Written By Bryan Flowers from The Night Wish Group
I have written this article because many people ask me for my opinion about Pattaya in general and this is just my personal opinion.
Part of my job leading Night Wish Group is trying to find more bars in more locations and to spot hotspots, trends which could be happening on sections of a soi, a whole soi or a complex of bars. I try to observe sois that are trending up and down. I look at customers walking around, rent prices and existing business owners. I am looking for opportunities and where to make them. We need a rising tide or make our own.
“Hobby To Business”
Pattaya bars are mostly hobbies but there will be business owners arriving in town that are serious. There are still tons of people surviving on investors money and/or bell-ringing around town with investors money and that element will always be around, but I am hoping with NWG we can show and prove to people year after year that you can make money here, but it requires great work ethics, a good team from leader, managers, service, hostesses etc. We are very careful to select decent people to represent us. None of our core team drinks alcohol and we pretty much “work” every waking hour. (work means answering to problems that arise at all hours, making decisions, reminding and asking people to do jobs etc…)
“There are too many bars in Pattaya”
I saw this thread on PA and I thought, as a business owner, I feel there is too many bars because quiet bars often have bored, idle, jealous owners that focus on other peoples stuff instead of promoting their own. (the reason why they are empty) Many business owners have no idea what things really cost and they often under-price items, which causes problems for businesses that are priced correctly. This is a small problem, however, that does not phase people who are on top of their game.
Too many bars for who then? For customers it brings the price down or underpins it, all the struggling businesses around town are sending promotion signals out, which is their final screams before they are either rescued by a high season, investors, a lottery win or they run until everything is gone. Marketing by price (a race to the bottom) is a bad strategy but a lot of inexperienced bar owners in Pattaya do it. (I wrote here about why most bars and business owners fail)
I am not sure who there are too many bars for?
The licensing guys win, landlords win, police win, customers win, many business owners lose but that’s the game of business. The difference is we can see our competitors, unlike many businesses. There are likely “too many” competitors out there for all many types of services.
“………(insert soi or complex) is dead”
Some people say that an area is dead such as a beer complex, the reason I wouldn’t invest in a beer complex unless it was the whole thing, is because you have little or no control of your team. The other bar owners are pretty much stakeholders in your business, (and are your team) if they are all dead, then so are you. You need everyone in the complex to make an effort, market/advertise and be full of girls, not everyone can be bothered or has the info to do that.
It’s the same on the sois as well, if your neighbour is doing bad, he’s dragging you down. Most old skool bar owners see the busy businesses as the enemy, often jealous or convinced they must be up to no good. When we started on soi 6, we were busy every day thanks to this forum and all the bar crawls I ran. The neighbouring bars hated us and we still get other bar owners jealous of us but in reality what we have done for the soi is raise the game. We lead by example which is 10 times more powerful than teaching people. We have proven to people what works and they copy all our techniques as our team adapts and improves. We have become leaders in a small market in Pattaya.
Most of the farang owners on soi 6 mainly post all over Facebook and Instagram, not so many forums (they have no idea how many people actually read PA and other sites we have) If everyone is marketing their bars and making sure they have enough staff, then we are on the curve upwards. Every bar owner on soi 6 is one team, whether they like it or not. All advertising efforts help each other and the owners that do nothing at all, are nothing but a burden on the soi, but often having a bunch of girls at the bar is enough.
I have been told that there are around 7-9 new Indian night clubs with another nightclub called JP Republic that just opened. (they are advertising it very well and they are big) There are also some poorly managed night clubs with poor marketing but I think the night club scene will grow. We may see less gogo bars, but the strongest of them will still thrive.
Young Mans Game?
Many people say that running bars in Pattaya is now a young man’s game. It’s not a young man game, it just means that change and enthusiasm to work hard is very important these days because the bars are shifting from hobbies to businesses. It tends to be younger guys that are willing to change, take bigger risks and work their balls off. (because they have less to lose and they want more money for fun or to stay) In fact, I have met several older businesses owners happy with what they are making and don’t wish to increase profits… He is only thinking of himself, its a team effort, a good leader needs to make sure everyone earns more even if he can’t be bothered or doesn’t like change. If you aren’t willing to maximize profit on your business and grow it, you are cheating yourself and your staff from lost profits and risking your business dying. I am a strong believer if you are not fighting hard to grow, you are adapting and going against a tide of problems and you will slowly stagnate or sink, I am very sure if the leader isn’t pushing hard for growth, the business will slowly die
New areas or dead sois
I would never ever invest in a new or dead area. You have to reeducate a ton of people and teach them that they can now go to different areas of the city for different things. You have to change their habits from years worth of trips. You have to spend more money than everyone on advertising and you need to be able to get decent neighbours at the same time, which is very rare or unlikely. Soi Chaiyaboon already has a few similar services on offer and 20 years worth of foot traffic with a few bars and most units are full. There is guesthouses on the soi and its a stones throw away from LK Metro. I strongly believe that when we get enough bars down in that area we can make the whole soi busier but it will take years because we have to change people’s routines and let them know there are bars down that way too, not just massages.
I was always laughed at for taking bar crawls down soi 6 and being there late. Everyone had the mentality that it was a rumble in the dark and then go home, but when we opened up the bars and started marketing them all over the place, the soi got busier and busier. Soi Chaiyapoon has many years behind it, unfortunately, many see it as a massage soi only. It takes a while to convince people to try it, then like it, then keep coming back and bringing friends.
I would only invest in a new area if we owned 10-15 units, this way we control and maintain our hotspot. We will need a very expensive marketing strategy, would need to burn a ton of money and any neighbours with no/few girls in their bars, will drag us down.
There is no point though when there are tons of places like LK Metro, soi Chaiyapoon and soi Buakhao, which are both up and coming.
There are tons of places to advertise all over town. The longer I stay here the more I learn about what is really effective around this town. There are many old skool advertising platforms to that may still work. While the Pattaya Mail is questionable, there are people still reading it and people tend to flip through every page. When viewing websites, however, people tend to become blind to adverts. Once there are less hobbyists running bars I think all the advertising mediums will start picking up again but right now, most of them are struggling. We at Pattaya Addicts forum rarely ever get any bar or gogo asking to advertise with us even though it is very very underpriced, its madness. For 3000-7000 baht a month, you don’t need many customers or you only need a good one once a year! People see it as a cost, when not advertising with us is a much bigger cost in the long run.
Success leaves clues. You can see the places that advertise well are full or very busy, they are known around town but for whatever reason, people convince themselves that it’s not the advertising that has done that, and they are always right. The adverts just put the business in someone’s mind and maybe convinced him to try it but we listen to our friends and those few customers from one measly advert is a catalyst to bring a chain reaction of new customers in via word of mouth but of course, that’s only part of it. You still need a good business to keep the customers coming back. You also need branding/marketing and many other things but that goes back to how the business owner will adapt and learn or if will he stay in holiday mode and drink constantly. A lot of people already know NWG but we keep advertising to remind people, to maintain our brand awareness, to help people trust us and raise customer expectations.
As more business owners step up their game, the customers will increase in their area or bar, the rents will increase and everyone has to step up their game, the hobbiest will have to exit the stage and the people with strong work ethics will enter. We all know bar owners that are out most nights drinking all over town or going to many opening events. (they often say its work) these are the guys that tend to earn nothing or less or less than they could be and won’t be around in the future, many people don’t understand how we make money, if they see the effort that everyone does in our company, they would understand. We made this website (pattayaunplugged.com) at great expense monthly, just to give something back in Pattaya, grow our brand awareness etc, it’s just one of many things that we are doing to secure and grow our future. One of the biggest reasons I founded The Pattaya News was to help our bar business, our team and to give Adam Judd a partnership with me for his future. We have more layers of staff which can reduce profit margins a little but makes us stronger, more resilient and more prepared.
I am constantly telling people, please do not open a bar unless you have an edge, this could be
- a youtube channel
- a following on any platform
- access to a constant flow of new girls
- a great location that no one else is able to get
- the ability to adapt, learn, work your balls off
- tons of money you can afford to burn
What will happen to different areas?
I don’t like to name specific areas because I had people complaining about investors listening to what I have to say. But I will quickly try and mention what I think will happen. (over next 5-20 years) The beer bar complexes will slowly disappear unless they change the way they are run. The other disadvantage is the rents are high and nowhere for staff to sleep, they can be sold and flattened easy and the other is your team is everyone else around you. (if your neighbours have no girls, they are pulling you down)
Soi 7 will do very well up both ends (with real units to rent,) the beer bar complexes will struggle or disappear. Soi Buakhao is fast rising but there is a long-overdue price increase needed down there, many businesses are suffering or making little. LK Metro has too many gogos and not enough bars, I went down there the other day and it looks dead until the gogos open, I think with few bars around, the gogos should open earlier. Walking Street, I think that they will put sand down the side, extend the beach which will allow most people to stay. But they aren’t giving more licenses out anymore near the sea because it’s illegal. (we tried at the gem shop on soi 6, but it’s too close to the sea) Soi Chaiyapoon will slowly become like soi 6, but it will take more years, I have done many things in the background to make this happen slowly, but it takes time. (I would never ever start a new bar area, its hard enough pumping a quiet (but established area). We will make sure soi 6 does well, but it’s very tough for others to buy/run a business down there now. But there are many business owners down there getting a free ride from everyone’s efforts.
I feel the future of Pattaya is groups of bars and gogos. (opposed to individual owners) I mean real groups like NWG, not people just saying they are a group but not truly ran like one. Layers of staff, core team, organised, equally owned and ran centrally. This will mean a different skill set of psychology, people management, recruiting etc. (this excludes the sociopath bar owners that think they can just control people with money)
I feel that groups is what business owners need because it’s going to be soi/area vs soi/area. There are so many conflicts and lack of understanding, that people won’t work together promoting their area, trying to look after it, make sure everyone is getting paid to help that soi stay open. We are able to bear the costs of promoting soi 6 with baht bus adverts because we own 33% of the right-hand side. We have always beared the (small) costs of the soi 6 party. Many other people give up when other owners refuse to participate or contribute. It takes an entire soi/area to work together to keep a soi busy. (or they can all promote heavily individually) We can make sure soi 6 is always busy by promoting it ourselves enough, while other bar owners promote themselves, which helps us all anyway.
I feel you will see fewer hobby bars, which will stop pulling prices down to an unhealthy level.
I feel more business owners will start copying us, take responsibility for your area, help your competitors rise, promote your area and you will all do well.
For customers, they will always get what they want, just not at the price they always want or at the same locations. Providing people can afford to pay a little more, Pattaya will always be one of the best places for them. For investors/business owners, they will have to start paying for a consultation, doing due diligence, using Thai law in partnership contracts.
The level that business owners operate at will slowly be lifted. As the rents increase, the choice is the owner has to become good or sell their business.
I am very bullish about the future of Pattaya, its nightlife, the areas it will be good in for the next 10 years. It will get harder for business owners not easier. It will remain just as good for customers. Weak hands are already losing grip over this “low season”. The best businesses in Pattaya don’t have issues with seasons, it only makes small differences. We can help the adult/nightlife stay alive by helping business owners promote their businesses and get better staff.
The whole town needs to work together to thrive and prosper. Not just the sois.
I have written in the past about business in Pattaya here