Let The Slow Times Roll!

Profitable Bar Promotions

Every bar and nightclub has its busy times though unfortunately slower business hours or nights come along with them. But a slow night doesn’t have to stay that way. Some operations are thinking creatively and boosting business on evenings that are typically quiet.

FLUXX Nightclub in San Diego regularly makes as much on a “quiet” night as it does on weekends, thanks to bringing new excitement to the slower times of the week.

In 2011 it started holding industry boxing events, inviting representatives from well-known bars and nightclubs in nearby cities to participate in fights. It’s all done properly, says general manager James Thorp. The ring is the correct size and participants are only allowed if they have properly trained.

About a year ago began, I Don’t Give a FLUXX, through which the club partnered with a booking team to bring top electronic music DJs to the location. These events have been so successful that FLUXX is expanding them to Thursdays through Saturdays. “Electronic music is so popular, so you have to swoop up on the talent when it’s available,” says Thorp.

Other nights the club holds guest bartender nights—about once a year at FLUXX and weekly at its sister location, Sidebar, also in San Diego—which bring in an additional 50 to 60 people per night, Thorp says.

“You have to really make an effort to make your spot a destination on the quiet nights,” he says. “We realized we had to do something really fun on a school night and they’re very successful and very lucrative.”

FLUXX typically holds these events on Mondays and Thursdays and Thorpe says even if the evening just breaks even, this type of event “can give you some street cred and some major PR. It’s a way to open that door to people who’ve never experienced our venue and you can turn those people into repeat customers.”

It’s a great idea to make these nights regular events, says Keith Wallace, beverage consultant and founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, because it becomes something you’re known for, and gives your guests something to look forward to and tell their friends about.

It also means you’ll find it easier scheduling employees for the quieter nights, and that those employees will be happier because they’re not only busier, but making more money.

Food is the draw atZeppelin Hall in Jersey City, N.J., which holds bacon fests every Thursday night. Between 4 and 11 p.m. this beer garden dishes up baskets of bacon on the bar—free to anyone who wants it—“and we make up crazy bacon dishes,” says director of operations John Argento. These might include burgers encased in bacon or lobster tacos with bacon as the shell.

“You have to get an interesting picture that posts on social media so customers will repost it,” he says. “It’s great targeted marketing and compared to dinosaur media it’s so productive.”

These events have doubled Thursday business. “You’d think we are giving away silver or gold,” Argento says. “We chose bacon because it’s a way to be an outlaw. It appeals to the bad boy in everybody.”

Proof + Pantry in Dallas also uses food to entice customers late at night when it’s slow. After 11 p.m., it changes from a seasonal European menu to comfort food such as burgers, Nana’s meatballs and Argentinean spice short ribs with chimichurri sauce.

And on Tuesdays there’s an added draw: Customers can get three courses for $24. “So now all of a sudden we have a crowd that comes in because they know they can get good food at a good price,” says co-owner Michael Martensen, “and of course they’re drinking, too.”

The key to this food, he says, is that it’s good-quality, seasonal food that provides something late-night that’s not fast-food. “I think it’s especially something people in the industry look for—they get off work at 11 and want to go and have something to eat that’s not fast food.”

Late night business has picked up by around 20% since the new menu was implemented, Martensen says.

One thing these three locations are doing is understanding their customers and that’s vital, says Warren Ellish, CEO of Ellish Marketing Group, Denver, Colo.

You need to be true to what your brand is with whatever you do,” he says. “Don’t try to be everything to everyone or you’ll lose your focus. If you know who your target is, and understand the behavior of those people, you have an opportunity to convince them to come to your place.”

Its important to think about what you do best and how you compete, Ellish says, so you can work on exactly those points to convince your customers to come in more frequently, or to build new traffic.

As well as promotions such as these, partnerships work well, he says. Tie-ins with local retailers, movie theaters or concerts mean you can pool resources and information. “And don’t think of it as one-sided; think about what you’re going to give to the party who associates with you,” Ellish cautions. “If the brands line up, one and one will equal three and not two.”

Social media is key to getting the word out about these events, says Thorp. And if a performer’s coming in, he’ll try and have them post about it on their social sites, too. He also creates flyers and sometimes even goes old school and hits the pavement to invite other industry business people in.

Argento is low-key about marketing Zeppelin Hall’s bacon fests, using just table tents and sometimes a page in the back of his menu. And of course, he uses all of his social media channels, too—Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The best marketing is word of mouth and through your employees, says Wallace—but be sure to include information on any events you are holding or any promos in every single billfold.

And take advantage of technology, by sending out emails or using social media, he added.