Above The Bar- Barpocalypse

Here is a recap of my seminar at the Nightclub and Bar Show 2014: “Are your promotions helping you in the long run?”

This year, I experimented with an interactive workshop seminar for the first time. My goal was to help the audience learn by participating in real world mock situations. It seems to me that the retention level of knowledge and information of most seminars I attend are from 10% to 20%. My traditional seminar style of high-energy speaking, incorporating humor, usually works well for the limited allotted time in such a tight scheduled show. I felt that changing up the format would add a twist to the standard format, while engaging the seminar goers in an activity based seminar, where learning was interactive.

I divided the seminar into four separate modules:

1. Teamwork and Trust Building
2. Easy to Build a Venue, Operation can be a Challenge
3. Q & A Session
4. Surviving the Barpocalypse

The first module was broken into two parts. First we needed to establish a good understanding of what the true competition for our venues is today, with technology playing a huge part in our customers’ social interaction selections. Next, I looked at what the perception was to the outside world of bars and nightclubs, in general, and the negative associations that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, along with the challenges and downfalls of ownership that affect our businesses.

The second part of the first module was team building in which we broke up into eight separate teams. Each team was given an individually designed venue. The team members were then divided in groups of twos and tied together at the wrist.

One of the key points of Module One was a teamwork and trust building exercise to understand that when you own a venue you’re often unwillingly tied to 3rd party partners. They can include city officials, police departments, fire marshals and/or other entities who often dictate how your business operates in one fashion or another.

Module Two’s lessons were to represent how easy it is to build and design a venue from the ground up, even with one hand tied to your teammate. Building a venue is often the easiest part of owning a bar or nightclub. Operating a successful business is the real challenge!

Module Three was a Question and Answer session designed with a trick question. The question asked was “What must your venue have?” 90% of the responses dealt with basic infrastructure, such as ice wells, bars, DJ booth, dance floors, etc. While all of these are correct, they hold less importance compared to the more critical components. Here are the most important components that every business model must have in order to be successful:

1. Customers – Without customers we would have no bars.

2. Quality Customer Service – You need to keep those customers coming back.

3. Consistency – Your customers have expectations that you must meet and/or exceed.

4. Hard Work – This could have easily been #1. Anyone who owns a high-volume business will attest that it is hard work to keep up with the volume of customers.

Module Four is where everything ties together. This module is titled “The End of the World.” The End of the World apocalypse is a representation of what happens when another bar or venue opens down the street from your venue and starts to steal all of your customers. I asked all of the teams what they would do and how they would change their venue to survive the apocalypse.

What I was looking for is the reaction that each of the teams took in choosing how to best deal with the apocalypse. The first thing I looked for in an inexperienced operator is panic! Owners who apply drastic changes to their venue and operations, which affect the overall venue in a negative way, over the short-term, are a danger to their operation. These changes can include drastic changes to music format, customer demographics and general business operations, to name a few.

The correct response is to “Attack and Defend” all at the same time! First off, your operation must step up their levels of customer service in developing customer loyalty, to protect your customers from the other venue. Next, start attacking with fresh ideas focused on developing a stronger bond with your existing clientele.

One of the lessons I have learned throughout the years is that when another venue opens up and your customers flock to that venue, often times the customer service at that other venue drastically lacks the levels of the comfortable norms your clientele have come to expect from a good operator. This leaves your customers often unsatisfied with the other venue.

You need to understand that you cannot beat new, but you can use this time to recalibrate your venue and take lessons from successful long-term operators in getting back to the basics of what once made your venue great.

In closing, here is the lesson I hope you will take away from this seminar. Everything you do is in Promotions, Remodeling, Advertising, Hiring, and Music formatting to name a few. All of these are tools that you use to promote your business to your customers and the decisions that you make, affect the longevity of your business.

It is easy to build a venue, it is hard to make it last!


Chris Lenahan