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AK185

A few questions for the Pros

Hey y'all, this is my first post so I humbly apologize if I am putting this in the wrong place.

I've worked for a family owned restaurant down here (Columbia, South Carolina) for a few years now. A long time buddy (who also worked there for a number of years) and I have been smoking hookah for years, and bring a pipe to the restaurant and smoke outside weekly. I was sitting with the owner and my friend a few weeks back and the topic of the weekly hookah smoke at the restaurant came up, and the owner became very interested in how many people ask us about renting one out from the restaurant (which of course does not offer hookahs). I told him I would look into the idea of renting a few out and see how doable it would be. 

I started off by looking through the forums here (and I gleaned a lot from all the topics read, including the stickied one in this subforum) for tips and experiences others have had in setting up hookah bars. Obviously, I know a good bit about my hookah and smoking it with friends, but the profitability of renting them out (even just a few buoyed by food and drink sales) is what I'm trying to get a better handle on.

My concerns are these:

1. Outdoor space-I do not want to clutter the outside with hookah spots that may adversely affect nonsmoking customers. This is the biggest concern and what really makes me wary of the idea. Does anyone have any method they use to separate smoker from nonsmoker areas, for those to whom that applies? 

2. Ways to limit the costs-what are some specific things y'all do to limit how much tin foil, shisha, or coals you have to buy? Do you pack them more or less the same way you would at home or do you use store tricks?

3. How to charge-do you charge more per pack/repack and charge more, or do you charge less for a pack and charge per coal? Do you allow customers to rent multiple pieces at no charge, or do you limit how many customers can use a single pipe?

4. Staff-we have good, friendly servers already, but obviously a hookah addition would require dedicated personnel. I myself know how to pack, handle, clean, etc., and one of our cooks worked for years at another hookah bar that used to be in town. I would have time to monitor a couple of hookahs the time that I would be there, but I want to keep staff interference to a minimum.

5. Supplies-what kind of hookahs and coals do y'all use? I know most people use coconut coals, but I prefer personally the convenience and cheapness of the Three Kings. Mostly the convenience. But if y'all have strong recommendations to guarantee the best overall product or why this is wrong, I'd love to hear it.

Ideally, I would like to start very small-maybe three hookahs at most to gauge interest and get an idea of what our specific price points should be. I know we will need a state tobacco license and maybe a federal license or some such thing from the ATF, but those things I can figure out separately. Columbia currently only has one hookah bar, and it is fairly expensive. As I said before, I would really like to keep this to a minimum to see how viable it is, and if it will adversely affect the existing business.

 

Thanks so much for any responses, and I hope y'all have some feedback. Again, I apologize if this is a repeat or if I missed the proper place for it.

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