What drives trends? These days, we see innovations in technology and consumers looking to connect while also seeking a highly personalized experience as the key trends shaping the bar and nightclub business. While we could go off on lengthy and lofty articles about what that means, we know that when looking in the proverbial crystal ball, bar and club operators want two questions answered: What’s Hot? What’s Not? So here’s our take. Now it’s your job to see how these trends may or may not play out in your place, and what you need to do to capitalize on them. Good luck!
As you read this, these technologies are likely evolving, but here’s our take on the tech trends for bars and clubs in the coming year:
Guest Experience Enhancers
Touchscreen tabletops and bartops – Tabletop systems allow guests to review drink menus, customize cocktails and place drink orders — all while playing games and accessing the venue’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. System advances promise greater guest-to-venue and guest-to-guest interactivity.
TV systems – Slimmer and sleeker HDTVs, 3-D and increasing multi-functional and customizable systems are on the rise. “Private” cable or satellite feeds mean varied programming within the venue, including in-house feeds. Systems that overlay ads for brands on hand, current or upcoming promotions or event notices on screens will drive greater sales and new revenue for bars and clubs. Also, text-to-screen and ticker options are on the horizon.
Music for the ears and eyes – Greater production elements for DJs, from visuals like digital light shows to live drummers and DJ platforms that move to float out above the crowd, not to mention video mixing to sync with audio for a complete multi-sensory experience.
Back of House
Scan, sync and prevent shrink – Internet-enabled inventory control systems track bottles from receiving to backbar (thanks to ever-smaller RFID tags), sync with POS systems and allow management to get real-time inventory and sales reports sent to their mobile devices — even for small bars. Benefit: just-in-time inventory, no out-of-stocks, nimble ordering for promotions, less shrink and a better bottom line.
Rockin’ reports – Draft line and liquor pour systems synced with POS systems will yield drink-level reporting; spot the winners, losers and sources of loss quickly and push management to make adjustments.
— Donna Hood Crecca
Here’s what we see coming, and going, at the nation’s bars in 2011
• Bartenders putting guest service on par with crafting great cocktails
• Bars, and those who tend them, breaking out as mainstream media darlings
• Pisco, rye and cachaça, for real
• Millennials. They’re coming of age in droves. Are you ready?
• Live entertainment – music acts and comedians, with social media building the buzz and bringing the crowds
• Better trained bartenders, thanks to programs like the USBG Master Accreditation, BarSmarts, B.A.R. and more
• Organic, green and sustainable spirits, wine and beer
• Boutique brands — but only of the authentic variety
• Iconic beer brands (think PBR) on the menu alongside eclectic brews (think Allagash White)
• Drinks with ingredients no one can pronounce, let alone recognize
• Telling patrons, “We don’t serve that here.”
• Thinking gin will be the next vodka (Hey, we’re huge fans, but gin won’t capture 30 percent of the market any time soon)
• Thinking vodka is over (see above)
• Flat, skunky or poorly poured beer — there’s just no excuse anymore
• Deep, deep drink discounts that deliver no margin and attract the wrong guest
— Donna Hood Crecca
Bar and club owners have enough to do without trying to keep up with the politicians and legislators, but you don’t want to be blindsided either. Here are two issues to track on the local and national scene:
Counties, states and even the Fed are looking for dollars, and alcohol is a likely candidate for increased taxes in 2011. From taxes on individual drinks to fee increases at the state level that will trickle down to wholesale prices, we’re at risk. With 59 percent of the cost of a retail bottle of spirits already coming from taxes, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, it pays to keep tabs on what’s going on and get involved. Stay tuned at nightclub.com and also check out stophospitalitytaxes.com.
The future of your business rests on this issue. In-vehicle alcohol detection devices could be standard in all cars within five years, if we don’t get involved. Twelve states require ignition interlock for first-time DWI offenders with low BAC levels; that’s a strong step toward universal application (interlocks in all vehicles), which translates into major loss of business for any of you with parking lots. Search “interlock” on nightclub.com or visit interlockfacts.com for more.
— Donna Hood Crecca