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Daniel Slifkin Launches Swish new Sports Bar and Grill in Greater Manchester

Where most people saw little more than a derelict commercial space in Wilmslow, Greater Manchester, 45-year-old Daniel Slifkin saw a break point opportunity to fulfill his dream of opening a bar. But with no experience of the hospitality industry, he needed help and found it in national franchise, Bar Sport. Matt Pigott interviews the man who turned a local eyesore into a bustling entertainment hub scoring a tidy profit.

What inspired you start your own business?

I worked in haulage consultancy and was looking for a change, something that would be a bit more fun. There was an empty retail space close to where I live. It had once been a great tapas restaurant where I used to take clients, but closed down because of the recession.

For a long time, it was just a shell and a derelict mess, but I could see it had potential. I liked the location and wondered what the space might become. As time went by, I started thinking about what I could do with it.

Wilmslow was crying out for a bar, but I didn’t know what sort of bar. Then, early in 2012, my wife and I went on holiday to Las Vegas. On the way we stopped off in Chicago where we ended up in a sports bar that sold food. That was the moment I knew.

So what happened after your holiday?

I had the money to invest but wasn’t ready to take the risk. I had absolutely no experience of the bar industry. Eventually, I went on a mission to find people who knew what they were doing, and began looking into franchise opportunities, which is when I came across Bar Sport.

They were attending a franchise show, and so I went along to it to meet the team. I really liked the guys, and after carrying out some due diligence, I made the decision to invest in my own outlet with them.

What was it you liked about the team?

They’re down to earth people who know their stuff. Keith Fox, Bar Sport’s national services manager, has been in the business all his working life and Scott Murray, the founder, has a massive amount of experience in both the bar and sporting divisions. Being able to plug into their expertise was invaluable. When you’ve got a group of experienced people close by, with a vested interest in making sure your business is successful, it starts to feeling more like a genuine enterprise and less of a gamble.

You say you carried out due diligence?

Absolutely, It would have been daft to part with hundreds of thousands of pounds without finding out more about the company and the franchise opportunity. Before signing up with them, I visited the company’s main bar in Cannock. I also spent more time getting to know the team, and spoke to other franchisees to find out how they were doing and what they thought about the business. During that time I couldn’t find a single reason not to invest, and so I went ahead.

What kind of support did you get once the process was underway?

Keith was on hand every day to help me get the bar ready to open. Without him, I wouldn’t have known where to start. I can’t express how important it is to have somebody like him on your side. He’s gone through the set-up and fit-out process dozens of times, and could foresee which of my ideas – some of which were quite ambitious – would or wouldn’t work. That alone saved me making numerous mistakes.

Did you have any thoughts about how you wanted the bar to look and feel?

I knew how I wanted the layout to be, and the sort of clientele I wanted to attract. I live in an area of Greater Manchester known as the ‘property golden triangle’ where some of the richest people in the country live. Since the recession, there haven’t been any decent, good-sized places to go for entertainment in Wilmslow – places where you can just hang out, watch sport and get a reasonably priced meal. Between myself and Bar Sport we’ve created a venue that meets the company’s national guidelines and also fits the mood of Wilmslow.

Describe your business’ structure?

There’s a head chef, two deputy managers and an assistant manager, all with experience in the hospitality field. Then there’s the bar staff. My role is to oversee the financial side of things and ensure the general health of the business. Two of the biggest areas that catch most bars out are staffing and waste, so I’ll be keeping a close eye those things to ensure I’m running a lean operation.

What features of your bar set it apart from others?

I've spent £100,000 on audio and visual equipment and have 50 screens throughout the venue so that people can watch pretty much any sport they want, any time they want. Obviously big games such as the recent Wimbledon tennis final take centre court.

We’ve also got Xboxes and PlayStations running a wide selection of sporting games, along with several pool tables, table football and darts. Upstairs, we have a more relaxed VIP area, which can be hired out for private parties.

Ultimately, we’ve turned an eyesore into a fresh, modern venue, one where people can get the best in sport and entertainment while enjoying great food and drink.

What do you think are the main advantages of buying a franchise?

You don’t have to go through the pain of making silly mistakes. Most of the hard work has already been done. And there are other franchisees you can turn to for advice and support. Buying a franchise saves trial and error, which saves time and money.

Anyone thinking of starting a business in an area they know nothing about would do well to invest in a franchise – as long as they research it thoroughly beforehand, and make sure there’s a good fit of personalities. I did all of these things and the takings from my first week, which outstripped both my own and head office’s expectations, reflect the benefit of the research I did and the care I took in making my decision to choose Bar Sport.

As a franchisee, I also benefit from the buying power that comes from being part of a national brand. Bar Sport has put a long list of suppliers at my fingertips covering everything from beer and spirits to plasma screens and furniture. I wouldn’t have known where to start sourcing these things. The best part is, I didn’t have to.