What drives trends? These days, we see innovations in technology and consumers looking to connect while also seeking a highly personalized experience as the key trends shaping the bar and nightclub business. While we could go off on lengthy and lofty articles about what that means, we know that when looking in the proverbial crystal ball, bar and club operators want two questions answered: What’s Hot? What’s Not? So here’s our take. Now it’s your job to see how these trends may or may not play out in your place, and what you need to do to capitalize on them. Good luck!
As you read this, these technologies are likely evolving, but here’s our take on the tech trends for bars and clubs in the coming year:
Guest Experience Enhancers
Touchscreen tabletops and bartops – Tabletop systems allow guests to review drink menus, customize cocktails and place drink orders — all while playing games and accessing the venue’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. System advances promise greater guest-to-venue and guest-to-guest interactivity.
TV systems – Slimmer and sleeker HDTVs, 3-D and increasing multi-functional and customizable systems are on the rise. “Private” cable or satellite feeds mean varied programming within the venue, including in-house feeds. Systems that overlay ads for brands on hand, current or upcoming promotions or event notices on screens will drive greater sales and new revenue for bars and clubs. Also, text-to-screen and ticker options are on the horizon.
Music for the ears and eyes – Greater production elements for DJs, from visuals like digital light shows to live drummers and DJ platforms that move to float out above the crowd, not to mention video mixing to sync with audio for a complete multi-sensory experience.
Back of House
Scan, sync and prevent shrink – Internet-enabled inventory control systems track bottles from receiving to backbar (thanks to ever-smaller RFID tags), sync with POS systems and allow management to get real-time inventory and sales reports sent to their mobile devices — even for small bars. Benefit: just-in-time inventory, no out-of-stocks, nimble ordering for promotions, less shrink and a better bottom line.
Rockin’ reports – Draft line and liquor pour systems synced with POS systems will yield drink-level reporting; spot the winners, losers and sources of loss quickly and push management to make adjustments.
— Donna Hood Crecca
Here’s what we see coming, and going, at the nation’s bars in 2011
• Bartenders putting guest service on par with crafting great cocktails
• Bars, and those who tend them, breaking out as mainstream media darlings
• Pisco, rye and cachaça, for real
• Millennials. They’re coming of age in droves. Are you ready?
• Live entertainment – music acts and comedians, with social media building the buzz and bringing the crowds
• Better trained bartenders, thanks to programs like the USBG Master Accreditation, BarSmarts, B.A.R. and more
• Organic, green and sustainable spirits, wine and beer
• Boutique brands — but only of the authentic variety
• Iconic beer brands (think PBR) on the menu alongside eclectic brews (think Allagash White)
• Drinks with ingredients no one can pronounce, let alone recognize
• Telling patrons, “We don’t serve that here.”
• Thinking gin will be the next vodka (Hey, we’re huge fans, but gin won’t capture 30 percent of the market any time soon)
• Thinking vodka is over (see above)
• Flat, skunky or poorly poured beer — there’s just no excuse anymore
• Deep, deep drink discounts that deliver no margin and attract the wrong guest
— Donna Hood Crecca
Bar and club owners have enough to do without trying to keep up with the politicians and legislators, but you don’t want to be blindsided either. Here are two issues to track on the local and national scene:
Counties, states and even the Fed are looking for dollars, and alcohol is a likely candidate for increased taxes in 2011. From taxes on individual drinks to fee increases at the state level that will trickle down to wholesale prices, we’re at risk. With 59 percent of the cost of a retail bottle of spirits already coming from taxes, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, it pays to keep tabs on what’s going on and get involved. Stay tuned at nightclub.com and also check out stophospitalitytaxes.com.
The future of your business rests on this issue. In-vehicle alcohol detection devices could be standard in all cars within five years, if we don’t get involved. Twelve states require ignition interlock for first-time DWI offenders with low BAC levels; that’s a strong step toward universal application (interlocks in all vehicles), which translates into major loss of business for any of you with parking lots. Search “interlock” on nightclub.com or visit interlockfacts.com for more.
