I recently took a trip to Europe absolutely alone, not a sidekick, wingman or female companion at my side. On the plane, I felt as though I had just turned 21 (without the giddy birthday excitement or entourage), full of a newfound curiosity for nightlife: the clubs, the music, the people... the vibe. I was curious from a business perspective as well. What do Europeans do differently than U.S. club operators? What do they do better, if anything (cue the know-it-all, we-are-better-than-everyone American ignorance)?
European nightclubs, such as Roxy in Prague, can give U.S. pros a new perspective on nightlife operations and marketing. Photo courtesy of Roxy.
Never having felt like an outsider in a nightlife setting — I’ve worked in the nightlife scene in Las Vegas and other cities for many years — my recent European junket was an eye-opening experience. Because I was flying solo in a foreign land and I don’t speak any of the native languages, I had some concerns about being taken advantage of and a little anxiety about nightlife shadiness. We see that same anxiety and apprehension from tourists and clients every day in Las Vegas — guests looking nervously at doormen and hosts, thinking the implicit question: “Is this guy legit or overcharging me?” As natives and locals, we pass these poor souls every night, thinking to ourselves, “What rookies, amateurs... tourists.” Well, guess who I was at these European clubs? I had no contacts, no “hook-ups,” not even the gift of gab because I don’t speak the languages; I was the rookie, the amateur, the tourist.
My first stop was Copenhagen, Denmark. A bridge away from Sweden, the city is where modern and historic architecture clash, making it ripe for amazing nightlife. After two days of rather calm and eclectic bars, however, I was striking out, so I turned to a local, a hotel employee who was a little hipper than the rest. Following his suggestion to visit a “real club” called Simons, I finally found all that I had imagined about true Euro nightlife and then some. Pleasantly surprised, I was curious to discover more in chilly Denmark, but the warming spring weather of Prague and the Czech Republic were calling.
Simons in Copenhagen, Denmark, is an example of true Euro nightlife. Photo courtesy of Simons.
There, Roxy proved it is a tale in itself, as did other clubs in Sweden, Germany and Zurich. Each club had its story, but instead of boring you with my escapades and reviews, I’d rather point out a few things that can help nightlife operators in the United States. The trip gave me new perspective and made me realize some ways in which U.S. operators may be deficient or blind, including:
- Self-payment terminals. I was blown away by how all of the venues I visited in Europe had similar self-payment terminals located along the bars. The terminals allowed bartenders to handle transactions faster and focus on what they had to do — make drinks and interact with customers — rather than play cashier. Additionally, the terminals displayed sale totals in three different currencies: host country, Euro and U.S. dollar amounts. The ease, simplicity and peace of mind afforded by these point-of-sale (POS) payment terminals were apparent. I have no clue why high-volume bars and clubs in the United States, especially those in tourist markets, are not doing it. (Hint, hint, Vegas.)
- Bars and clubs can be found online. Can a tourist find your bar or club online? Google-search visibility, made possible by good search-engine-optimization (SEO) practices, and a presence on related consumer-review/rating Websites drives curious patrons to European bars and clubs. To see how you’re doing on this front, play “lost tourist” and try to find your business via an online search. Then, see if your Website would entice you to visit your own venue! This little nugget was the most valuable insight the unfamiliar territory afforded me. I relied heavily on reviews and comments I found on review-driven sites such as Zagat and Yelp. Facebook and social media, although great to establish fans or friends, do no good when a new potential customer is first trying to find your business. It all comes down to SEO! Like any tourist, I relied on Google first, then reviews; we all know Websites can be deceiving. The sites I trusted were the ones with many recent photos, as well as current event information.
- Basic hospitality. Most importantly, the way in which your staff treats guests is crucial, and Europeans get this. From the initial greeting to the goodnight handshake, they understand that simply being courteous, approachable and hospitable is the best way to win customers. Hey, it worked on me!
A big salute to those nightlife pros “across the pond.” Prague: I miss you, and I will be back! NCB