As summer starts hitting its stride, so do bar and nightclub owners looking to take advantage of the season with promotions. But why start planning promotions only when the weather gets warm?
Leigh Maida, owner of Local 44 (as well as three other bars in Philadelphia), takes advantage of the public’s love for the sunshine season and hosts summer-inspired events throughout the year. “I think it helps keep people interested in Local 44 in a general way, but it also keeps things exciting for us,” she says.
Maida and her team also host a monthly beer school at each of their four restaurants (Local 44, Memphis Taproom, Resurrection Ale House and Strangelove).
“Craft beer is our passion, and we've always looked at getting a guest excited about something they might never have tried before as a real measure of success,” she explains. “I think the guests that attend beer school know that they’re getting a unique and high-quality experience so of course people leave happy.”
The theme of the recent beer school was summer beer. Instead of focusing on wheat beer that beer drinkers are apt to grab during the summer months, the beer school highlighted beer styles that may not be on everyone’s radar, including Bitters, Schwarzbiers and Maibocks.
Maida says that hosting beer events through the summer and year—with inventory influenced by the seasons—is also a savvy way to keep guests interested. In fact, Maida is planning a big Maine Labor Day beach picnic event at Local 44, where Allagash (from Portland, Maine) will take over the tap, along with a special beach picnic menu available all day. “Hopefully people without Labor Day beach options will make their way to Local 44 and feel like they did something special and unique,” she says.
At Lottie’s Pub in Chicago, owner Mark Domitrovich has a similar philosophy to get people in his bar seats during the summer months. “With all of the baseball games, concerts, barbecues and outdoor festivals, competition is fierce in the summertime,” he says. By focusing on a popular event, Domitrovich is able to drive traffic and revenue. For example, the bar will be celebrating its annual Bucktown Garden Walk on July 13 and 14 with a pizza party and $4 lemonade-vodka drinks.
“On any given night, there are several great options, and you want to make sure you are one of them. We host promotions to give customers an extra reason to come in as well as stay on the forefront of their minds,” he adds.
Maida says Local 44 is in a unique position because although it sits at the edge of three major, urban college campuses, including University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and University of the Sciences, the bar isn’t positioned as a college bar.
“In the summer our head count might thin out a little bit, but it makes more room for the guests that we make no secret about preferring—the full-time residents of our west philly neighborhood,” she explains. “The whole operation becomes more about quality of experience and less about quantity of consumers when summer comes.
“We can devote more of our energy to building deeper relationships with our regular guests and really pull out the stops when it comes to quality draft lists and event planning.”