It is human nature for customers to automatically create an opinion on the quality of the venue they are visiting, whether they consciously wish to or not. Your customers will make either conscious or subconscious judgements based upon every visual, aural and tactile element that your venue transmits – whether it be gathered from online sources, magazines or newspapers; or before, during or after their first physical visit to your venue.
Your customers will judge your venue from the moment they hear about it to the moment they walk out of your doors.
Your customers will build judgement and opinion on your venue whether you like it or not, and they’ll express this judgement and opinion to their own personal network of friends, family, colleagues and other acquaintances. They’ll also talk about you in their online social network. This can have serious implications on the popularity and reputation of your venue – if too many customers make too many negative opinions, business certainly won’t be booming as much as it could be.
So, how do you combat this powerful element of human nature? How do you make sure your customers will sing only the highest of praises about you? Firstly, you’ll need to remove any negative factors from your venue that may be the catalyst or trigger for the creation of a negative opinion.
You need to make your venue free of any visual, aural or tactile factor that may create a negative opinion, emotion or feeling in the hearts and minds of your customers.
Visual elements are anything that your customers physically observe with their eyes. The visual appearance of your venue is the most important, as it is the one that is transferred through the most mediums (the visual appearance of your venue is captured in photography and video footage, and is transmitted through newspapers, magazines, the internet, photography taken by your customers etc.), so it pays to keep your venue looking immaculate. It’s a common practice amongst venue owners to allocate an annual budget for the upkeep of their establishments. Your customers are also going to compare the visual look of your venue to the visual look of your competitors – this is another reason to stay up to date. Keeping your venue looking fresh is a constant effort – so it pays to allocate a certain percentage of your budget into the regular upkeep of your establishment.
Try and hide the operational elements of your bar-machine, including dish-rooms, wash-rooms, machinery (ice machines and post-mix machines) and other unsightly things. Try and view your venue from your guests’ eyes. Think of every possible opportunity.
Keep your staff in view of your customers only when they are working. If they are on break or standing around (they shouldn’t be doing this anyway!), ask them to stay out of sight from your guests. If they have knocked off early, set a strict policy that they aren’t to drink or socialise in your venue unless they are not rostered on for the whole day (or a few hours after their shift).
If you are ‘desensitised’ to the visual appearance of your venue, ask a close friend or associate to walk through and have a look at your venue to do some ‘fault-finding’. A fresh set of eyes will see many things you can’t see. Another tip is to ask your ‘fault-finder’ to walk through in mid morning (or a time when the sun can light your venue, if possible) to view everything from a different light.
When maintaining the appearance of your establishment, keep the following in mind:
- Try and use warm and inviting colour schemes
- Try and create warm, unique and sophisticated lighting effects
- Use colour and lighting to emphasise areas of interest. Areas of interest can include:
- Your back bar
- Your cellar
- Your entertainment area
- Your VIP area
- Keep colour and style themes consistent, in every visual aspect
- Try and keep any advertising media to a minimum (don’t litter your venue with too many brands)
- Try and keep any written boards (specials boards, or event schedules etc.) neat and tidy, using confident and convincing handwriting
- Replace any blown bulbs immediately
- Replace any broken fittings or damaged items immediately
I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping the appearance of your establishment clean and properly maintained.
The aural elements of your establishment are the sounds that your customers hear when they are in your venue, and can include background music, live music, machinery noise (from your ice machines and other equipment), blenders and other ‘drink preparation’ noises, and noises from your kitchen. The most important aural element of your venue is your music selection.
Choosing your music selection can be a daunting task. Try and keep your house music fresh, up to date and relevant to your audience. There are many house music management hardware/software systems available on the market which do this for you and are well worth the investment if you don’t have time to continually update your music library. Try and play the type of music that will appeal to your target market. Keep your live music relevant to your audience also – playing heavy metal to a typical ‘wine bar’ crowd will probably do more harm than good.
Keep any unnecessary noise in your establishment to a minimum. There’s nothing worse than hearing death-metal music screeching from the radio in the kitchen (or chefs screaming at their apprentices), or the hum and rattle of an ice machine. Do your best to mask these noises, as they’ll quickly create negative opinions in your customers’ minds.
The physical ‘feel’ of your establishment is an influential factor also. Basically, this includes any physical object that your customer will touch (with any part of their body). This includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Bathroom fittings
- Salt and pepper shakers
- Floor surfaces
- Bar surfaces
- Consumables (toilet paper, napkins, straws, toothpicks, coasters, business cards, bags)
I suggest you examine each and every one of these aspects very carefully, as physical interaction easily leads to the creation of positive or negative opinions. Look at this way: what if the above-mentioned physical items in your venue are made from poor quality? What are your customers going to think when they use these objects? They’ll associate your venue with poor quality. If you make it obvious that you can afford to spend a considerable amount on these things, your customers will associate your venue with quality.
Add appealing visual, aural or tactile elements that may create a positive opinion, feeling or emotion in the minds of your customers. If your venue possesses high quality elements, your customers will associate your venue with high quality.
Generally speaking, here are some positive qualities you can achieve to assist in the promotion of positive feelings and opinions towards your establishment. Make sure:
- Your venue is comfortable. Make sure your customers can sit in one place for a long period of time without feeling discomfort.
- Your venue is inoffensive. Customers won’t like seeing offensive symbols or words. Pay attention to the cultural rules in your community.
- Your venue is inexpensive to maintain, so you can maintain and update at low cost.
- Your venue is easily accessible and easy to find, and has access to car parking.
- Your venue is different and unique.
- Your venue is clean and free of bad odours.
- Your venue contains elements that your customers wish to be associated with. This could be a particular type of product (for example: premium Champagne), or a certain type of music (for example: hip-hop), or another type of customer (for example: celebrities), or a particular financial or social alignment (for example: wealthy businessman, or students).