— Donna Hood Crecca
Design and Décor
Retro is the future. Michelle Bushey, partner and creative director at Dallas firm 360 Design, is seeing more bars and clubs using exposed brick, vintage games like Pac-Man and chess as tabletops and reclaimed wood and furniture to create a clubbier and darker version of your parents’ basement; Bushey calls this “Rec Room Chic.” Here are other trends to note:
• It’s all about the “wow” factor, which demands versatility. Transforming seating options from day to night, creating small, intimate spaces, using sustainable furniture and energy-efficient yet decorative lighting are all on-trend design points that help create a comfortable yet stylish setting. Michael Werner, vice president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Leap Hospitality, says this allows the operator to constantly change the guest’s perspective of a space.
• Steven Lewis, principal of design firm Lewis & Dizon in New York, sees, specifically, that horseshoe banquettes are replacing the straight benches that place crowded tables next to each other. Guests are now seeking out a club with a more personal nightclub design.
• Future trends include an increase in retro stylings as well as a more “show biz” feel with a stage or performance area that gives operators the edge.
• Additionally, Werner recommends creating an environment that's enticing and comfortable for the ladies. “Women tend to influence the selection process when it comes to eating or drinking out.”
• From digital menu boards to at-table ordering, technology is the future. Werner says owners need to integrate technology into design concepts because they create efficient operations.
— Alissa Ponchione
Here are the top social media trends, according to Dave Sribnik, manager of trends and technology for MarkeTeam Inc., a Mission Viejo, Calif., F&B sales promotion agency.
• Be omnipresent and sign up for all social networking opportunities. Ubiquitous ones like Facebook and Twitter are important in retaining loyalty, while those gaining in popularity like Yelp and Foursquare offer insight into what your customers like and rewards them for it.
• QR Codes or Microsoft tagging are the future of mobile marketing. Using smartphones, guests scan a barcode that is on your bar or club’s napkins, glasses or POS, which takes them to your website, where you can offer coupons or discounts.
• Augmented reality combines smartphone camera capabilities and reality. Customers looking for a place to nosh or drink simply open their phone, snap a photo and overlay that photo on the map from the GPS locator, which will show where all the bars and clubs are in their vicinity.
• Personalized URLs and e-mails are the future. Instead of sending out a mass e-mail to your whole database, you can personalize text messages, e-mails and URLs with a welcoming message to the customer you’re trying to attract, making him/her feel like a VIP at your establishment.
— Alissa Ponchione
The top 5 trends we’re tracking for 2011:
1. Day-to-night, multipurpose venues. Nightclubs will use their space for other purposes, getting the most for their rent money, whether it’s with a dayclub, a restaurant or private event space.
2. Headlining house DJs instead of unknown talent — but where will they get their start? Hopefully this won’t discourage rising DJ stars.
3. Personalized spaces — where every guest feels like a VIP.
4. Nighttime pool parties (where applicable) — or just using the great outdoors in all seasons. “Pool parties this summer were going later and later…and lighting and visuals were added for those events,” says Deanna Rilling, reporter with Las Vegas Weekly. Clubs are using their outdoor space to extend the party poolside, on the rooftop or patio as long as possible.
5. Ultra-lounge/exclusive nightclub settings, even outside of Vegas: “I think that New York, especially, will always remain a lounge/ultra-club destination because there are so many different personalities in New York nightlife, and they speak to all different sorts of people,” says Pavan Pardasani, director of marketing for New York’s EMM Group. And by speaking to the right audience, you’ll rake in money all the way to 2012.
— Emily Hanna Mayock
One word: electronica.
Whereas many Las Vegas clubs used to be the only ones touting the dance music craze, smaller bars and lounges around the country are now starting to feature house music.
“Dance music is slowly taking over and will soon become what is considered mainstream,” says Sol Shafer, director of special operations and music for the electronica-focused Marquee Night & Day Club at the soon-to-open Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a brand-new hotel and casino on the strip.
This surge in nightlife stems from its swelling popularity in the music scene overall. “It’s crossed over to commercial music — your will.i.am, your LMFAO — everybody is crossing over, and it’s taking a huge turn, especially in the [nightlife] market,” says Zee Zandi, director of marketing and special events for Las Vegas-based Angel Management Group.
Live music also will make a splash, with performers helping to pack small- to mid-sized bars and clubs.
— Emily Hanna Mayock