Hengshan Road in Shanghai and baietan bar street in Guangzhou.
Now, as an imported tavern, it has become an ordinary thing. Searching “pub” on Xiaohong book shows that there are 330000 notes, including pub decoration, pub entrepreneurship, pub name, pub franchise and other contents, and even a post of “challenging 50000 yuan to open a pub”.
Indeed, the threshold is low and the profit is high, which is the impression of many people on the tavern industry.
The start-up capital of Beijing morsol bar is 800000. Shanghai Boho bar focuses on “day coffee night wine”, and its start-up capital is 1 million, and both of them are opened in partnership with friends. So it seems that the threshold is really not high.
As for the profit, an industry insider who asked not to be named gave us an example: a cup of jintangli costs 58 yuan. After calculating the cost of two or three yuan, the gross profit margin of this cup of wine is about 82%. Such profits can naturally attract a large number of people.
If you want to open a tavern with less high quality requirements, there is almost no supply chain problem.
In the words of boss Zhang of Tang bar in Beijing, “you can even find a place to decorate an industrial style, buy some wine online and open it first. Then it is said that within half a month, the sales agents of various wine merchants will find this small pub and take the initiative to promote it.”
“Unlike steak, laymen may not be able to distinguish between 80 kg of meat and 800 kg of meat.” Wine is a standard product. As long as it is real wine bought through formal agency channels, it doesn’t need to spend too much effort.
When foreign wine enters the Chinese market, it is basically based on the agent system of imported wine merchants. All major whisky and gin brands have their own agents (including general agent and sub agent) in China. Bars only need to take wine from agents. There is a cocktail bar brand in Hangzhou that has opened 10 stores. Its employees admitted that the company has only officially established a procurement department this year to take charge of the supply chain.
Of course, there are many people who are not satisfied with lazy development and hope to form a fixed and mature business model. Taking the fine brewing bar as an example, some bars adopt the mode of “front store and back factory”, buy equipment by themselves, brew and sell by themselves. This threshold is high. The store needs to hire a professional winemaker and configure a series of equipment such as brewing equipment, filling equipment, wine vending machine and cold storage. It also involves the daily maintenance of the equipment, and the investment is even up to millions of yuan, which is more expensive.
Due to the high investment in the brewing system, the complex operation and maintenance process, and the strict approval process for the construction of breweries, some bars will choose to find qualified small breweries to OEM the wine they want.
In general, it’s not difficult to “start” a bar, but it’s not easy to “open it well”.
From feelings, limited to feelings
You will be limited by what you love. This sentence is appropriate in the pub industry.
The operator of Shanghai tender bar said: “many people will open a pub as a sign of reaching a certain stage of their ideal life, so many bar owners themselves have no goal of becoming bigger and stronger.” Netizen “fresh beer” said: “the feelings of this industry are greater than business. I advise you not to do it just to make money.”
In the initial operation of a small bar, the boss’s personal charm and contacts are very important. Boss Han of Harbin wheat field hummingbird fine brewing bar said: “the characteristic of the pub is that the boss may also be a brewer. Guests who come to the store can have a direct dialogue with the boss, listen to him talk about the history, culture and anecdotes of fine brewing, and understand the brewing process and flavor characteristics of beer.”.
In the tavern, there will always be such a soul figure, either the boss or a professional sommelier, who can quickly establish a connection between customers and the tavern and bring them a warm and affectionate dining experience that cannot be provided by the big hotel. Therefore, the return rate of customers in the tavern is very high.
Of course, for a cocktail bar, the boss’s replacement may be the bartender. The little famous bartender has his own fans and can make wine in line with customers’ mood on site.
According to the staff of a chain bar in Beijing, this fine brewing shop focuses on the IPA (a fine brewing category) of hops. It has high bitterness and strong hops flavor. Its founder believes that hops can bring happiness and wants to convey this experience to customers.
But the problem is, “the boss has built a sentimental store, which only attracts people with his like-minded.” Boss Han, who also works as a sentiment store, knows the pros and cons. Many kinds of fine brewed beer he brews have won awards in important domestic events such as the master cup, CBC China International Beer challenge, CCBA China fine brewed beer award and so on.
Feelings are hard to copy, and wine lists are hard to copy. There may be twenty or thirty wines on the menu of a cocktail bar. But if the guest says he wants a customized special according to his mood, the bartender must also do it. The things behind the wine list are far beyond what customers see.
