Today I will wrap up my three-part treatise on girlie bars on the Darkside, along with announcing, (for the final time), my own Mobi’s Moscars for the current film awards season.
I am going to Bangkok next Thursday and Friday to see my heart and GI specialists, so it is unlikely there will be a full blog next weekend, except for the possible publication of a new chapter(s) of my novel.
50 Shades of Girlie Bars – Part 3
In this final part, I will try to explain what is required to operate a successful bar on the Darkside, and when I say successful – I don’t mean get rich, I simply mean run a bar where its income exceeds its outgoings and that there is enough left over at the end of the month to put some food on the table for the owner and his family.
Thinking about it, it is easier to write about what you shouldn’t do, than what you should.
Over the past few nights, for one reason or another I have had occasion to go out to a couple of bars, and my experiences in these two places typify what is wrong with nearly all the bars.
The first bar was within walking distance of where I live and is a ‘resort’ as well as a bar, with nicely furnished rooms, a swimming pool as well as an expensively and very tastefully furnished bar.
The place has been open about 8 months and in fact opened its doors soon after I took over Mobi’s. Now, I will say up front that this is one of the better bars around the lake – the service is quite efficient and friendly, (something sadly lacking in most bars) , but in my opinion, it still falls down on a number of counts.
First and foremost the female manager is little more than a glorified bartender, and whatever deal she is on, (I doubt it is that good), she has no real interest in the fortunes of the bar. She does a reasonable job, but for much of the time she is sitting in the far corner of the bar, out of sight, chatting with the other girls, instead of taking care of business and making sure customers are being looked after.
The bar has a YouTube music system, similar to the one I had in Mobi’s, (except that I rarely used You-Tube, preferring to play music videos from a pre-recorded playlist), but considering the millions of Baht the owner must have sunk into this place, I have to say that the tinny sound system is a real letdown. Maybe its just me, but if a bar is going to crank up the volume of music, then for God’s sake play through a half-way decent speaker system, otherwise it just jars on your ears.
There is nobody more than me who enjoys a good tune or two, but sadly, like so many other bars, the budget seemed to have ground to a halt when it came to providing a good sound system.
On the night that I went, there was a small crowd at the bar, most of whom disappeared at around 7 pm. I was chatting to a friend and we couldn’t hear ourselves speak, due to the high music volume, so I politely asked the manager if she could turn the sound down, which she immediately did, but five minutes later it had been turned up again – even louder than ever.
Nobody had asked for it to be turned up – the girls working there wanted it loud as they were watching all those crappy American girlie music vids which are little more than soft porn. As ever, the customers’ needs took second place to what the girls wanted.
When it opened, the resort did not serve food as the owner was having trouble finding catering staff, but he promised he was working on it. But it isn’t just a bar, it is also a resort. Eight months since it opened, guests staying in the rooms, often for weeks on end, still can’t order so much as a continental breakfast. Whenever they want to eat, they have to walk outside in the hot sun to find somewhere open.
I hadn’t been there for a while, so when I met up with a friend who had his family over from England, I was surprised and pleased when the hungry visitors asked the bar staff for a menu and were given one. At long last they had food – or so I thought.
They spent at least 20 minutes choosing their food, but when they came to place their orders, the girl said:
“Oh No. No food here.!”
“But you just gave us a menu!”
“Yes, you asked for a menu.”
“So where’s the food?”
“Sorry, have menu, no have food.”
“Can you order from outside?”
“No can do.”
In my humble opinion, the owner needs to get his act together as far as food is concerned before his resort loses all credibility.
Also, in my humble opinion, he has a very nice place and he has spent a lot of money in making it a cut above most, if not all the bars around the lake. It is really more akin to a cocktail lounge, and if he did it right, and made the service a bit classy and offered a few upmarket cocktails etc and had a decent sound system that played really good music, he could well attract a better class of customers.
I believe he could tap into the thousands of up-market expats with their farang wives who live on the Darkside and rarely, if ever, venture into the Darkside bars, for obvious reasons.
Unfortunately, he has staffed the place with the usual bunch of slightly ‘over the hill’ girls whose better days are behind them, all trying to dress sexily, showing unattractive thighs, and quite frankly, looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. The girls simply don’t go with the quality of the bar.
He is putting his bar on the same level as dozens of other girlie bars around the lake and while the others may not have such salubrious furnishings; they often have a better class of women, and cheaper beers.
In any event, as I have stated in my earlier articles, there are already far too many girlie bars and he would be better off not trying to join that particular rat-race and building up a different kind of customer base.
I live within walking distance of this bar, and many’s the night I sit in my house, with my patio doors open and around midnight I can hear much drunken screaming – male and female – drifting across from this bar to my house as late night drunken groups take up residence around the pool table.
