The updated releases of the New York and the Los Angeles versions of the popular Zagat Survey books shares some telling statistics at a time when operators are fighting hard to keep customers drinking on-premise, as consumers of nightclubs and bars weighed in on everything from drink prices to hot venues and overrated neighborhoods. It also closely echoed some trends that were revealed in a brand-new national consumer survey conducted by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. First we will look at the Zagat survey results and then start to examine the NCB survey. In this column we will address spending and visiting habits revealed in the survey; in our next column we will look at order influencing and specific consumption results.
In the Big Apple, the 6,000-some respondents didn’t provide the answers bar operators were hoping for, with 56 percent soberly announcing they are going out less than they did last year, and even when they do, 27 percent are ordering fewer drinks and 38 percent are frequenting less expensive establishments. Additionally, 18 percent are less likely to visit new nightlife haunts, although the teams at Avenue and the Griffin, which both recently opened in the Meatpacking District to tremendous success, might disagree. Zagat’s NYC nightlife editor Curt Gathje commented it’s not all bleak: “The downturn is really going to be for the better because it was time for an adjustment in terms of nightlife costs. I think it’s a really vibrant scene, and it’s constantly reinventing itself.”
On the left coast, the social crowd agreed, with 54 percent of them going out less often. But, Los Angeles being Los Angeles, there was a surprising 13 percent who announced they were actually going out more often. In addition, while they were out, 32 percent said they are frequenting less expensive venues and 33 percent said they were more attentive to drink prices, perhaps indicating a downward shift to those brands at a lower price point. After all, why else are they paying attention if not to be more careful with their bar tab? Not surprisingly, with guest counts down, operators are charging more for drinks, as the average cost of a drink in the City of Angels went up 4.7 percent to $11.66, making it an expensive city in which to enjoy a cocktail, topping both New York ($11.27) and San Francisco ($9.88).
In our own national survey, conducted on behalf of NCB by Next-Level Marketing, the rest of the country is following these metropolitan trends if not surpassing them, going out less and spending less when they are out. We found 78 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they were staying in more often, with a whopping 74 percent of them saying they were even less likely to go to nightclubs. Those that aren’t letting the hard economic times keep them cooped up agreed with those in big cities, with 36 percent of them spending less in nightclubs. Patrons also are finding ways to lower their bar spend, with 27 percent reducing the expense of their order and 21 percent taking advantage of special promotions wherever possible. An additional 13 percent found an easy way to keep cash in their pockets: simply eliminating soft drink purchases from their repertoire (suppose it depends on the water quality where you live).
When asked about their ordering patterns, nightclub patrons were the least likely to change their ordering, with 51 percent saying their order is about the same — although 32 percent admitted they were ordering fewer drinks, fewer than the 41 percent of bar patrons who responded with the same. Somewhat surprisingly, only one in 10 nightclub consumers were switching to less expensive bar brands. When asked about the role of non-traditional influencers in selecting a venue in which to imbibe, 61 percent backed the power of the Internet for looking for recommendations in local entertainment columns, 31 percent looked for industry bloggers to give it the thumbs up and 31 percent just needed a great looking web site to draw them inside. We also saw nightclub consumers continue to be a jumpy bunch, with 45 percent announcing they tend to visit at least two venues a night, while 67 percent of bar and eatery patrons are of the one and done variety.
Remember, more results from the national NCB customer survey in the next issue of Nightclub Confidential!