Let's Make a DealOctober 6, 2011 By: Sean Evans Night Club and Bar Magazine
Online Reservations Create New Opportunities to Pack in Partiers at Nightclubs
The digitalization of nightlife is pressing on, thanks to a handful of new nightlife “deal” websites. NiteTables.com, ClubHost.com, Poggled.com, VIP-Bottles.com and more are all rushing to stake their claim in various U.S. cities as sound options for patrons making evening plans.
The way they work is simple. “We’re just like a travel website, such as Priceline.com, but for nightclubs,” says Reef Mowers, president of ClubHost.com. “We’re a site where customers can research, plan, book — and save — all in one place.”
Mowers’ site lets consumers compare a city’s venues (currently only 12 venues in San Diego are available, but the site is expanding to include Los Angeles and Las Vegas) and instantly book entrance, take advantage of VIP specials and price and order bottle service. ClubHost.com even allows site visitors to name their own bottle service price.
“Guests can submit an offer to one or more clubs they choose. They give their credit-card info when they submit the bid, and the first club to respond and accept wins the business,” Mowers explains, adding that if no venue accepts, the customer can submit another offer.
In New York City, NiteTables.com — which launched Aug. 1 — is making a sizeable splash with approximately 100 venues on board, including clubs such as Cielo, Hudson Terrace, Cellar Bar and Kastel.
“We’re an online reservation system for nightlife,” says Adam Alson, the site’s founder. “We have new venues that guests may not have known about, too, so each establishment listed has a video tour, photos and floor plans, as well as the minimum commitments they require.”
While NiteTables.com isn’t positioned as a deal site currently, it has the flexibility to become one.
“We’re empowering the venue to do whatever they want. If they want to do a flash sale, they can, such as a two-for-one bottle deal. If they want to offer no discounting, that’s fine, too. We don’t encourage or guide them in either direction. We’re merely taking the venue and posting it in the best possible light,” Alson outlines.
The ability to aggressively offer deals on everything from entry to a club to VIP bottle service is an interesting proposition for venue operators. Exclusivity and personalized service — and the opportunity to pay handsomely for such provisions — is the cachet of nightclubs. So-called “deal sites” can make the nightclub experience readily available to the masses, something elite club operators may eschew as counterproductive. At the same time, these marketing tools are music to the ears of smaller or struggling venues seeking ways to quickly fill their clubs and marketing databases. Like any new opportunity, operators need to do their homework and take the route that best serves their venue’s needs.
These types of sites make their money almost like any other promoter. “We developed software that connects our users to the venues on the backend, and we license that out for approximately $200 per month,” says Alson, who added that they also take a percentage of the reservation’s bill.
At ClubHost.com, “we take a 24% commission on bottle service and 30% on all VIP admissions, drink tickets sold and any tickets to special events,” Mowers says.
Both sites have seen a mostly favorable response from venues they’ve approached. “One of the nicer responses was, ‘Where have you guys been for the past five years? I’ve been waiting for this,’” Alson says.
Because ClubHost.com doesn’t charge venues for listings, “any of the sales we bring them, they take [with] open arms. They think of us like a lead service, and they have the potential to upgrade the clients once they meet them onsite,” Mowers says. “The customers we go for are organic; they’re not part of the promoter’s circle. These are people who are traveling to the area for conventions or for business. We’re a great resource for linking venues up with people they may never have had a chance to come into contact with.”
Even though deal sites are acting as lead generators, VIP hosts shouldn’t necessarily worry about their job safety. “It’s just an additional outlet for them to utilize,” Alson shares. “And unlike with a VIP host, these people are putting down their credit card before they come in, so you absolutely know they’re coming.” That’s an added benefit on which all sides can agree.
“We essentially guarantee both the venue and the customer will be pleased,” Mowers adds. “Before, if a guest’s dinner ran late, the club may have given away the table because they weren’t sure the client was still coming. Now, even if the client is late, they’ll still have a table.”
Mowers’ site also offers 24-hour email and phone support in case there are any issues or snags at the door, though he says that none has been reported. The site utilizes various precautions to ensure information is flowing freely. “The venues get three notifications of a reservation: a text message to the host — to which he or she must reply — an email double confirming, and an updated list of names and reservations each day right before they open,” Mowers says.
One final benefit to partnering with websites such as these is the potential to quickly grow and reach new clientele.
“When a member signs up, we have a wealth of personal knowledge available,” Alson says. “It’s a robust database management system, the contents of which are passed on to the operator.”
ClubHost.com takes data collection one step further when site visitors sign in through Facebook. “We can show a venue photos of the people who are making bids or reservations so the establishment can be sure they’re a great fit for the room,” Mowers says. “It really goes a long way if they’re on the fence about accepting.” NCB