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Thaiing up my life

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New businesses in the Low season



The high season for tourism in Thailand is Nov - Apr. We get little spurts around European summer holidays, but only minimal

And tourism is down - badly, Having an authoritarian military government has upset many nations, the spate of bombs last year - two in my town - the perceived lack of integrity into criminal investigation of murdered foreigners - well, it ain't good for business. At the moment, our town centre is devoid of tourists.

Yet this is when two of my closest friends have decided to open bars. One opens on June 1st, the other has had a 'soft'opening, and will have its Grand Opening on June 3rd.

I love these people. They are all Thai, and particularly for one, failure will be financially devastating.

These latter are my taxi driver, his wife, her sister, and her sister's daughter - Nung, Am, Oyl and Em.

Am is a great cook - both Thai and foreign food. Oyl has run a bar successfully for 10 years, and many of the locals will follow her. They are opening in the town centre, only 100m from where they used to work - but rents are high there.They need steady business.

The former is my Thai friend N from the NorthEast, with whom I spent Songkran. She has had a successful guest house - in the nineties - and two successful resorts - until about 2003. Then she and her husband sold the resort, and he promptly left her for a woman less than half her age.

She has struggled a bit since - she lost a lot of self esteem. She ran a furniture shop, but competition eventually undermined her. She has a beauty/massage shop - and now she has bought a bar outright. It has quite a bit of land, so I don't think she will lose capital,as she got it at a good price. It also has accommodation, both for herself and for customers. She wants to make it a bar/restaurant, and a destination stop.

It is not in town, but about 4km out, in an area with a great many developments, with many foreigners. (Thais don't tend to drink in bars, unless they are westernised. Instead, Momma/Poppa type shops have seating outside where you can drink and eat snacks at low retail prices. Bars cost more.)

I am terrified of either failing. It would destroy one financially, the other emotionally.

So - I'm trying to help. I've had talks with a wide range of acquaintances about what makes them go to a bar - and it is coming down to one thing - price. The Thai baht is very strong now, which means EU/UK/US/Scandinavian pensions - the main expat groups - are all devalued - by as much as 70%

Most bars do 'Happy hour" - either two for one, or a greatly reduced price. They need to be different. I've suggested a loyalty card scheme  - after you've had at least ten drinks in the bar, you become eligible for a card which gives you a 10 - 15% discount. The thing is, there are so many bars - and no one goes into an empty one. If you can have half a dozen loyalty cards on discount, making the bar look occupied, it will bring in more people. 25 baht a drink profit on 6 people is better than 40 baht on none!

Both have really good cooks. I suggested they do two or three very cheap meals - noodle or rice soup, noodles and  pork sauce - for 30-40 baht - same as the street vendors and local noodle shops. Get them in - then they may get interested in your specialty dishes....

My friend from the northeast is employing a cook I introduced to her  - she can cook Thai, European and Mexican food. There is NO mexican food in town since the bar she last worked at (abysmally run) closed. That's N's unique selling point. She put on a free Mexican buffet at the pool match today, and everyone raved at how good it was.(Free food at pool and darts matches is a given here.) Hopefully, they'll come back for more.

Anyone else got any ideas? I have no marketing background - any advice I've given is seat of the pants, and reaction to conversations I've had. I care very much about all of these people, and really do not want them to fail. Words of Wisdom welcome!


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I wish them luck, but I have not advice since I'm definitely not the entrepreneurial type. 

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Same thing as @Bethella, I'm afraid. Your friends are lucky to have you in their corners. I hope their luck continues! (I was going to add an elephant emoticon for good luck, but its trunk is down. The trunk is supposed to go up for good luck, right?) 

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I'm not the most creative, but I think you are right on the food ideas. If there is little or no good Mexican food, maybe highlighting the availability of Mexican food. Maybe also have friends or family take samples outside and on adjoining streets to entice passers-by. Are there expat communities or businesses nearby? Maybe host a luncheon for one of the businesses, with lots of colorful flyers with the bar's name, address, and hours. The flyers could offer a buy-one-get-one-free upon presentation at the bar. If there is an expat building or community, maybe offer a special happy hour for the residents.

I don't know how folks from different countries are enticed, but Americans want "deals". For example, JC Penney, one of the oldest retailers, has been floundering for a long time. A new CEO came in and did a big change -- "fair and square pricing". They eliminated all sales, coupons, etc. and lowered the regular prices. The new lower prices were often as low or lower than they were with the old coupons and sales. However, people stayed away, and it went out the window quickly, in favor of more sales and coupons to bring down the artificially high prices. If Americans think they are getting a "deal", they're more apt to try it. That was a long-winded way of suggesting some sort of get-to-know us special if there are lots of American expats.

I wish your friends the best of luck. I am not gutsy enough to go it on my own.

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