The most challenging yet rewarding promotional targets are dead zones. If your bar was as busy on Monday and Tuesday nights as it is on Friday and Saturday nights, there would be no need for inventive strategic thinking. But most bar managers would be happier with a more robust bottom line. So how do you harvest new revenue across the quiet plains of your slower weeknights? It’s a concept we’ll call active community transplanting. Here’s the basic idea:
Self-proclaimed “watch nerd” Adam Craniotes spent countless hours on an internet message board for timepiece enthusiasts. One day, eager to meet some of those similarly obsessed pseudonymous characters in real life, he decided to invite anyone interested to join him after work on a Wednesday evening. The selected location was a divey, windowless lounge, tucked away up a narrow flight of stairs in Manhattan’s Koreatown district. First night, four people turned up. The following Wednesday at the sleepy Red Bar & Lounge, it was two, including Adam. But, with considerable help from social media, the numbers gradually grew and today his once-humble watch club now has 40 chapters across four continents.
And while his watch “crew” would take their name from that first meeting spot, Adam was lured to a larger lounge in Koreatown, Ichi Cellar, where the savvy owner recognized that by committing a prime bank of plush booths and generous drink specials to the endeavor he was going to boost his slow Wednesday nights from 7pm onward substantially (at a venue that typically doesn’t come to life until after 10pm on any night). A comfortable, uncrowded, easily-commandeered space with booze was pretty much all Adam and friends needed to meet up, talk shop, and compare watches. And of course, order drinks.
Collecting is social, and social media only makes it even more so. Granted, this particular success story is a remarkable one—and it didn’t happen overnight. But it highlights the real and accessible value of transplanting and nurturing a niche community. Once that bond is established, the dividends are evergreen. Adam and company continue to do all the heavy-lifting while Ichi Cellar, simply by remaining a doting host, wins big consistently.
So the question becomes, who can you draw to your establishment? Here are six ideas:
Scan meetup.com for active communities already doing interesting things. Once upon a time, the Beatles were a 50’s-rock tune cover band playing a suburban teen social club operated by their original drummer’s mother until someone from The Cavern, a real Liverpool venue, decided they might be a hit with the lunchtime crowd. Point is, if something interesting is already working on small scale, why not offer up the larger scale of your bar? Over time, support given becomes support received. And remember: if that active community is already out there and underserved, two people turning up the first night isn’t a failure, it’s a start.
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