The Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show has a long history of educating and informing its attendees and this year was no different. The 27th annual event, held this year March 12-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, featured a wealth of featured sessions, workshops, panels and seminars encouraging attendees to get the most out of their businesses. Following are just a sample of notable seminars conducted during the show:
TJ Schier of SMART Restaurant Group encouraged industry operators to work SMARTer during his session, “Building a SMARTer Team.” In this case, “SMART” is an acronym standing for selection/service, measure/mission, accountability, recognition and training. Schier says owners and operators must teach management staff members to focus on more than just the responsibilities outlined in their job descriptions. Instead, Schier gave attendees the tools to instruct employees to be observant and proactive to achieve success. The author of "Send Flowers to the Living!" and owner of several Which Wich franchises, Schier believes the best past to a profitable business is to "strive for an 'MBA (mutually beneficial for all) status' in all relationships."
Michelle Pae, vice president of national accounts for Terlato Wines, moderated a panel boasting a wealth of experience and knowledge during “How to Increase Your Sales Through Creative Marketing.” Andy Scoggins, vice president of culinary and beverage for Ruby Tuesday; Suzan Waldschmidt, director of beverage for Outback Steakhouse; and Tylor Field III, vice president of wine and spirits for Morton's The Steakhouse, each have 20 years of experience in the beverage industry. Discussing wine and spirits in the restaurant industry, Field said, "beverage is what gives an event a state of grace." He also strongly recommends preparing press releases for every promotional event. Waldschmidt suggests gathering concept and brand-strategy information through bar-staff input and social-media commentary in addition to speaking with suppliers. Scoggins points out that word-of-mouth promotion simply isn't strong enough in today's social-media-heavy climate. "Get your concepts outside of your four walls," he said.
Nightlife heavy hitters Lou Abin, Hing Yip Yim, Jon Schwalb and Kristin Conte of TAO Group were on hand during “TAO Group’s Secrets to Success” to share some of the keys to their biggest accomplishments. Rather than revealing complicated business and marketing strategies, the TAO Group members kept things as simple as possible. "At the end of the day, it's going back to basics,” Yim said. “It's about being consistent and treating each guest like they're the most important. It's about learning everything you can about your prospective clients." Abin suggests that reinventing the wheel is much more difficult than simply finding a smart concept and reworking it for a specific venue. Conte, director of marketing for TAO, TAO Beach, LAVO and Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub in Las Vegas, has her hands full dealing with two highly competitive and distinct markets. While TAO Group has eschewed traditional advertising for word-of-mouth and social-media marketing in New York, they have had to adopt digital and static billboards, street teams and magazine advertisements in Las Vegas. Schwalb, director of VIP services, urges repositioning and enhancing a business to keep it profitable.
"Management has to understand how important labor is to your business," said David Scott Peters, founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com, during his session, “The Seven Must-Dos to Controlling Labor Costs.” Peters recommends developing and implementing smart systems that are simple, trainable and repeatable to ensure success; successful systems provide consistency and stability. Speaking to the independent owners/operators in the audience, he noted that chains often are winning the battle on independents' home turf because they are consistent. "Management and employees love rules. What they hate is inconsistencies," he said.
Ron and Greg Newman, Jordan Cressman, Leigh Lupinacci, Laura McHugh and Jeffry Tyler Ganz of Baja Sharkeez Restaurant Group spoke about maximizing profits during the session, “Systems, Procedures and Controls = Maximum Profits.” Greg Newman suggests reading the book "Setting the Table" by Danny Meyer, a New York Times bestseller, and "Think & Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. He also advises seeking out "raw but talented individuals with the potential to be great." Ron Newman stresses the importance community involvement, such as joining rotary clubs, getting involved with local politicians and assisting with voter-registration drives, as well as operating in an overall positive light within your neighborhood. As print media is becoming less popular, Sharkeez successfully uses web-based marketing and promotions through Groupon, Living Social and SwoopThis! along with social media, email/text blasts and launch parties to garner free editorial content. The group also suggests viewing vendors as partners, developing relationships to get the best prices and extending aggressive drink prices to customers.
Patrick Henry, president and chief executive officer of Houston-based Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, Inc., drove home the point that "nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" during his session, “What it Takes to be Successful in the Hospitality Industry.” He wants owners and operators to think outside the box, be excited about their promotions and go all out. He encourages industry professionals to adopt and learn to successfully use QR codes and mobile apps, offer great service and a simple wine list at the bar and take advantage of one of most effective information sources at any owner's disposal: their employees.
The presenter of “Stop Your Losses, Improve Your Profit and Don’t Spend Any Money to Do It,” Joe Szvetitz of Risk Management Services Loss Prevention, LLC, is a licensed private investigator and has been working with various types of owners and operators for 40 years. Companies operating in the United States lose between $15 billion and $25 billion each year to theft and fraud. "But there is hope," Szvetitz said. He strongly promotes sound hiring practices, training, creating a loss-prevention culture, accountability, execution and internal controls (especially when dealing with cash).
Dave "Renzo" Renzella, Rodrigo Iglesias and Mike Georgopoulos, partners of RMD Group, presented “In FLUXX: Enhance the Customer Experience With Creativity and Change.” One of their properties is FLUXX nightclub in San Diego, Calif., a unique venue inside which atmosphere is not painted on the walls. FLUXX changes constantly, featuring major themes that last approximately eight weeks at a time. The concepts are fully developed, including costumes, choreography, lighting and a massive central decoration dubbed "the big dinosaur." Renzella suggests that even the most "out there" concept can be scaled down for use in even the smallest venues. The group stresses the importance of continually revamping the venue, recognizing big spenders and VIP guests, making money on off nights by thinking creatively and building local loyalty.
One of the first pieces of valuable advice during “Branding an Experience: The Power of Sound” came in the form of a warning from Golden Tavern Group's Regional Manager Gian Sapienza: "Don't give your staff full control of music selections." The entire panel agreed that what owners, management or staff want to hear isn’t important, but what customers like to listen to is critical. The wrong music can cause negative conversations and sew discord throughout a venue. Breaking from sound, Ross Vickers of Music Video Technologies pointed out that owners need to pay as much attention to the relevance of their TV/LED screens as they do to decor, music and every other aspect of their businesses. In regards to music providers, the panel advised finding a supplier with a large and diverse offering, commitment to customer service and excellent programming.
In “Ten Methods to Reduce On-Premise Liability,” Hospitality Insurance Agency and Nightclub Security Consultants want owners/operators to understand that on-premise liability is caused by their actions or lack of actions, period. The 10 methods discussed may seem like common sense but, as was pointed out, each person comes from a different background, a different way of thinking and, therefore, a different idea of what makes up common sense. Among the effective methods are creating a procedure and discipline manual, hiring a training coordinator, training new hires, focusing on certification and licensing and record keeping.