Be More than Good Enough: Transform Your Bar into a Destination

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The world, as they say, as it our fingertips. That was once a bit of a cliché, a mere marketing tagline. Now, it’s the truth.

Think about it: If you didn’t own, operate or manage a bar, would you really need to leave your home to do anything? You can stream just any movie you’d like to watch, including some that are still in theaters. Hulu and Netflix are cranking out original shows, all accessible by but a few taps or clicks of buttons. Gaming consoles give you the opportunity to “hang out” with your friends, those you really know and those you know through the Internet. You can spend hours watching videos of your favorite hobby or hobbies.

So that’s entertainment handled without leaving your home. What about errands? Banking can be accomplished online. Grocery runs? More and more grocery store locations offer same-day delivery. Need some things from Target, Walmart and Amazon? Think ahead and you’ll have them delivered before you really need them.

Hungry? Surely, you’re aware of Postmates, Uber Eats, Doordash, Seamless and other food delivery services. In fact, you may work with one or more of them at your own venue. Maybe you’re only thirsty and would like to enjoy a beer, wine or cocktail. Drizly and Saucey are just two services focused on beverage alcohol delivery. Increasingly, food delivery services are taking on alcohol delivery as part of their business models.

Interested in meeting new people, friends and/or romantic? Between apps, blogs and niche websites aplenty, you can interact with others from your couch.

If you could run your bar, restaurant or nightclub remotely—which you could do, technically [read: not recommended!]—you really wouldn’t every need to expose yourself to the elements or interact with humans outside of your dwelling, with the exception, perhaps, of medical emergencies.

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So, taking all of that into account, why should your guests leave their homes and come to your bar to spend time and money?

“The question is, why do people still want to go out, right? I think people still want to feel a sense of community, but you have to create a destination,” says Andrew Chun, owner of Sidecar Hospitality. “You have to make it worth their dollars because you're competing with home markets, you're competing with home theaters, you're competing with everything that you can do at home.”

As brick-and-mortar retail dies, some operators are eyeing their stores as possible bar, nightclub and restaurant spaces. Couple that with a strong lease negotiation position (landlords need tenants) and the retail collapse can be perceived as a boon for hospitality operators.

But why should anyone treat bars and restaurants differently than they treat retail?

Sure, community can be a powerful driver of guests through doors. We are, generally speaking, social creatures and enjoy being around other people. But if operators don’t work to offer more than just a place to gather, they’re only delivery what’s “good enough,” and that’s no longer a strategy for long-term success.

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“At the end of it, there is a compelling reason to go out still. If you are just offering just—I call it kind of a ‘mooching experience,’ it's just good enough,” says Chun. “Just being located in a convenient location is good enough—that doesn't work anymore, at least in a competitive city like San Francisco. You really have to commit. You really have to think about what you're trying to deliver. Why would people want to come here? Why they would come to your place versus their couch, and also other places, too?”

Coming up with a concept, creating a plan to make it a reality, and executing the buildout is just part of your now. This business now requires owners, operators and managers to be savvy competitors.

“When you're talking about something that's going to be year over year over year, you have to balance that against a lot of other needs, says Chun. “Is it going to get stale? Is it going to get tired? Is it going to seem too cliché? Does this appeal to a broad enough audience? All of those questions you have to think through for longer, but at the same time, you're still answering that question about why people are going to come here versus all of these other fantastic options. I think that's our job now.”

This will be blunt but it’s important you consider it: There are hundreds (if not thousands) of people out there with great ideas for bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Some of those ideas are going to pan out, some are going to stand out, but many are going to flame out. The concepts that stand out, those are venues that have strategized and worked to become destinations. It’s all well and good to have a compelling concept, but that’s not enough anymore.

“In order to make it work right now, A, you have to have a compelling concept. B, you have to have a reason for people to want to go there. C, you have to have a labor and a service model that actually can deliver that in a way that makes money,” says Chun. “I always say Californians, presumably San Francisco, we're like the canary in the coal mine, right? We've been dealing with $14, $15 minimum wage for the past three or four years, it's been increasing every dollar for the past five years, six years, minimum wage.

“Our rent's already astronomical and what used to be sort of good enough, what would be a profitable business now, that just doesn't work. Customers aren't coming, and you haven't figured out a labor model. Or, even if they are coming, you haven't figured out a labor model. You're not going to survive. Amidst all of that, why would you even think of doing this?”

The great news is, shrewd operators can transform their businesses into destinations. And in this business, anyone who works hard, partners intelligently, improves as a leader, can become a shrewd operator.

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On Tuesday, March 26 at 2:00 p.m., Andrew Chun will teach 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show attendees how to transform their operations into destinations. From experimenting with pop-up bars to long-term design elements to understanding why today's customers should even want to go out, Chun will share the models Sidecar Hospitality uses to grow their venues, generate revenue, and achieve staying power and long-term success. Register today and add this session to your calendar.

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