Fine brewing pubs often use handwritten wine lists, because the wine lists will change at any time. There will be new products on the market, seasonal beer replacement and the sale of wine brewed by other bars (the industry is called “wine head takeover”). Mature pubs should have a strong ability to create new products. If you go to the same bar after a period of time, customers may find that 1 / 3 of the wine has changed.
It is also difficult to copy talents. The operator of Shanghai tender bar said that the industry is generally short of talents. Compared with coffee and catering industries, there is no systematic and large-scale training. The level of a bartender is strongly related to his experience. “The long-term night shift life in the bar industry also makes the brain drain rate higher.”
Of course, many people will say that the coffee industry also has sentiment stores. In the past two years, some new brands, such as manner, have broken the dilemma that boutique coffee stores are difficult to chain. Why can’t independent pubs?
Here we have to mention a natural limiting reason – frequency. People who love to drink again rarely drink every day. The base liquor used in cocktails is spirits, which is more than 40 or 50 degrees. After modulation, the alcohol accuracy is about 10 to 20 degrees. Moreover, people who really like to drink cocktails and craft beer will not be satisfied with low alcohol wine, and high-precision wine is their pursuit.
No matter how much people love drinking, they will not take wine to work or drink on the road – the fixed cost in the single store model of the tavern – rent and manpower, which are always difficult to reduce.
People who love to drink more often don’t drink cold beer or cocktails more suitable for summer in winter – the tavern industry faces great seasonal challenges and short night business hours.
Compared with all catering industries, the pub industry also has two practical problems: first, drinking and not driving; Second, there is no way to consider the per capita alcohol consumption – catering can have an approximate per capita food consumption and per capita dining time, but if you count the alcohol consumption and drinking time, it is a metaphysics.
As for the core competitiveness and barriers of pubs, most respondents believe that it is still experience, which is light and extravagant consumption outside daily life. The tavern is satisfied with the higher-level experience that people enjoy after eating and wearing warm clothes – when alcohol enters the nerve center, it brings spiritual excitement.
The experience of the tavern contains many elements, such as service, wine, innovation, environmental atmosphere, feelings and so on. With the blessing of alcohol, these elements make the tavern full of comprehensive charm. On the basis of experience, the strategic breaking point of pubs is often to create a style and create a light and luxurious consumption experience.
However, it has caused some difficulties in large-scale replication due to falling into love. Helen is worth pondering how to break the large-scale replication of pubs.
Three hellens have been opened near Chongqing University City, which is only about 10 minutes’ drive from the school. Although there are about 100 tables in each store, there can be more than 100 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Most people in the store spend two or three hours. Most of the entertainment items are playing dice, playing cards, boxing, etc. they can also bring their own snacks or even order takeout.
The tavern “Helen’s” was drunk by young people to the market. The current market value is about HK $26 billion.
At present, Helen has more than 800 Direct stores in more than 100 cities across the country. According to the information on its official website, Helen plans to complete the goal of 1000 Direct stores in 2022.
“I think the reason why Helen is really successful is that it creates a space for users to really relax by perfecting the details of every aspect,” Xiao Z, who goes to Helen two or three times a week and has been to Helen nearly 200 times in total, told chaos Jun
These details are reflected in: when waiting in line, free drinks will be provided, with no restrictions at all; The bathroom is bright and clean, the corner will be pasted with Shanghai cotton to prevent injury, and all kinds of materials will be supplemented and replaced in time, etc.
Many people interpret Helen’s company and will say that the product is single and they are tired of going there once or twice, but Xiao Z denies this view: “I don’t think it’s right, because no one goes to Helen’s company to drink any product, and many people just enjoy the relaxed and hi social atmosphere and space.”
It can be said that targeting young people dominated by student groups has laid almost all the genes in this store. The post-90s and post-90s young people, who are generally only children, come to cram schools all the way, and their social needs are released in adulthood. On the other hand, compared with office workers, students have a lot of time first, and they may not have classes the next day, so they don’t have to worry about driving.
Moreover, in the view of Xiao Z and his friends, hand brewed beer is good, but most of them attract “enthusiasts”. Making beer very much like a beverage actually further reduces the threshold of drinking and is very friendly to girls.
In addition, unlike many bars that rely on inviting hosts and guests to interact with customers, Helen has set up many social activities to promote users’ active interaction. For example, in the “social money” activity, three Heineken bottle caps are used to change the qualification to put / take a note. The note is usually a micro signal left by others in the store; Helen also will set up a “confession” team to announce the “tiktok” today, and you will have to add a social attribute to Helen’s team.
