As innovation continues to transform the bar and nightclub industry, owners and operators need to understand and implement the technological trends that will shape the industry for years to come.
From front-of-house marketing tools and back-of-house equipment to mobile marketing strategies and social networking initiatives, the future of the industry is evolving and if owners/operators aren’t on the side of innovation, they’ll lose customers, revenue and bottom-line profits. Experts told Nightclub & Bar some of the trends that will become industry mainstays within the next decade.
As mobile becomes more ubiquitous, so will the ease for users. Dave Sribnik, director of trends and technology at sales and promotion agency MarkeTeam, says near field communication will be the next big trend in mobile. The technology, which is available in all Android-operating systems, is a chip that allows phones to “talk” to each other.
Phones with NFC technology can tap anything with the same NFC chip and be sent to a drink menu page or a page offering a complimentary drink coupon. “Obviously, this is the future of mobile payment transactions,” Sribnik says, adding that the technology can be used not just for payments but for “any kind of communication.”
“There’s nothing you can’t do with NFC,” explains Boris Bugarski, CEO and president of emarketing agency ShoutAmp Inc. “NFC is going to be a major marketing push in America over the next couple of years… it will get in all four walls of restaurants, nightclubs and bars.”
Sribnik also endorses the growing popularity 3-D printing, which is a process of making a 3-D solid object of any shape from a digital model. Because the 3-D image is a real-life usable item—think a usable 3-D guitar—Sribnik said he “can only imagine what it will mean for the world of marketing and promotions.” It is going to revolutionize marketing and promotion in general, he says.
While social networking sites are finally a mainstream sales-and-marketing tool, bar and nightclub owners finally need to understand how to maximize the benefit of the pervasive sites.
“A nightclub needs to understand how to get people in droves to use Instagram, Facebook or Twitter within their four walls while the guests are there,” explains Bugarski. If people in the bar or club will “like” the bar on Facebook, share a status or retweet something from the establishment, then followers will become loyal patrons. “People don’t get rid of photos on Facebook or Instagram; people come back and go through everyone else’s photos,” he explains.
Allow guests to market for you, Bugarski adds. Sribnik agrees, saying photo-sharing sites drive the most success for bar and clubs. “It really is the present and the future,” he says. “People love sharing photos and videos.”
Photos on Facebook get seven more likes, 10 times more shares than just a link. They also attract 104% more comments than an average post on Facbeook, Sribnik says. “The focus needs to be on when people take photos, how do you get credit for that,” he explains. “How do they tag the location they’re in? How do you run contests and promotions around them?”
Back of House
Back-of-house operations in the kitchen and the bar starting to come together, says Chef Brian Duffy, consultant for CBD Solutions. While food is being reinvented into healthier options for guests, the back of house is becoming more efficient.
Duffy said convention and steam cooking ovens are now mainstream in kitchens. The combination ovens are “more efficient, but they’re also a different way to cook things,” he says. “I can pop something into the combination oven and steam it at the same time; it’s a softer method.”
Duffy also says “super ovens” like the TurboChef can cook 15 times faster than a conventional oven, which is beneficial to diners who expect fast and efficient service. “We want an 8-to -2 minute concept—8 minutes for the appetizer, 12 minutes for the entrée,” he says. “We want it fast, quick and we want it to taste as bold as possible. We don’t want to wait for anything.”
If we can execute at a higher and faster level, we can turn tables and make more money, he adds. Behind the bar, it’s one of the greatest times for bars and nightclubs. “We have bar mixologists that are educated as chefs,” and are creating cocktails and communicating with chefs, farmers and small distillers. At the Lake Placid Lodge in New York, Chef Nathan Rich says bartenders are using more and more stabilizers to make meringues in drinks, jellies and iSi system of whipped cream guns. The bar “is much more creative than it was before,” he says. “You see people experimenting with flavors and liquids to make the drinks more flavorful and exciting.”
Front of House
Amy Van Hook started her reservation company UrVenue.com when nightclubs became the forgotten industry. Owners were desperate for a reservation system that was organized. Now, the vendor product is used throughout the industry as a “portal for venues to manage and operate and be able to know their clients,” she explains, adding that it captures guest information and helps owners target them in the future.
In the future Van Hook predicts the nightlife space will have an application like Open Table. “Clubs all over the country are putting reservations for guest lists and bottle service virally,” she said, which will work for people traveling who don’t know where to go.
Guests will be able to use their smartphones to reserve a table and buy a bottle, she says. Eventually, guests will be able to see a seating map and check into the best table. “That’s the next revolution,” Van Hook says.
Nightclubs, she says, will eventually go from pencil and paper reservations list to using electronic tablets. “However, the technology … is not as fast as it needs to be for clubs” of high volume. It’s still quicker to check someone off a list manually, she says.