It seems like there’s always some rule that bar and nightclub owners need to follow to be successful. A series of bar commandments, that if not followed, will lead to seemingly imminent failure. However, there are a few simple dos and don’ts that will keep your establishment on track, pouring drinks and maintaining profits for years to come. Some of the best advice comes from our experts who have been imparting their infinite wisdom to the industry for a while now. Here’s what all bar and nightclub owners should be doing to keep their businesses in the black.
1. Be social-media savvy. From Facebook to Twitter to new social media iterations including Instagram and Pinterest, it seems as though a new site enters the technological universe every day. However, a smart owner won’t be overwhelmed by the options and, instead, focus their efforts on Facebook and Twitter—the two most prominent and influential social-media sites.
“The most popular channels are Facebook and Twitter,” explains Dave Dronkers, founder and president of Dronkers Beverage Solutions, with YouTube being a close third. Dronkers also suggests creating a social-media strategy, so you know what you’re posting where and when. “Concentrate on Facebook, and make it right. What does it look like, how often are you posting, are you looking at the responses of what people are saying,” he says, adding that posting the same thing to Facebook and Twitter is a “sin in this industry.”
From left to right - Dave Dronkers, founder and president of Dronkers Beverage Solutions, Brian Taylor, director of nightlife for Zee Bar Private Social Club and Ted Wright, founder and chief executive officer of Fizz Corp.
2. Work out the details. A well-planned promotion is a good promotion. Having a marketing team can make the difference, but even if you don’t have a team around you to help develop a strategy, you can create a promotional plan that covers all the bases. “Always be prepared for what you don’t expect,” explains Brian Taylor, director of nightlife for Zee Bar Private Social Club in Philadelphia. “Don’t stress out, and if you do, make sure your close group of people are the only ones who know.” Taylor adds that the worst thing an owner can do while planning a promotion is, to be too cocky. “There’s always room for improvement,” with any promotion. “Don’t lose sight of the really important things—staying focused on the small stuff that will figure itself out is never a good look,” he warns.
3. Marketing works, if done right. With all the different avenues used to market, it can often seem daunting. Some forms may even seem superfluous for your business. And they may be. Even as you tweak your social-networking strategy, remember that the most effective form of communication comes from your clients. Ted Wright, founder and chief executive officer of Fizz Corp., an Atlanta-based marketing firm, knows that word-of-mouth marketing can make or break a business. Those customers that frequent your business are well connected and can be the most inexpensive form of advertising for you. These are your influencers, he says, and “they like to try new things because they’re new. They love to share stories with their friends. They’re motived more by experience than by money.” Wright advises that you can help these influencers by creating an authentic narrative about your establishment that they’ll excitedly share. They’re coming for that experience, and it will pay for itself, he says.
From left to right - Maria Miranda, creative director and principal of Miranda Creative, Jeff Grindrod, managing partner for Brand Action Team and Tim Kirkland, CEO of Renegade Hospitality Group.
4. Educate yourself on what’s new. Making sure you’re firing on all cylinders with social-media can be time-consuming, especially when there are so many things on your agenda as is. Time management, Maria Miranda, creative director and principal of Miranda Creative says is the key. This can come with educating yourself about new social-media networks and staying on top of all the new technology coming out. “The ability to stay on top of technology and to be able to use,” as well as subscribing “to some form of new-media knowledge” is the job of a responsible business owner. Owners need to know enough about new media and be informed so they know they’re doing it right, she says. They “need to be on top of that knowledge base.”
5. A capable staff can make the difference. No matter how smoothly everything is working—and when all the cogs in the machine are working together—things can easily fall apart if your staff isn’t on board. An educated staff that understands the products, knows the menu and understands how to treat guests are important elements in creating a successful business. Customer service is what keeps those patrons coming back time and time again. Any owner or operator will tell you that your staff needs to understand the food and drinks menu and needs “to be educated on what it is and why it’s different” explains Jeff Grindrod, managing partner for Brand Action Team.
For any promotion but especially the ones that define your business, get your staff involved and ensure they’re enthusiastic about what they do. Ask for their thoughts and brainstorm ideas with them. Once they’re involved then “train your staff to convert traffic into sales,” says Tim Kirkland, CEO of Renegade Hospitality Group. It’s your staff’s job to upsell to that $9 Martini, he explains, as well as treating all guests as if they’re special. Customers won’t come back, he warns, if “my staff treated you like a second-class customer.”