“Many young people don’t care so much about whether the wine is good or not, but more about whether they have a good time,” said Xiao Z.
About seeing this, in terms of products, Helen adopts the mode of self owned products + external products. Its own products mainly include fine brewing, fruit beer, milk beer, hi Dou (a fruit flavored wine), cocktails, etc. its external products mainly include Budweiser, corona and 1664, and the prices are lower than the market price.
Abandon the obsession with wine and boldly adopt standardized products, which has low replication difficulty and does not need too many bartenders and winemakers, which can directly reduce the cost. Helen’s own products, such as coke barrels, can be prepared with non-standard bulk wine. An industry insider who declined to be named said: “this has a large profit margin, and the biggest cost of coke barrels may be coke, not alcohol.”
It can be seen that Helen’s own products account for more than 70% and the gross profit margin is high. From 2018 to 2020, the gross profit margin of its own wine and beverage was 71.4%, 75.3% and 78.4% respectively, which increased year by year with the expansion of brand scale.
The lower cost gives Helen the confidence to strive for high cost performance – the price of bottled wine is no more than 10 yuan, and the per capita consumption is 50-70 yuan, which has attracted many young people who tend to sink the market.
“Imagine that when you are just an adult and have pocket money, or just graduated from a third tier city with limited income, and go out with friends, will you choose a 98 yuan cup of golden soup or a 10 yuan bottle of corona?” Little Z is right.
In addition to products, hellens also tries to be reproducible in terms of services. In the new store, the staff of the old store will be sent to the new store to bring new people, and an employee training department “Helen College” will be established. The internal service personnel are called “store partners” in a neat and uniform manner, and there is no division of cleaning and door greeting. All kinds of service work in the store are done by everyone in turn. In the industry, it is a good existence of treatment and promotion space, which is also conducive to improving the quality of service.
So, for the whole industry, what has Helen changed?
The answer may be to let young people know pubs again and reduce the threshold of decision-making.
Before the emergence of hellens, many people would think that the staff in the bar came from a complex way, the safety factor was questionable, and the minimum consumption was always limited. It was a place that was not easy to bear the consequences of entry. However, the emergence of hellens eliminated the psychological barriers of choice to a great extent. It can be said that hellens has well covered up his shortcomings, let young people enter the store without burden, and then sell his own products with higher profit margin.
Then, in the way of chaotic “one thinking” – by modeling the problems of the phenomenal world and looking for fundamental solutions from the essence – what is the essence of hellens? What kind of boundary breaking innovation has been realized?
Indeed, it gives young people a rich experience, services are standardized as much as possible, and various social tricks. But further thinking, Helen’s is an offline social field for young people. What’s behind this?
The post-95s and post-00s, as indigenous people of the Internet, are heavy users of online social media. However, this does not mean that in the youth stage – an important period in the process of individual socialization – their self-awareness and interaction with their surrounding environment have been developed and satisfied. A research team from the center for media technology and health at the University of Pittsburgh found that the more social media is used, the more loneliness users may feel.
Offline social networking can bring more real communication and richer understanding. Young people can find a psychological sense of belonging here.
Based on this essence, hellens focuses on reducing the psychological threshold of social interaction. Whether it is cost-effective products or reassuring space, it is essentially to let young people eliminate psychological barriers.
After the rise of new samples, imitators began to emerge.
Xiao Z said that many bar owners made a special trip to Helen’s, and Helen’s online red product “coke bucket” was also copied by many pubs. What’s more, a small pub in Chongqing not only claims to be an upgraded version of Helen’s company, but also the store is located next to Helen’s company. Where Helen’s company opens, this store will open next to it.
“Capital can recreate a Helen company at any time.” There are all kinds of people who make such predictions under the stronghold.
Other chain possibilities of taverns
Helen’s model only corresponds to the choice of some people. For those who pay attention to emotional appeal, love pop music scene and like to eat Western food and taste red wine, hutaoli music pub may be more in line with the demand.
Hutaoli music pub was established in 2014 and implements the franchise system. At present, it has opened 470 stores in 30 cities in China. It adopts the mixed mode of bars, restaurants and cafes. It can not only eat, drink and listen to music, but also hold various theme activities, and its business hours can reach 15 hours.
However, the unit price of 150 + passengers per capita, the large area of 200-300 square meters and high-quality audio equipment may each become an obstacle to its chain. Why does it work in walnut?
