You don’t need to be a CNBC news anchor to know that the economy is struggling right now. People have lost 40 - 50 percent of their stock portfolios, jobs are being cut every day and personal bankruptcies and foreclosures continue to increase. In these trying times, I would like to turn our attention to the concept of a “down night.” For many people in our industry, one (if not more) night during the week is designated as a “down night.” Maybe the bar or nightclub is closed, or it’s open, but there are no promotions in place. It is not a busy night, and it probably will never come close to your peak nights.
It is my belief and experience that the proverbial “off night” is the greatest opportunity a bar or nightclub owner has to add bottom line profitability. Let’s assume we have a 500-person nightclub that has consistently busy weekends. Bills are being paid, but the money just isn’t there on a day-to-day basis. Instead of hiring a well-known DJ, upgrading a lighting system or running specials, get your “off night” going. Let’s look at why and how to do this.
Why? First, many of your costs will continue to rack up whether the club is open or closed. These are called fixed costs. Some examples of these are your insurances, utilities, property taxes, etc. Your premise is generating liabilities regardless of whether it is taking down any revenue.
Second, a totally nonexistent night offers you the opportunity to try something new. Let’s say your weekends are busy with 21- to 23-year-olds. The off night is your opportunity to attract 25- to 30-year-olds. Play the music they enjoy and serve the food and drinks they tend to consume. Third, if you don’t realize any money week to week, this night could be your profit. Your busy nights are covering the bills; the off night could contribute pure profit dollars. Finally, if the entire approach doesn’t work, you can easily scrap the concept. If you were to alter a prime night, you run the risk of upsetting your client base.
Now, on to the how question. You need to have realistic expectations. Many of our clients expect that because they are putting effort into a night, it will take a down night and turn it into a prime plus night… overnight. Incorrect! What we are looking for is a night that will be consistent. Having realistic expectations of what can be accomplished is the most important step.
Next, let’s turn our attention to actually getting the night going. Start small. Don’t open your entire venue — open half the venue if possible. Bring in half the staff. Don’t buy expensive equipment. For example, do not buy a $30,000 laser light hoping it will dazzle all who come in for your previously deceased night. This sort of night has to grow organically by grass-roots marketing. People need to come, experience something great and spread the word.
You must commit to the night. Draw a line down your calendar. If you book concerts or catering events and hope people will just come back the next week, you’ll soon find that they will go elsewhere. But if you give them a reason to come back next week, you build business — if you become somebody’s “Tuesday spot,” that is a sacred thing. So do not cancel your promotio after one run; they won’t come back if it’s not happening anymore, and they will tell their friends not to go. My rule of thumb is that it generally takes about four weeks of the promotion being back on for the regulars to come back after it’s been canceled. Do you have that kind of time?
In summary, give an “off night” a shot. What do you have to lose? I guarantee you will take down more revenue with a lit place than a dark one. Be patient. Have realistic expectations. Stay committed. Most of all, have some fun with this. The off night is your greatest opportunity to be creative. Once again, the economy is tough right now. Do not shutter your place, but rather, be open to the profit potential. NCB