Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Take Five - Erik Baylis, Owner of Big Onion Tavern Group

Erik Baylis is the Owner of Big Onion Tavern Group, a hospitality group with nine successful concepts through the City of Chicago. Their new South Loop location of Fatpour Tapworks will be open this spring. Erik is a newly-inducted member of the IRA's Advisory Council, and a member of the IRA Government Relations Committee. 

Expansion in the Bar/Restaurant World

by Erik Baylis

As I get ready to begin the process of opening Big Onion Tavern Group’s (BOTG) tenth location, I thought it would be a great time to talk about business expansion.  Business expansion may seem to be an inevitable decision after seeing success, but the reality is more complicated than that. The biggest question being - do you really want to expand? Many people expand thinking they’ll get the same results as their first location. While results may come to fruition, the path will never be the same. If you still decide expansion is right for you, here are five keys that have helped me to attain success. 

Begin with the end in mind. Would you run a race if there wasn’t a finish line? I hope the answer to that would be no.  Same idea here, you must know what your end-all goal is to begin this process. A vital part of this will be starting a new business plan. Even if your first business plan was followed and became a success, it’s time to start over using all of the experience you have gained. The time spent analyzing and creating a thorough business plan will save you a multitude of hours in the long run. Procrastination creates the need for luck.  Prior planning creates success. 

Location, Location, Lo...Price Per Square Foot  
Yes, location is a very important aspect in our industry.  That being said, some of the “best” locations are a sure failure in disguise. Personally, I look for ‘B’ locations: where the price is right, where I can add value to an already vibrant crowd, and eventually turn the location into an ‘A’ spot. Finding an ‘A’ location, although appealing, comes with a price tag. With today’s technology and analytics, pricing on these types of markets goes up prior to you getting a deal that is financially beneficial. Certain price tags assure failure from the start; it is very important to be aware of your occupancy cost from the beginning. Don’t compare yourself to what you have heard others are doing financially, analyze based on what you know about your brand. In other words, don’t try to be an innovator, but also don’t miss the train.

Doing a SWOT Analysis is always a good place to start. What are the areas; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Weigh in on each of these. Don’t fall in love with a place based on its ‘cover’, rip it apart too. After the analysis is complete, see which list is longer and how your gut feels: in all be true to yourself. 

Three-Sided Square
Another decision during expansion is to choose if you are copying your same model, from name, to food, to concept.  Second, are you starting from scratch or somewhere in-between? Remember to stick to what you are good at and stay inside your square. This being said, different areas provide different culture, which provide a different customer base. Stick to what you are good at but don’t be afraid to go outside of the square a little to conform to your surroundings. Don’t ever lose sight of your brand, but also don’t try to put your square peg through a round hole.  

Look in the Mirror - You Are Successful!
Your success is not luck. Your success is strategic. This is where most people fail. The majority of places in our industry fail, because they look at the negative and do not build off of the positive. After you have succeeded once, look in the mirror, praise yourself, be proud, and figure out exactly what you did to get to where you are.  Now it is time to copy that!  Each and every individual that is successful in this industry is successful for a multitude of reasons; the key is finding your reason and running with it. Cockiness is one thing, confidence is the thing! 

Train Them to Be You!
You have been successful because of your hard work and dedication, while sticking to your beliefs. You know you can recreate your success at your new location, but soon you realize you cannot be at two places at one time. What should you do? You need to train people to be you! Don’t be the person that says, “You can’t hire good people anymore.” Be the person that is going to turn any individual into the person that everyone wants to hire. 

Training begins with the culture.  Live the culture you want your employees to portray.  Live the culture you want your customers to feel when they walk in.  Live, breath, sleep, and live your culture. Create systems with checks and balances to ensure what needs to happen is getting done.

In closing, I want everyone to remember that having fun is the key. With expansion comes more stress and bigger problems, but don’t get lost in it. As soon as it stops being fun, stop expanding. Remember that more locations does not always translate into more cash, but even if it does, if you are not having fun, it’s not worth it. Life is too short and you work too hard not to have fun out there!


Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors


      Quick Links

Hear From Us

Signup for email updates from the
Illinois Restaurant Association.

Contact Us

33 W. Monroe, Ste 250
Chicago, IL 60603
Toll Free: 800-572-1086
Ph: 312-787-4000
Fax: 312-787-4792


Follow Us

  • Copyright © 2018 Illinois Restaurant Association. All rights reserved.
Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal