All businesses have their busy and slow periods, often driven by holidays or the weather. For customer Lisa Forman, owner of Legends Sports Pub in Salt Lake City, UT, planning ahead for her busy season involves tracking when professional football is starting up for the year or if there’s a big college rivalry game coming up.

Read on to learn how Lisa has made Legends a Salt Lake City institution for sports fans by creating a tight knit group of employees, finding ways to stay busy during the off-season and strategically expanding to a second location.

Hiring and retaining top-notch employees

With a competitive job market and high turnover in the food service industry, Lisa says her biggest challenge is finding and keeping experienced staff. To mitigate that, she focuses on taking care of her employees and making Legends feel like a family. She says:

“The job market is very competitive right now. It’s hard to get good employees, so I would say that’s our biggest challenge.  then we’ve just decided to focus more on them and what are their interests, what their needs are, and then we take care of our staff and they take good care of the customers. We have good, loyal people. Some of our employees have been with us since day one.”

Taking good care of her employees also has helped her reduce some business expenses: “Turnover can be high in our industry. We’ve worked to reduce that by taking good care of our employees, since the cost of hire can get expensive.”

Opening a second location

Having loyal, experienced staff members in place was particularly helpful for Lisa when they decided to open a second location. She was able to rely upon her experienced waiters, bartenders and kitchen staff to train her new hires for the second Legends location. However, she did find that getting a new location staffed and ready came with some steep upfront costs: “I’ll be excited when we’re ready to open the new bar. We’ve been juggling around staff to train our new hires in the current location so they’re ready to go when the new bar opens. It’s been a challenge for us since we’ve been doubling up on labor costs for a whole month with no extra income coming in.”

Another challenge Lisa faced when opening a second location was getting it ready in time for her busy season. She was on a tight deadline to get the new bar up and running by August 1, in time for football pre-season. Getting a loan from OnDeck helped her meet this deadline, as she was able to get her funds quickly and easily.

“OnDeck was great. The process took about 2-3 days – it was just like boom, boom”

Keeping up with their busy season

 Lisa has learned over her years in business that the slow and busy seasons for a sports bar are a bit different than for other businesses. Their busy season is dictated by which sport is in season, or if a good playoff series is happening.

She says, “We’ll pick up in August when football pre-season starts. We’re slammed during football season, so we always have to ramp up staff and everything for that. College football’s big – we have a lot of watch groups who come by our bar weekly. Then you just go into winter with NFL, then you have college basketball finals, professional basketball playoffs and hockey playoffs.”

College football keeps them especially busy, as games run all day on Saturday: “College football by far has the most turnover. We basically fill the bar; luckily everyone is patient and knows we’re just getting to them. Then the game will end, a group will clear out, and before you know it the next game is on and the bar is full again. We’ll open at 10 AM and the bar will be full until the end of the late West Coast games at 11:30 PM that night.”

One of the ways they stay so busy is by becoming the weekly watch spot for certain college fan bases – for example, they’re known around town as the “Big Ten” sports bar. Lisa says, “All those guys come in and watch religiously every Saturday.”

Staying busy during the off-season

Lisa has gotten creative to fill their slower periods with a steady stream of revenue. She says, “We do a lot of corporate events. We’ve gotten very good at hosting training seminars or luncheons for different companies. We’ve also focused on getting the word out about the bar in creative ways – through local hotels, large apartment complexes, and by partnering with other local businesses.”

At the end of the day, Lisa is proud to have built a business where customers and employees alike feel like a part of the family. She says of her staff, “We all blend well into what we call the Legends family. We all have very strong personalities, but we’ve really become family.”

It’s the same with her customers: “I watched Cheers a lot growing up, and I always knew I wanted to have a place like that. I feel like we’ve been able to do that at Legends. Everybody knows everybody’s name and hugs. You get involved in their personal lives, it’s good.”

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