We spent a great afternoon at the Bar & Nightclub Conference 2017, a fantastic event that showcased the importance of our industry’s history and heritage as well as the modern brilliance and creative talent of the sector today, in equal measure.
After Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR, kicked off the day with an informative update on political and regulatory developments, Jamie Campbell, who heads up the retail business at CGA Strategy, presented an illuminating study of the market including areas of growth, food and drink trends and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Of particular interest, and what seemed like a running theme throughout the conference, was the idea that consumer behaviour is changing.
Younger consumers are drinking less, going out less and yet spending more when they do. And what they’re looking for is an immersive experience. An experience that carries them away, an escape from reality, to a place that is part new and exciting, and another part intrinsically “instagrammable”.
Later in the day there were a number of examples of companies achieving this, in wonderfully creative and beautiful ways. One key takeaway from this was the importance of the ‘serve’. Serving a drink properly has an impressive impact on return business and drives social reach thanks to the Instagram/Snapchat effect, whereby your customers create an emotional response in their friends, “the fear of missing out”, by sharing images of their amazing drink in an amazing venue.
It’s brilliant marketing and you should be doing it!
Look at making your glassware striking and use only high quality ingredients. Use fresh fruits and garnishes and focus on the visual impact of the final ‘serve’! Colours are important too, as the rise of pink gin and rosé prosecco attest to. These drinks look particularly good through the filtered world of social media accounts!
Then came Philip Kolvin QC, head of Cornerstone Barristers and chairman of the London Night Time Commission, who was truly cognisant in his talk on making London a 24 hour city, impressing us with his vision for London’s late-night economy and sharing some of the legal and licensing challenges he and operators have faced around the UK.
One late night operator who’s seen great success in London and who is looking increasingly at branching out into other markets is Scott Matthews, chief executive of CG Restaurants / Dirty Martini. Scott shared with us the incredible story of his rise to CEO, starting out in Cardiff as a bottle collector, before highlighting his company’s growth strategies, their ingenious internal training schemes and their unique and “instgrammable” approach to cocktails and venues.
Stephen Thomas, godfather of the UK nightclub and bar scene, offered a look at where it all began, back in the early 60’s. That was followed up with a combative and impassioned plea for greater industry professionality, a renewed focus on higher education training and a more inclusive approach to industry. Whatever anyone thought about Stephen’s spirited presentation; his level of passion and love for nightclubs was plain to see, plus his decades of experience is noteworthy!
Peter Marks, chief executive of Deltic Group, then spoke with wit and candour about evolving the company’s estate, the growing importance of social media (as mentioned above) and entertainment to drive footfall, and the results of the company’s own research on the late-night market. He also drew attention to the ominous shadow of GDPR that hangs over the industry like a dark and heavy rain cloud approaching silently and menacingly from above. Peter was quite right to draw attention to the challenge we face and his foreboding remark about how larger companies will be the first to feel the cold, cruel scythe of GDPR legislation was disquieting.
Aaron Mellor, founder and chief executive of Tokyo Industries, then took some time to demonstrate his company’s talent for creating immersive experiences; whether they be nightclubs, bars, festivals or beautiful Croatian party islands!
Of note was their recent openings of Impossible Manchester, a three story “multi use” bar restaurant theatre that has Cirque Du Soleil dancers dropping from the ceilings, and Church Leeds, a fantastic club slash live music and event space, in close proximity to the City’s university campus. As if they didn’t seem busy enough, they also showcased their experiential leisure festival, The Lost Village, that celebrates its fourth year in 2018 and their dreamy Croatian island festival, Obonjan.
There was mention of Boogie Wonderland in Ibiza, a club night in partnership with Ferran Adria and Cirque du Soleil, as well as developments in the UK market and Las Vegas! They seem an utterly talented and tireless bunch!
Next up, Chairman of the Institute of Licensing and CPL Training chief executive Dan Davies spoke to Peter Stringfellow about his career operating late-night venues. It’s fair to say that Peter has been around and then some.
With a career spanning five decades you would expect him to have a few great anecdotes, but it was unsurprising to us all that his string of stories kept going and going. From his entrepreneurial start to business in Sheffield back in ’62, to nights spent with The Beatles, to his run-ins with the Mafiosi of New York – it was clear this thoroughly unique industry figure had really lived his wild life with nightclubs right at the centre.
To finish, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed John Gaunt, Toby Smith, of Novus Leisure, Terry Pullen, chief executive of Sugar Hut, Robert Humphreys, vice-chairman of Best Bar None, and Rommel Moseley, director of business development and partnerships at Drinkaware, about the current trading and regulatory regime.
The whole event was a brilliant celebration of the bar and nightclub industry that Venners stocktakers and auditors are proud to be a part of. Huge thanks must go to the ALMR and Propel for putting on the event and we’re already looking forward to next year’s conference.
Venners Limited are the UK’s number one stocktaker and compliance audit supplier to the bar and nightclub sector.
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