Our business has a fashion element to it; what’s hot now may cool in a nanosecond, and something that was all the rage decades ago may come screaming back into the spotlight at any given moment. At the same time, technology keeps evolving, bringing new and exciting tools into bar and club marketing and operations. To help you navigate the fast pace of change and embrace the next big things of 2012, we offer our annual Trends report.
If you’re just now tapping into the lucrative (and cost-effective) benefits of social-media marketing, get ready to go into high gear. Misti Yang, senior community manager at Yelp Las Vegas, and Maria Miranda, creative director at Miranda Creative, Inc., a media communications agency in Norwich, Conn., share what virtual marketing trends to expect in 2012:
• Go mobile. Miranda points to data that predicts “nearly a 100% saturation of smartphones by 2013,” saying all marketing, “especially your website, should consider this leading trend.” Yang agrees, adding that hardware devices are “getting faster, slicker and catching up with amazing advances in software. If you aren’t yet on the mobile bandwagon, you’re effectively hiding from customers.”
• Check out “check-in” applications. Yang explains that between known services, such as Yelp and Foursquare, and newer ones, including GetGlue and Instagram, consumers will happily check-in at favorite bars and clubs. “Location-based check-ins allow friends to find each other in real time” enabling businesses to “ensure they’re positioned to leverage this phenomenon,” Yang says.
• Hire a community manager. These positions require the skills to coordinate all forms of social media. “Big clubs or small, for 2012, plan on labor that will help you maintain your threads of communication to audiences that follow you via email, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The good news: The funds you’ll save on mass media can be applied to these labor costs,” she explains.
• Deal sites are it. Deal sites are popping up everywhere, and companies from Groupon to LivingSocial are streamlining their efforts. “Email is a very blunt tool, and we’ll see more companies look to targeting methods like leveraging geo-location, mobile and even past searches,” Yang explains. The challenge is turning that deal-site customer into a repeat patron.
• Know what’s working. From installing Google Analytics to using an audience-management platform, such as HootSuite or Sprout Social, managing your social-media presence ultimately will help you “understand what’s working and what’s not as early as possible,” Miranda notes.
Music trends change quickly, with genres and mediums morphing together, forming more awe-inducing spectacles; guests expect to have all of their senses stimulated at the same time.
Club music is now totally up-tempo, with higher beats-per-minute, says Wyatt Magnum, president of Magnum Music Group. To tap this trend, look for a mash-up DJ, says Ray Ford, founder of FORD Management Services, who says clubs need a person who not only mixes, edits and remixes his/her own music, “but also overlays beat tracks and voice drop-ins with slices of mainstream pop hits to create a non-stop medley of exciting and highly entertaining dance sets.”
Sujit Kundu, founder of S.K.A.M. Artist, a leading DJ talent agency, says clubs are including more production elements in DJ sets and shows. Music videos and video DJs, who package music as a larger, wholly immersive entertainment experience, are hot. Video DJs are taking more liberties when mixing music and videos, Ford explains, ultimately creating their own interpretations of the music by adding “ambient video, special effects, film clips and more.”
As DJs are become celebrities in their own right and increase the focal point of club event promotions, savvy operators gain another outlet to get the most bang for their booking buck. Also, seek out female DJs. “This once male-dominated field is quickly expanding to include some amazing female DJs, and we see this trend continuing,” Magnum remarks.
With technological advancements come new devices that deliver alternatives to old-school methods. Smart operators should consider integrating some of these trends into the front- and back-end of the business to stay on the forefront of a constantly changing world.
• E-cigs. Electronic cigarettes may be the perfect solution to smoking bans while creating a new revenue stream; see page 16.
• E-tablet ordering. Electronic menus are in their infancy but are streamlining efficiency and raising check averages in test venues. Most e-tablet devices integrate with point-of-sale (POS) systems and allow promotion of specials, as well as patron connection to social-networking sites. HubWorks Interactive is developing a DrinkHub mobile app
for smartphones that allows guests to place orders, identify their seat number, complete monetary transactions and receive order confirmation.
• Smart jukeboxes. Jukeboxes are now interactive and intelligent. NSM Music’s Digital Fusion unit is a 32-inch digital touchscreen jukebox, while TouchTunes Virtuo SmartJuke is a touchscreen device with a 3D user game-like interface that utilizes intuitive browsing and searching capabilities to browse music by song name, lyrics, genre, chronology, influences, etc. Additionally, myTouchTunes Mobile allows users to manage playlists on their smartphones and select music without leaving their seats.
