Generation Homebody: Leveraging Bar-tainment to Build your Bottom Line

There was a time when you HAD to leave your house to play video games... Image: Getty / gcammino

We live in an age of disruption. Every aspect our lives, it seems, has been uprooted. How we behave in our day-to-day lives, how we do business, and even how we relax has changed.

Think about it: we don’t watch shows or movies like we once did, nor do we enjoy music the same way. Time spent with friends is increasingly becoming digitalized. Gaming consoles are now multi-media platforms complete with streaming apps. Delivery services will bring us anything we want with a few taps on our phones. Why leave our homes at all?

People used to work all week to “earn” their Friday and Saturday nights out, using Sunday to recover and prepare to repeat the process the following week. Didn’t have plans for Friday night? It didn’t matter; you knew who you’d be hanging out with, where, and generally what time to arrive.

Digital disruption has thrown that approach to leisure out the window. And, as was pointed out during a 2017 Nightclub & Bar Show session focused on bar-tainment, the disruption we got used to just a year or so ago has now been disrupted. Remember FOMO, the fear of missing out? That has been replaced with JOMO, which Nightclub & Bar Show speaker Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, defines as the joy of missing out (and staying home instead).

This type of disruption, as you may have guessed or have already seen impact your business, is contributing to the decline of destination bars. More people are taking to the in-home consumption of beverage alcohol. The new going out is staying in and having friends over to indulge in in-home entertainment. At its most extreme the trend of JOMO results in “cocooning” habits such as super-digital hiving and bunkering, and the effect on bars is significant. One in 6 bars closed from 2004 to 2014, and that number is growing.

When adult Millennials of legal drinking age were asked if they’d rather stay in on the weekends than go out at night, 72% of respondents answered in the affirmative. Fifty-two percent would rather Netflix and chill than go out on a Saturday night. So how is a bar operator supposed to appeal to Generation Homebody, as White calls them?

You leverage the hardwired biological drive for humans to seek socialization. We are social creatures. We are tribal. But we’re also somewhat illogical, complicated, and confounding, and we want high-fidelity experiences along with convenience.

We measure fidelity in terms of experience, and we measure convenience by ease of time, money and effort. As an operator, you have to aim for the fidelity “belly.” In other words, strive to offer a high-quality experience that’s perceived as convenient. Bar-tainment appeals to the fidelity belly and our need to socialize by offering guests interactive games, nostalgic games, and interactive social games.

Bar-tainment games expand the appeal of a venue, increase the length of guest visit and food and beverage spending, raise the social fidelity of the guest experience, and provide an additional stream of revenue. White revealed something rather interesting when he pointed to the “social power of the ball.” Pinball, golf and mini-golf, bowling, ping-pong, pool, skee-ball and bocce are all games that speak to our desire to socialize and interact, and they all have one thing in common: they require a ball (or several) to play.

A growing number of bars and gaming concepts are leveraging today’s pursuit of nostalgia through bar-tainment. “Barcades” loaded with classic coin-op games, gaming consoles, and even PC games are thriving. Just look at the success of bars like Tapcade, Barcadia, Coin Haus and Hi Scores to see how nostalgic games can build your bottom line.

There are some incredible interactive social game concepts you can look to for inspiration as well. SPiN, located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto, and AceBounce in Chicago, are social clubs and bars devoted to ping-pong. Flight Club has two locations in London and is all about darts. Shuffleboard has a home at Royal Palms in Brooklyn and Pins Mechanical Company in Columbus. Pins also offers duckpin bowling, pinball, foosball and ping-pong. All of these concepts are modern, ideal for socializing and gaming, and strike the fidelity belly with surgical precision.

If operators are going to succeed in the era of disrupted leisure, they’re going to have to disrupt the disruptions. This is nothing new – people have been innovating in order to survive in this business for decades. Whiskey and shot bars eventually evolved into gastropubs. Dive bars kept up with the times and became craft beer destinations. What is seemingly new is the need for bar owners to be tech-savvy innovators, sociologists and psychologists in order to understand how to engage their guests. What a time to be running a bar…

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