Although Oktoberfest is a German tradition (taking place from September 20 to October 5), the U.S., and specifically the northeast, is such a melting pot that it is important and profitable to promote and celebrate such international customs. And…it’s a great excuse to tout some beer steins and lederhosen! Jesse James Rocco, manager for Village Pourhouse in Hoboken, a part of the FunBars.com group, shares with us his thoughts on the holiday and on how to know what your customers are looking for.
How popular are Oktoberfest promotions in the States?
Oktoberfest has been popular in the States for quite some time now. I still wouldn't put it on the same level as things like St. Paddy's Day (also the fact that it is 16 days and not 1 makes a big difference) but it is growing. It usually culminates with one big party at the end as you tend to see in the North East, especially New York, New Jersey, etc. I think you can attribute a lot of this to what a melting pot these areas have always been. People come from all over to work, party and visit (especially New York City and Hoboken, NJ). The event itself goes all the way back to the early 1800's in Germany, but almost 2.2 million people came to NYC last year to partake in some form of the event which consists of a lot of great beer and even better pretzels so you can't really go wrong.
Do you find it necessary to offer some sort of incentive/promotion during this event to keep up with your competition?
We pride ourselves not only as a venue, but a company as a whole to being in-tune with our customers’ wants and needs. As this event has grown (like many others - Santa-Con, Cinco de Mayo, etc.), we have tried to be at the forefront of giving our customers the best experience as possible. We want them to come away with not just a good time, but a feeling that what they just participated in was epic.
Is it all about beer or do you find it necessary to run promotions on other liquor too?
Our promotions are built around the customer. With so many venues in different locations we have to read the market and anticipate what the next big thing is. Whether that is beer, liquor or food, we are on top of it. We get a lot of this information from feedback (aka we LISTEN to what the customer wants and we follow trends closely), and then we put our own spin on it so that it consistently delivers. You can't just do what everyone else is doing – you have to stand out, especially in this market. It could be one thing this year, and something entirely different next year.
What have you done in the past that has worked/not worked?
In the past, we have thrown Oktoberfest parties for our customers to experience Germany’s great tradition. We brought the Munich festivities right to New York and Hoboken with different beer and food specials. Plus, we partied in style with customers dressed in lederhosen & Bavarian dresses, everyone drinking out of beer steins and enjoying traditional German music.
Anything special you plan to run this year?
We are definitely thinking about throwing another party-like atmosphere offering promotions on Oktoberfest beers, Jim Beam, Apple Cider shots and anything pumpkin or fall. With any big promotion, we like to really take our time to make sure we get everything just right. Like I mentioned before, something new or different comes across every year or even every day so we work very closely with our sponsors, marketing teams and vendors to make sure we get it just right.
How will you/do you market the promotion?
We are on the frontline of technology in this industry. We have a full marketing department that handles promotions, a media department and another that covers logistics on how to properly get all that info into the hands of the customer. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email marketing and just plain old text messages are all key components. We also have our staff reach out to regulars new and old. This starts all the way at the top with a smart corporate structure and it trickles down to the staff at all our venues that love and care for this company. We are given all the tools to succeed and are encouraged that that there are no bad ideas.
How do you measure the success of your promotions? Is it more about bringing in new people and promoting the bar for return visits or about generating revenue?
It is split. You can't quantify just one aspect of a promotion’s success. For it to be a success, it has to bring in old and new customers alike, as well as keep them coming back. Developing a strong regular base is huge as these are the customers that keep you going through some of the slower times (every place is seasonal to a degree) and that allows you to build up from there. A regular can be someone that comes in once a week or once a month but that is the epitome of what we want to project.