the art of hospitality in the nightlife industry
Sometimes the nightlife industry can be placed in a negative light. This stigma has been set for numerous reasons, and while I am a firm believer in the expression, “perception is reality”, most owners and operators in the nightlife industry have earned the right to be respected amongst all business people.
Brian Taylor, Director of Nightlife Services at Zee Bar and a VIP nightlife veteran, gives his insight on what it takes to successfully survive in the constantly evolving entertainment business.
It is important to understand where you have been in order to implement a plan towards where you are going. Here, Taylor addresses the unfortunate reputation that has been impressed upon the nightclub industry.
“The stigma is evident in the term “Nightlife”. Many assume business occurring at night is not the same as daytime business interactions,” says Taylor. “Additionally, our industry has seen its fair share of scandal and misrepresentations. Sadly the few who act inappropriately garner most of the attention. However, hardworking individuals who execute their jobs with precision and detail define the backdrop of our industry. Our industry has evolved and the pioneers left a blue print for professionals to prepare for generations to come. Every visible nightlife market has produced exceptional operators. The evolution of nightlife is apparent in the interchangeable reference between hospitality and nightlife. I think the future of our industry will constantly be evolving as the stigma subsides to focus on a profession attracting highly skilled and educated individuals.”
Taylor explains this industry is one of constant evolution, when asked what it takes to keep up with the evolutions, he touches upon the importance of operators staying disciplined to their mission and business principals; those who dare to do so are sure to strive. “Front of the house staff who value the profession beyond the financial rewards draw from their intrinsic passion for serving others. The instant gratification delivered from providing WOW customer service is addictive. Our industry has seen changes primarily from the shift and focus we place on technology.”
While technology is something that clearly cannot be overlooked, nothing beats one-on-one interaction so it is imperative that nightlife professional’s do both. “To stay relevant we embrace the new forms of communication while injecting our individual styles of communication. There is a renaissance of professionals seeking out mentors and education conferences to be prepared for the next generation of customers to serve.”
An undeniable fact of this evolving business world is that people are acquiring higher levels of education, whether that be in a credited institution or elsewhere, it is important to never stop learning in order to understand your customer and actually give them what they want. Taylor does stress the importance of education, being that nightlife industry professionals have evolved by encompassing multimillion dollar-operating companies.
However, he also acknowledges that knowledge is not only found in a classroom setting. Taylor stresses the importance of real life experience as education as well. “Education for many can be lived or experienced. You can achieve a balance by seeking out mentors, visiting your local bookstore or library to stay abreast of new industry standards and trends,” says Taylor. ‘General techniques can be thoroughly defined if you are proactive and seek out the information.”
Taylor goes on to deciphers the important qualities of a VIP customer, regular customer and how to differentiate. “I still subscribe to the notion that a VIP can be someone who frequents your establishment and always embodies the style of the venue. I am not fixated on if you are spending $200 vs. $20. My focus is if customers are enjoying themselves. It takes a little conversation for a host to clearly understand and serve the customer.”
You do not want to lose your cool factor by giving out a survey or asking them 20 questions as they walk in the door, “As a host you can ask key questions to identify if this is an every night VIP who always gets table service, occasional bottle service customer but still a good customer or a situational VIP - someone celebrating an accomplishment. Technology and the current state of our financial economy have impacted VIP service. The impact is different for each market; bigger markets such as Las Vegas vs. smaller markets like Philadelphia may experience a flip flop trend. This trend would resemble a weighted scale with smaller markets seeing higher bottle service sales during holidays while bigger markets visitors assume the role of a VIP if they have the financial means. I think all customers are VIP’s if you choose to patronize my venue you are treated as a VIP.”
While getting to know VIPs and regulars, it is important for managers to stay in sync with the goals of the venue in order to establish good relationships with customers in hopes they will return. With technology it is easy to acquire basic information which you can take advantage of; such as a birthday.
Taylor explains that when dealing with regulars, it is common that one must demonstrate a greater sense of patience, “I would like to think there is a correlation with regulars and customers who may challenge the rules. After multiple visits some regulars may have a false sense of entitlement over other customers. Regulars may disregard the line or opt out of showing their ID. The classic reply is “I am a regular”. Regulars play a significant role in maintaining the foundation of a venue base. They are the backbone to driving sales because you can count on an average spend from your regulars. With that being said if a manager does not have the willingness or courage to correct regulars you run the risk of being seen as a pushover.”