I’ll see how far I get with this.
It is 10.15 on Sunday morning and I have to be at the bar by noon. If it is quiet, I will try to finish this up at the bar.
As some of you may imagine, it has been a frenetic week to say the least, and by Thursday evening, we were as ready as we could be and I decided to have a ‘soft-soft’ opening on Friday, although we had announced the official soft opening for Saturday, 3rd.
I thought it might be a good idea to try out our computerised till system, bar service techniques and cooking abilities on real people, before the ‘big rush’ on Saturday.
And so it proved to be.
Our very first customers were two gentlemen from ISAN who were on their way to Pattaya for a long weekend and had read about Mobi’s on Thai Visa.
These two were followed by a slow trickle of various odd bods and we gave away our hot dogs and French fries for free as we worked on our cooking skills. This was followed by delicious baskets of popcorn and I have to say that all three culinary treats received many compliments from our customers. The French fries in particular were extremely tasty.
The small trickle of customers faded away at around 8 p.m. and we sat there for two hours in anxious expectation, but not a soul; so at 10 p.m. I decided to call it a day as after all – we hadn’t even announced we were opening a day early.
Yesterday (Saturday) started very badly.
I arrived at noon to crank up the TV’s and get some sport going from my computer, when lo and behold – the front of the bar and the large drinks cooler was still chained and barred.
The resident head bar girl (who had the keys) – my girlfriend’s aunt – was had vanished and no one knew where she had gone. Noo was down-town replenishing bar stock. The other girls were standing around, looking pretty confused.
Needless to say, I had difficulty controlling my temper. It was our first official day of trading and the girl with the keys had disappeared – her phone was turned off – and Noo was miles away in Macro.
If any punters arrived we could only offer warm beer (the ice hadn’t yet arrived) and stare at the punters through large metal grill that went across the bar!!!
I wasn’t a happy bunny….
After half an hour spent tearing what’s left of my hair out, one of the girls creatively suggested that we could break the padlocks with a hammer. I had never heard of this before, (not being a burglar), but in desperation, decided it might work so I shot off back home to get the ‘house hammer’.
Upon my return, the errant keeper of the keys had arrived, expressing profuse apologies. Apparently she hadn’t been feeling well and had gone to see a doctor.
‘Why didn’t you unlock everything before you left?’
‘Sorry, sorry, I forget…..’
(Note to Mobi – get a spare set of keys.)
As it transpired, our first customer didn’t arrive until about 3 p.m. by which time I beginning to wonder if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
But come one – come all, and although we were not exactly overwhelmed with punters , they did start to drift in in their twos and threes and before we knew it, we were rushing round serving drinks, and churning out our humble food offerings as fast as our little deep fat fryer, our micro wave oven and gas ring could muster.
Noo shouted to me across the bar every time she keyed the wrong amount, or entered the bill in the wrong customer’s bill pot.
Even at this early stage it would seem that our simple food menu is a big hit. We received several repeat orders, and many compliments, but someone commented that one punter had added about 20 Baht’s worth of HP sauce to his 35 Baht hot dog! So not much profit there….
A lone drinker came over to have a chat with me and mentioned that he still had a bill outstanding with the former bar owner, and was prepared to pay it ‘one day’ but he was sure that it had been padded.
I told him I knew nothing about this, and that as far as I was concerned he could forget it. He ordered a beer, and during our chat it became clear that he was a regular around the lakeside bars and was in the habit of running up credit tabs wherever he went. This had me worried as I was determined to run a strictly cash business and had already put a sign up to this effect.
He sat on 2 beers for what seemed like an eternity and then got up to go, with no indication that he would pay his bill. Before he could actually take a step towards the exit, I gently asked him if he was going to pay his bill, and he looked at the tab and gave me the money.
Phew! My first mini-confrontation successfully avoided. maybe he had every intention of paying and I was just being paranoid, but somehow I don’t think so.
Those of you who live in Thailand, will know that people who run businesses in this country are very possessive of the parking areas that front their places of business. They consider that the space on a public road or piece of land that fronts their shop, restaurant or whatever belongs to them and is their own ‘private’ parking area, reserved for their paying customers.
