Baa Bar

As part of the launch of our Guide to Business Resilience, we reached out to a number of smaller business owers to find out what business resilience meant to them.

In this interview, we speak to Elaine Clarke, Founder of Baa Bar, about what business resilience means in her industry.

What does business resilience mean to you?

Never giving up. Taking an open minded, can do approach, no matter what challenges arise.

To be resilient in business you need to also look after yourself and have a team of people around you, people who are onboard with the journey.

Create your support network if it isn't there already in your team, mentors, advisors, friends, we need people around us.

Being open to ideas also helps, there is usually a way forward, even if it’s not the most obvious path. And as a wise mentor of mine once said; 'What goes up, must come down, and vice versa.'

It’s important that you keep that in mind.

Thirty years in business has taught me that good times are always followed by difficulty and challenge. Nothing lasts forever.

I've weathered financial crashes, recessions, pandemics, changing culture and trends.

That’s the name of the game. Resilience is required and to expect otherwise would be naive of me.

What kinds of changes have you made to reduce overheads in the current climate?

We are continually looking at ways to keep our costs down whilst retaining the quality of our product and standard of service.

We consider opening times and days, menu revision, product offer as part of this exercises.

Ultimately though, you have to hold your nerve where possible and make investment where needed as that’s what keeps the business progressing.

How has the energy crisis impacted your business?

Hugely, like everyone, our bills have more than tripled. Its mind-blowing.

The financial impact and erosion of profit is unfathomable.

Despite our best efforts, there is very little we can do.

I think its made us consider the instability and risk associated with just keeping the lights on more than ever before.

There is a definite appetite to consider alternative approaches to energy based on this.

Perhaps this focus can help businesses to move towards renewables.

What is your approach to debt and finance?

Finance is enabling, it can helps you to grow, offers a contingent for tough times and can be a safety net.

We have always financed where needed but this can leave you held to ransom by creditors too and that’s not a good place to be.

Sometimes banks can be impersonal and hard hitting and I don't feel that it is the best approach for a small businesses.

That’s something that has changed over the years, the traditional ‘relationship banker’ doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

How do you nurture your customer relationships?

By listening to the changing needs of customers and moving forward with them.

The customer needs to be happy, to feel that they have been looked after, having great service is the making of any business and when that falls down all is lost.

People buy into people and people want to feel valued.

It’s the basics and businesses should never take this for granted.

No matter how good things are or how busy you might be, bad news travels fast and word of mouth is the best form of marketing there is.

What measures have you taken to attract and retain talent in a tough climate?

Number one, we look after our people. We are a family business and our teams are part of that family.

We take an individualist approach to people.

Some roles are easier to fill than others but the most important part of our strategy is keeping the great people we have happy and enabling them to develop and recruit future talent.

How important is innovation and technology in future proofing your business and give an example of where you've invested in it?

We are always investing in technology to keep things working in the most effective and efficient way.

After lockdown, cash became non-existent practically which meant our staff tips did too.

We invested in a system that allowed customers to tip easily on their card and this revolutionised tips for our teams, they more than quadrupled overnight.

I'm always open and willing to try new things, it’s important to stay ahead and technology enables us to do this.

Elaine Clarke CEO of Baa Bar

Elaine Clarke's contributions to the hospitality industry in the Northwest of the UK has earned her recognition as a visionary entrepreneur. Her legacy continues to inspire the next generation of bar owners and managers, and she invests the spare time she has in nurturing and guiding future talent.

Elaine's journey began at Cafe Tabac, where she worked for her aunt from the age of 14. From these humble beginnings, Elaine went on to establish the Baa Bar Group, which at its height had 15 sites across the North of England.

With over three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Elaine is now a recognised and renowned entrepreneur who revolutionised the bar culture in the North West region of the UK.

In 2022, she became the Chair of the Liverpool HMP Employment Advisory Board and joined a network of leaders across the UK. She dedicates her time to developing the board to drive improvements in employment outcomes for people leaving prison.

Elaine has been recognised with over 30 awards for her achievements over the years, but the greatest recognition of all arrived on New Year 2023 when she was awarded an OBE for her services to hospitality in the King's New Year's Honours.

As the sole shareholder of Baa Bar Limited and with a successful career spanning 30 years, Elaine's achievements are a testament to her entrepreneurial spirit and her commitment to making a difference in her community.

Elaine is part of the Be the Business Ambassador Network - a group of small business leaders championing Be the Business' mission 'to inspire leadership teams to create and deliver greater productivity'. If you want to know more about the Ambassador group or Be the Business, please visit the Be the Business website.

Portrait of Jennifer Bailey, CEO - Calla Shoes,

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

Customer paying for a coffee by tapping credit card on payment machine

Focusing on customers

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Shrinking disposable incomes mean making sure your customer service is at its best is vital.

But, knowing the right place to turn to for guidance can be a challenge.

With tips on everything from attracting customers to increasing customer spending, our Guide to Building Business Resilience could help your business prepare for the future.

View the guide to business resillience

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