Here we have to mention the parent company of hutaoli – hezong culture group, which is a group with extensive layout in night entertainment. Its founder is known as “the person who changes China’s nightlife”. The first chain bar in China, “Suhe bar”, was made by hezong culture group.
Enterprise investigation shows that the business scope of hezong culture group almost includes all links needed to open a bar. It has set up many subsidiaries such as catering, supply chain, performance brokerage, cultural creativity, logistics, software development, and even artist schools to train resident singers.
Such a powerful and difficult supply chain ecology can not only effectively reduce the cost of wine, food, audio equipment and even resident singers, but also provide strong support for the rapid replication of stores.
Er Ma tavern, which originated in Chengdu, is the third chain tavern. Those young people who pursue national fashion style and love online red labels may not be unfamiliar with this store. At present, there are 149 stores in the country.
In 2014, it coincided with the rise of national tide. Er Ma tavern mainly focuses on low alcohol wine. Chinese cocktails are very original, and their distinct differences also promote their strong social media communication attributes. At the same time, the dishes of Erma tavern are also steady, reaching the level recognized by local people in Chengdu.
There is also a clever idea of the brand: in Chengdu, the brand influence is vigorously shaped by opening direct stores, and in other cities, the revenue is obtained by joining.
Some people may notice that when entering other cities, the copywriting such as “Chengdu’s popular Erma is coming” is quite attractive. In addition, Chengdu has become a “network red city” in recent years, and Erma has also taken advantage of its east wind to attract a lot of traffic.
Generally speaking, the two brands of hutaoli and Erma have built chain barriers through strong industrial chain layout, and have made a differentiation route through online Red characteristic products and “direct marketing + franchise”.
However, no matter Helen’s, walnut and jute, they can’t represent the whole pub industry. This industry is still highly dispersed and has huge growth space. There is still a long way to go on the road of branding.
The pattern is uncertain. Everyone has a chance to take a share
According to frost Sullivan, by the end of 2020, there were about 35100 pubs in China, of which more than 95% were independent pubs. Helen, the No. 1 industry leader, accounts for only 1.1% of the market share.
If we compare the coffee market, in 2018, the top five companies in the business scale of China’s freshly ground coffee market accounted for 74.9%.
If we compare the milk tea industry, in 2020, the market share of the top five market participants of China’s high-end tea brands is about 58%, and the market share of the top five market participants of medium and low-end brands is about 51.2%.
Obviously, the threshold is not high and the competition is fierce, but the dispersion of the pub industry is surprisingly high, which is far lower than the average level of 40% market share of top5 enterprises in the mature market.
Compared with Britain, which has developed pub culture, China’s pub industry may appear more deserted. Public data show that in 2019, the market share of the top four pubs in the UK industry was 25.5%, with high market maturity.
However, the high degree of industry dispersion is not all a drawback: the pattern is uncertain, the market space is huge, and everyone has the opportunity to rise and take a share of Bole’s gold.
Helen’s large-scale chain has made many people realize that the business of chain taverns may be feasible.
In January 2022, the chain restaurant and bar brand “commune” completed hundreds of millions of yuan of a + round financing; RISSE Ruisi tavern has obtained two rounds of financing in six months, among which the angel round is invested by Sequoia China seed fund; Chengdu characteristic pub Er Ma pub has expanded to nearly 200 stores across the country.
In addition, the number of new entrants has increased rapidly. Not only upstream producers such as Tsingtao Beer end up as pubs, but also there is a trend of “wine + everything”. The catering team includes Haidilao, Hefu noodles and local chicken, the milk tea team includes Naixue restaurant, the coffee team includes Starbucks, m stand and seesaw, and the publishing team has one-way space and ideal country
However, not all people in the industry are optimistic about such cross-border entry. A person in charge of a bar who asked not to be named said that whether there will be a good development for mature brands to open pubs has not been clearly verified by the market.
Zhengzhou “made” bar owner also said that it is difficult to find the matching and integration point of dinner and wine, the style and tonality are difficult to determine, and the positioning is easy, very simple and mediocre. Moreover, perhaps for consumers, this logic may not be true if they eat in this house at noon and drink in this house at night.
Regardless of the views of all parties, it seems that the bistro track has begun to heat up. According to the research and statistics of Anxin Securities Research Center, the scale of the tavern industry is expected to reach 200 billion in 2025.
Boutique tavern is the end?
During the interview, chaos Jun found an interesting thing: different from many people chasing the tuyere, many owners of independent pubs are not interested in the model of three industry-leading brands: Helens, walnut and Erma. They prefer to be “small and beautiful” and love to be independent pubs. However, they also admit that hellens has given them a new perspective – sinking the market.