I can’t tell you how many times through the years I have been asked to move my car because it is parked in front of somebody’s shop, bar or restaurant etc.
So long term residents know this very well, and in the area where my bar is located, there are three bars that ‘front’ the road, and next to them is a large area of land which is very suitable for parking. For those who come early, they can park right in front of the bar they plan to patronise, and when that area is full, they can park on the adjacent open land.
Enter the guy who I have already banned – the abusive drunk I wrote about a couple of weeks back. He drove up in his ancient Honda CRV. And blow me down if he didn’t park up in front of my bar, not only breaking the unwritten rule (that he knows very well) of only parking in front of the bar you intend to drink at, but also blocking in my own car that was parked in front of him.
Needless to say I was incensed – it was a deliberate act of provocation – no doubt about it.
I wanted to go over to the next bar where he had ordered a beer and confront him, but cooler heads prevailed. Noo told me that they would take care of it and for me to calm down as I was disturbing my customers.
Of course she was right, and as with most things in this fascinating but sometimes exasperating country, the problem was solved in the Thai-honoured fashion.
One of our girls told one of the bar girls next door to have a word with the drunk and ask him to move his car. This is how it is always done here and of course it works very well.
If I had approached him, it could have turned ugly, but by having one of his favourite girls ask him politely to move, he could hardly refuse – especially as he wasn’t, as yet, totally bombed out of his mind.
I sat seething and watched him and waited. I had almost run out of patience, when he slowly rose from his bar stool and wandered very slowly out of the bar, keeping as much distance as he could between him and my bar and got into his car and re-parked on the adjacent land.
Another calamity averted, and it was only day two!
(I might add, that when we got home that I night, I was given a severe ‘dressing down’ by Noo who told me that I had embarrassed the staff and that I had to learn to control my temper and let her deal with these things. She was right of course and I was very sorry, and extremely contrite. I guess I was pretty stressed at the time, but that is no excuse).
The day progressed without further major incident. I put the world snooker on the TV screens waiting for the evening live football. It is probably the only place in Thailand where the snooker can be found on TV.
Then at 6.45 we had West Ham Vs Spurs followed by Manu Vs Sunderland, both with surprising results.
One guy complained he had been charged with too many beers, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt although it was hard to see how this could have happened.
Another guy pointed out that I charged 115 Baht for Breezers, whereas a bar along the lake only charged 90 Baht. I told him that there is an approximate 100% mark-up, (give or take), on all our drinks, and that the cost of a Breezer was 55 Baht so, 115 retail was not unreasonable. Anyway I gave his party a round of drinks so hopefully they were suitably mollified.
At the present time, I am sure that Mobi’s is by far and away the cheapest bar on the lake., excluding the odd mini-mart with seats outside. We are giving 20% discount on ALL drinks for the first two weeks. So the guy’s Breezer actually only cost him 92 Baht – a mere 2 Baht more than the bar along the lake….
There was another ‘dead spot’ around 7- ish when nobody turned up for an hour or so, but just when I was starting to think it would be repeat of Friday, they started to trickle in again, and we had a few customers for the rest of the evening, the last man leaving with our one and only ‘take-out’ girl, just before midnight.
We are still a bit short staffed, although Noo’s aunt has co-opted her daughter and friend to help out until we get some more girls on board. I hope to do this over the coming days, and in the meantime our one and only ‘professional’ bar girl has been doing a sterling job, taking care of all our ‘single’ visitors. The poor thing must be worn out…but never mind, she earned a wad of ‘ladies’ drinks’.
Sales for day two were up by 50% on day one, so we are going in the right direction, but still not good enough to break even. Much work has still to be done.
All in all, not a spectacular start to my bar career, but enough of an indication that if we stick at it, and find a few more girls we might do reasonably well. I have also been told that we are just about the only bar on the lake now that serves any food at all, so that might work out quite well for us.
More next week, with maybe a few additional articles as in my pre-bar career days. Please bear with me as I try to bed in this new business venture. Once all is running smoothly, I should have plenty of time to devote to my blog.