This resort is in a good location and beautifully fitted out and could do so much better, with a few common sense changes and proper, hands-on management. I hope he sees the light and I wish him well.
If, and when things hopefully improve, I will report back.
I was with a couple of friends the other evening and we were trying to think of somewhere around the lake to grab a bite to eat. It makes you think when despite having a large number of eating places around and near the lake, we couldn’t think of a single place where we really wanted to eat. Not a single one of them appealed.
In the end, we went to a bar/restaurant that haven’t been to for at least two years. I know the owner well and I don’t want to particularly bad-mouth his place, but maybe a friendly ‘word to the wise’ can be constructive rather than destructive.
This bar is one of the original bars on the lake and after recent alterations and refurbishments, it is quite a large and impressive-looking place to eat and drink.
The sign outside reads: “Thai food, Barbeque and Indian food”.
The place was fairly empty when the three of us walked in and selected our own table, (without any waitresses in sight), and waited to be served.
Eventually, a waitress appeared and we asked for menus. Three menus were provided, but they only contained Indian food – no Thai, or Barbeque food. It took me quite a while to explain in Thai that we wanted to look at the other menus. Eventually, with a scowl on her face she gave us one additional menu.
In the end, we decided to go the Indian route, even though it was quite expensive. We ordered what should have been mild curries: two chicken masalas and one chicken korma, as none of us have the best of stomachs these days and very hot curries tend to go right through us.
The food arrived surprisingly quickly, which in itself was a little worrying, and all three dishes were incredibly hot! And when I say hot, I really do mean hot. They actually looked very similar to each other….my guess that they used the same sauce for all three. Thank God we hadn’t ordered a Madras!
Now to the drinks order. Two of us ordered Coke Lights and the other friend asked for a Singha Light. Singha Light is the only low alcohol beer sold in Thailand, and is probably one of the biggest sellers in Pattaya. (It certainly was in my bar.)
Many drinkers love it because they believe it keeps them relatively sober when driving. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but if the customer wants it, the bars should provide it.
Guess what? Singha Light? No Have.
Not out of stock, but no, we don’t sell it. I hesitate to think just how many customers will be turned away due to this ridiculously short-sighted policy.
Sure, Singha Light is a few baht cheaper than some of the other beers – but so what? In the general scheme of things, with a minimum mark up of 100% there is still a very decent profit to be made, and in case, many bars charge more for a Singha Light than they do for other Thai beers, thus increasing their profit margins even further. It really makes no sense whatsoever not to serve this popular beer.
We asked for three separate bills.We got one bill for all the drinks which were put in a bill pot, and three separate bills for the food, which were just thrown on the table.
The place these days is cavernous, yet they hadn’t provided for any bells or other means on the tables to summon the waitresses who disappear as soon as they have served you. We waited for five minute to attract a waitress to get our bill and finally had to stand up and shout across at a table where they were all sitting together chatting away, totally oblivious of their customers’ needs.
We had a total mishmash of bills, but we managed to work out roughly what each of us owed. Nevertheless, I asked the waitress – again in Thai – to tell us the total amount we owed – all together.
If looks could kill, she would surely have thrown a knife at me. She stormed away and came back after five minutes with the total amount written on the back of one of the bills.
I don’t think we had the pleasure of being the receiving end of a smile from any of the waitresses during whole the time we were there, and we left without leaving a tip. I am quite sure it will be at least another two years before I give this place another try.
I had intended to write a checklist of 20 things a bar owner needs to do to make a success of his bar, but I think that the observations I have made following my two recent excursions to bars on the Darkside, both of which are a very long way from the bottom of the pile, tells you all you need to know.
The above anecdotes are simply two outings on successive days by someone who in the past used to trawl the Darkside bars on a nightly basis but these days hardly goes out at all.
I dread to think what I might find if I went to visit some of the bars near the bottom of the pile, as believe me, the two I went to are amongst the best….
It really doesn’t matter how much you spend on bar’s décor; if you haven’t got the basics right, like hands-on, experienced, sober management and a good, friendly service, then you can forget about the rest.
But remember what I said in one of my earlier articles; one dissatisfied customer can multiply into dozens over the following weeks as he tells his tale of woe to his friends and acquaintances living on the Darkside.
My final word on this subject comes from one of my ex-customers, who has some prior experience in the bar/catering/hospitality business, and who wrote the following post in a local expat forum, a couple of months after I had sold the bar.
“Mobi’s was the only one of the beer bars me and the wife went to, for all the reasons stated before on this thread. Nice people, food ok, interesting music; a nice relaxing place to beer and the lights were not burning the back of your eyes off. Importantly, the host and hostess was there most of the time and that make a huge difference to the service customers receive. A huge difference! When they left, we went back a few times, and it had reverted back to your typical 6 month turn over type of joint. He’s a nice guy, but he’s not a publican or host and has no idea about running a bar.”