To seize the sinking market, we must make many adjustments in combination with the characteristics of users.
A bar owner who declined to be named cited such an example. Not many people drink Rio in first tier cities. On the contrary, consumers in third and fourth tier cities prefer Rio. Therefore, Rio’s advertising is mostly in TV dramas and variety shows, because people in third and fourth tier cities have more time and energy to pursue dramas. The logic behind this may be that the tavern industry needs to be further explored and constructed.
Some pubs put the incremental breakthrough on women and developed many fruity beer and cocktails to cater to female consumers. They think women have strong consumption power and are more willing to punch in and spread. For example, a kind of fine brewed beer named “Gus” tastes sour. After adding fruit flavors such as strawberry and mango, it is sour, sweet and low alcohol, so it takes the route of “slightly drunk economy”.
“It is better to gather more young people in pubs than in other places. The better the economy, the better the cultural exchange.” Boss Han, who brews hummingbird in Harbin wheat field, told Chaojun that the pub can’t get around this trend if it wants to sink to the second and third tier cities.
At the same time, behind different types of bars are different wine cultures.
Tang, the boss of morsol bar in Beijing, described the disdain chain of the bar circle. “People who drink refined wine have a sense of superiority over those who drink foreign wine and cocktails, people who drink foreign wine have a sense of superiority over those who drink imported beer, and people who drink imported beer have a sense of superiority over some domestic green bottles. Behind this is the role of wine culture.”
In short, cocktail bars usually want to create a sense of premium, making people feel that the whole process is very elegant. Cocktails emphasize on-site production. Starting from the cup full of frost, they cut ice, measure wine, cut fruit and reconcile, reflecting the elements of show. Behind this is the exquisite wine culture of petty bourgeoisie.
Fine brewing bar represents innovation and diversification. Malt, hops, yeast, water and various accessories can brew a variety of flavors and tastes, and give full play to the richness and creativity of beer categories.
For those who like fine brewing, when a wide range of beer is in front of them, with different names and tastes from No. 0 to No. 20, he can always find a wine he likes, which is a diversified satisfaction. Some even drink from No. 1 to No. 20.
Different wine cultures reflect different attitudes and lifestyles. For example, the fine brewing bar and cocktail bar do not emphasize social entertainment, and even deliberately avoid playing dice and poker in the store, so they are more popular with the post-80s urban white-collar workers who prefer a quiet environment and social privacy. This is quite different from Helen’s.
In the future, these independent tavern operators are confident in the development of independent taverns. “They don’t like independent pubs now, but they will when they grow up.” Many bar owners said so.
Chain bars like Helen’s are like a “hole”. When young people have the demand and habit of drinking in pubs, they will gradually pursue quality, especially when their income increases and there is the demand for consumption upgrading. And quality boutique pubs will undertake such demand.
Independent pubs can provide professional and characteristic services, focusing on small groups; Large chain stores focus on the public and cater to the public’s taste; The two serve different customer groups and have good complementarity. These two models are likely to exist in equal proportion in the future.
For the future plan, the staff of a chain bar in Beijing said: “we want to have some relations with the city, so that people living here can drink more authentic beer, without considering the expansion of other cities for the time being.” It is reported that Beijing is now the largest incremental market of beer bars in Asia.
The more lively Tang bar on the other side is another scene. The fire of programs such as “summer of the band” and “China’s new rap” has aroused young people’s enthusiasm for offline performances. Some pubs with the nature of live house have become a good place for music fans.
Boss Zhang frankly said that the performance can drive the wine revenue, which is a feasible model. The store also rents out the venue during the day to do some shooting work, or carry out simple script killing to improve the floor efficiency of the store.
The daytime coffee business of Boho bar, which focuses on day coffee and night wine, has been in a state of loss recently. Next, it will stop operation. Its boss is also reflecting, “we should think about the possibility of profitability in other aspects.”
“A generation will grow old, but someone will always be young.”
As for taverns, even if the industry is new, what remains unchanged is the emotional sustenance of freedom and relaxation of each generation. Such sustenance demand always means a huge market. From this point of view, listing is not the focus of the industry, and hellens is only the beginning of innovation in the industry.
When more industry practitioners get out of their feelings and think more about business models and capital, both independent boutiques and simple and rough chain stores will burst out greater imagination and open up broader development space, and the pub industry will show flowing and charming characteristics like wine itself.
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