If you’re considering starting a retail liquor business in Canada or the USA, sooner or later (likely sooner) you’ll need the services of a liquor licensing specialist (sometimes referred to as a “liquor license consultant”. Before hiring this individual or company, it’s obviously a good idea to do some online research to assess their abilities, experience and track record before signing on the dotted line. And most importantly, ask about their past projects.
Rebecca Hardin, President and lead hospitality consultant for Thrive Liquor & Cannabis Advisors has seen a lot of faces come and go in BC’s liquor consulting industry. Like any industry, there are good companies, mediocre companies, and “run-the-other-way” companies. Anyone can say they are a consultant, just like anyone who toots a kazoo can call themselves a musician.
But do you want the greatest kazoo hits played at your wedding? Led Kazooppelin, anyone? Probably not. Most “training” in this industry is experiential (not to be confused with “experimental”). Certainly, some capable consultants have degrees in business, hospitality or hotel and restaurant management, but it’s real-world experience that makes the consultant, whether they have a degree from a prestigious university, or battle scars from the “school of gettin’ sh#t done”.
How do you spot a good liquor license consultant when there are so many listed in Google search results? Here are some traits based on our years of experience in this industry.
“Liquor license consultant” doesn’t do justice to the complexity and breadth of work that experienced consultants do. There is much more to running a successful retail liquor business, restaurant, or bar than getting and keeping a liquor license. Though liquor license application approval is an important first step, it’s only the beginning. An experienced consultant supports a retail liquor business at every stage of its growth, and more importantly, continually throughout the business’s lifetime. A seasoned consultant can help a retailer with liquor license applications, municipal licensing, store setup, SKU selection, staff training, in-store marketing, ongoing compliance training and product performance assessments via financial audits.
Most strong consultants have, at some point in their careers, worked in the trenches of the hospitality industry as a worker (server, bar tender, host, manager). While a liquor license specialist can be good at their job without hospitality service experience, those who’ve walked in your shoes will have a more intimate understanding of your daily challenges and concerns.
While it’s possible for a newbie to be good at their work, it’s safer to choose a consultant who has a few years’ experience to draw from, or, who is under the watchful eye of a lead consultant with many years of experience.
If you can find an experienced professional liquor license consultant, that’s great, but has their work resulted in success for clients? How many licenses have they successful guided to approval? How many private retail liquor stores have they helped get up and running? Has their work resulted in improvements to a business’ operations and ultimately their profitability?
If you’re starting or running a private retail liquor business, contact us for a consultation. Our liquor consultancy services consistently help liquor retailers in BC, Alberta and the USA succeed.