As 2013 comes to an end, bar and nightclub owners should pay attention what trends will emerge in 2014.
Now, 2013 brought promotion and marketing trends that relied on social media. Instagram, for example, was used in a variety of promotions to keep the conversation going even after the event ended. Beer, wine and cocktail dinners remained popular, while hosting charity promotions helped keep establishments in good standing with the community.
But what will owners have up their sleeves as the calendar changes to 2014? Melanie Austin, account executive at Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, gave her thoughts about what should be on the agenda for bar and nightclub owners for the year ahead.
1. Focus on millennials. It may seem redundant to say at this point, but millennials really are a driving force in how managers make decisions; it’s the demographic to capture for any smart business owner. The coveted generation has high expectations, disposable incomes and wants to spend it on the latest trends. “As millennials continue to invest in the experiential value of dining, eye-catching drink presentation as well as innovative and even adventurous ingredients will continue to drive incremental sales particularly in casual and upscale dining concepts in 2014,” Austin says.
2. Simplicity won’t do. “Gone are the days where a simple house frozen Margarita will do,” Austin explains. Patrons expect more. It’s all about Mexican beer-topped Margaritas, sorbet slushie Margaritas and gourmet hibiscus and cucumber-sriracha Margaritas. The important thing is to always think outside the box.
3. Jazz up ingredients. Simplicity isn’t welcome behind the bar or in the kitchen. Simple syrup won’t do. “Guests expect house-infused flavored syrups, bitters and even drinking vinegars,” Austin says. House-made and artisanal ingredients are the norm now, and even casual drinkers are seeking out hand-crafted cocktails from well-trained mixologists. Customers are more discerning nowadays, she explains.
4. There will be more social media in 2014. “While many retailers are already actively present on the latest social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, many dining chains are still dipping their toes in these arenas,” Austin says. This will continue into the next year. Hashtags are becoming a marketing tool, and restaurateurs are capitalizing on it, becoming more active in recruiting their follower base — either through hashtags or by reminding guests through menus and other point-of-sale items.
5. Cross promotion is key. With social media, bars have a greater reach and more tools to promote in a variety of ways. “One thing is for sure, as the user base of these platforms grows, the opportunity to cross promote and extend a brand’s reach will breathe new life into social campaigns that would otherwise get lost in the saturated Facebook and Twitter world,” Austin says. “The key here will be integrated campaigning versus one-shot deals.”
6. Modernizing classic cocktails. In 2014, owners should make classic cocktails more contemporary. “Classic cocktails still dominate the fine dining and mixology concepts but even these sometimes simple cocktails are getting dressed up,” Austin says. The Manhattan, for example, has been reborn with bacon, maple, cherry brandy and crystallized with liquid nitrogen.
7. Get better at what you’re doing. Some things just work for certain bars and restaurants. A Tex-Mex restaurant will rely on beers and Margarita, but Austin says there is an opportunity to elevate those offerings. Update the ingredients in your house Margarita with 100% blue agave tequila or add a barrel-aged Margarita Martini to your menu. “Ultimately dining out is a luxury and people are paying for an experience,” Austin explains. “At the end of the day, they will be loyal to the best experience providing within their budget.”