Knowing New Yearas Eve

2011New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the biggest nights of the year for bars and clubs, with patrons dressed to the nines looking for a great experience to ring in a new year — and with this year, a new decade. Interestingly, New Year’s Eve is generally not a night of barhopping; people choose a bar or club and stay put. This makes getting the right groups even more critical. So how do you do this? First, make sure you’ve planned ahead.

Most major events like NYE should be planned at least six months in advance. This can be tricky if your venue features celebrity appearances and other talent, as predicting who will be popular six months in advance can be a crapshoot. But in order to have the plans set and have ample time to market and build interest in the event, six months’ lead-time is a must (many major clubs start planning a year in advance).

“Coming from an operational standpoint, the competition that night is fierce and in order to be successful, you need to be the first out of the gate,” says Sol Shafer, director of special operations and music for Marquee Night & Day Club at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Casino, which is debuting on New Year’s Eve this year.

But how can you get ahead of the game?

Look to your competitors’ events in previous years — what drew in customers to their place over yours, and how can you blow that idea out of the water? It takes creativity to make an event a success, so get input from your regular guests and your staff members. One absolute don’t: “Don’t use the same event over and over and over,” says Zee Zandi, marketing and special events director for Las Vegas-based Angel Management Group. “Change it up; change the format.”

Once you’ve got the initial idea in place, iron out all the details as soon as possible. Undoubtedly other issues will arise down the road, so the more you plan everything out in advance, the better off you’ll be and the more you can focus on the event.

Around September, make sure the plan is formally set; by then, guests are already thinking about their plans for New Year’s Eve, so it’s best to have your staff informed in case anyone starts asking. Then, implement the “30-60-90 plan” that Zandi uses for events in the company’s massive portfolio of clubs, including Wet Republic, Tabu and newly acquired Pure Nightclub. “Start with your initial teaser 90 days before and get more and more aggressive with marketing as you get closer to the [event],” she says.

For New York’s Disco Sushi Entertainment venues — Hudson Terrace, SideBAR, Vintage Irving and four locations of the Village Pourhouse — the process is about the same. “We start planning, pricing and working on fliers and promotion plans mid-September then do a big push after Halloween, and another after Thanksgiving,” says Cari DeCoons, director of marketing and events. “New Year’s Eve is the type of thing people either plan really [far] in advance or wait until the last minute,” so it’s critical to be prepared for either type of planner. One way to entice people early, DeCoons suggests, is starting the tickets at a lower price early on, increasing as the weeks go by.

In order to market the event effectively, target your regular customers first, says Pavan Pardasani, director of marketing for New York-based EMM Group, whose venues include Tenjune, Abe & Arthur’s and SL. First, use a “tasteful integration” of marketing materials into your venue to target the people who are already in your venue. Additionally, Pardasani suggests inserting invitations into check presenters or handing information to guests on their way out. “That’s your core audience and they’re there for a reason, so they’re easier to lure back in for New Year’s.” Finally, use your databases, loyalty programs and, of course, social networking sites.

No matter what, remember to make this night special. “We’re in the nightlife industry, so New Year’s Eve might just be another night to us, but there are a lot of people who really wait for this night, this special experience,” Pardasani says. “When you rob them of that experience, that negative word of mouth just spreads.”

Some Dos and Don’ts:

DO be prepared to handle all alcohol-related issues, says Shafer.
DO use social networking to get out the word to your fans.
DON’T overbook. On New Year’s Eve, guests tend to stay put, so don’t sell more tickets than capacity, suggests Pardasani. “If you overbook, you have breakdowns in restrooms, service, et cetera and there’s nothing worse than negative word of mouth.”
DO understand schedules: Guests arrive earlier and leave earlier on New Year’s Eve, often leaving just after midnight, Pardasani says. Be prepared for the influx and the downfall.
DON’T leave a new bar or club in the hands of a club promoter. “It seems like an easy out, but you’re also rescinding control of how your venue’s being represented. … That can be dangerous in terms of devaluing your space. It is just one night, and it can oftentimes diminish the value of your venue,” Pardasani says.

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