• Mobile gaming devices. Playing trivia games on smartphones is revolutionizing interactive game play at the bar. The Buzztime Mobile app allows registered users to locate bars offering Buzztime games using an iPhone or iPod Touch and play along while in the venue. Also new on the gaming scene is quiz game The 3rd Degree; patrons text answers to a 10-question quiz game displayed on monitors in a bar or club.
• Next-level pour systems. Accounting for every drop of alcohol poured is going high-tech, giving operators crucial controls and savings; the next wave is wireless systems. DigiTap involves 300-foot two-way wireless communication with the system’s pour spouts, which can be set individually for different pour quantities. Spouts send
dispensing info to the central computer and POS system and can receive information, such as recipe pour amounts and scheduled turn off at closing time.
The biggest bar trend for 2012 is less pretension and more fun. Here’s how it plays out:
Bartenders, not mixologists. Hire for service skills, which can be coached but typically come naturally, over bartending skills, which can be taught. A mixologist conceives of and makes drinks, a bartender welcomes and interacts with guests and mixes and serves great drinks. Who do you want behind your bar?
Drinks for normal people. From shot cocktails to well-done frozen concoctions, drinks will be familiar and accessible, but still interesting. Some even may involve vodka (wink, wink). Bartenders will take things to the next level for guests who are ready — signature Sangrias, barrel-aged cocktails and house-made bitters are all on the spectrum — but also will deliver the tried-and-true favorites with equal care and respect.
Skinny. Face it, skinny drinks will sell. Whether high-end concoctions or ready-to-drink renditions, low-cal cocktails will appeal to the ladies. And that always is good for business.
Other things we see heating up for 2012:
• Cocktails on tap. Portion, quality and cost control equals profits, and an innovative service equals fun.
• Imports on draft. Look for a draft duke-out among major imports, and tap into their educational and promotional power.
• Rye, moonshine and pisco. Use one or all to differentiate your drink selection.
• All-American. Craft or major brand brews, wines, boutique spirits, juices, mixers and garnishes from the good old U.S. of A. will resonate, and many also tie into the ongoing “drink local” trend.
• Live music and entertainment. From comedians to emerging bands, live acts are hot. Check out performers’ fans on Facebook and view YouTube videos when booking to see the size of their followings and how they’re marketing their appearances and leverage that reach to drive traffic into your bar or club.
—Donna Hood Crecca
What will turn heads in clubs in 2012? Here are just a few trends bubbling up:
• Larger clubs. Whether it’s in New York City, Las Vegas, Miami or Los Angeles, the venues’ physical spaces are increasing; for example, there are a number of 20,000+ square-foot venues on the horizon for NYC. Also on the rise are “clubs within clubs.” Making your VIPs feel important is key, so instead of pressing them up against 4,000 other patrons, many places are building retreats for their best clients within the larger spaces.
• Growing daylife. The brunch bash, the pool party, the sunset soiree: Daylife continues to rival nightlife in nearly every arena, including revenue, attendance and energy. It won’t be long before we see a dedicated dayclub outside Las Vegas.
• Food and beverage minimums vs. bottle minimums. The days of dictating how many bottles your clients had to buy are over; food and beverage minimums now reign supreme. Because many establishments now offer full plates or small bites, and cocktail culture is here to stay, patrons want to skip around the menu and not be locked into bottles of Grey Goose and orange juice for the night. Per-person spends range anywhere from $50 to $1,000, depending on the venue, programming and time of client’s arrival.
• Nightlife deal sites. Deal sites have sprung up in secondary markets but also in New York City and Las Vegas. The notion is to make venues slamming during off nights or off-peak hours by offering deals or letting customers name their own prices and submit bids. Some provide safeguards for the club; for instance, some sites allow access to Facebook photos to ensure the “look” of the customer group fits the venue. Others operate as regular phone transactions: not much info and the occasional surprise at the door.
Threats to the Industry
Who would think agents within our own governments are working to undermine our businesses? Well, that’s increasingly the case. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), anyone with a license to serve alcohol needs to be aware of and opposing the following activities at the federal, state and local levels:
• Proposed tax increases aimed at raising drink prices.
• Reductions in available licenses and further limitations on hours/days of sale.
• “Junk science” being used by government officials and anti-alcohol groups to convince lawmakers to enact higher taxes and more restrictions.
• Ignition interlock mandates.
The alcohol industry overall supports tough laws and enforcement to prevent drunk driving as well as education to promote responsible service and consumption.
Additionally, groups including DISCUS are lobbying against higher alcohol taxes, which only serve to depress economic activity and do not deter over-consumption; 14 of 16 tax increases were defeated in 2011, according to DISCUS. Operators need to know the facts about alcohol and its impact on society, as well as the industry’s contribution to the economy and the legislation being proposed. Learn more at www.discus.org and abionline.org.
—Donna Hood Crecca