Is Your Hotel Bar & Restaurant Missing The Non Hotel Guest Opportunity?

Strategic Bar Solutions (SBS) travels the United States visiting hundreds of hotels performing F&B Assessments.  The goal of these visits are to bring an experienced bar business eye to a hotel bar situation and deliver feedback to property GM’s and F&B leaders.   Every property situation turns out to be different.  Opportunities are not consistent and the strategy to go after an opportunity is often driven by the specifics of a local situation.   We don’t look at blowing everything up and starting from scratch.  We aren’t fixated on creating perfect cocktails and the world’s best flatbread.  We focus on spotlighting available chess moves that will move F&B revenues up and costs down. One chess move we continuously find that makes sense for F&B within the hotel is the execution of an inbound marketing strategy.  The need for executing a bar inbound marketing program is dictated by two factors:
  • Its tough to compete against all of the bar options in your local market, but Living Room concept bars are proving to not only be preferred by your hotel guests, they are a unique and preferred choice of a lot of potential local and transient customers.
  • Hotel marketing programs are often world class, but the bar in the end is just an amenity.  When you have a bar and a market situation which can pull in nonhotel guests, the lack of inbound marketing limits the connect potential with a customer constituency that could double your F&B revenues.
Living Room oriented bar venues are proving more and more to be winners in the hotel segment.  The hotel restaurant, which typically attaches to the bar, is often empty in the evening because hotel guests prefer to visit the bar, find a place to setup a laptop, watch TV, and have a few small bites and cocktails.  Its a completely different cover versus the restaurant.  Check times are 2-3 hours.  Folks literally share tables.  And this same experience makes for a great place to hold an informal huddle with business associates or friends.   That kind of experience is attractive to not only hotel guests, but to a growing legion of folks who are not hotel guests.  In some cases there is work to be done to get to the right setup.  Move a little furniture.  Add some community tables. Modify the menu to have more small bites options.  But in the end the old adage that if you build it – they will come, is not how it works anymore.  You have to have an inbound marketing program to pull non hotel guests into that Living Room bar. There are micro markets all around a property that are likely to have those living room bar oriented customers.   You need to create awareness and entice that customer to visit.   Traditional happy hour promotion programs don’t produce that desired result and end up just cannibalizing margin.   Shotgun blast marketing strategies will not get you the connection you need to create awareness of your bar as a perfect fit for what an outside guest is looking for.  One downtown hotel client was right next to a dog walking park – a very rare commodity in a downtown setting.  After setting up an outside area and a fun program for those customers, they were left with the challenge of creating awareness that their bar was a welcome place for pet lovers and their pets.  A very unusual local strategy, but who cares if revenues double.   Over the years we have been asking GM’s and F&B managers whether their existing digital marketing program, often dictated by corporate marketing groups, is helping them grow their bar business.   The answer is either no or I don’t know.  Yet in 95+% of these situations the corporate hotel marketing program is world class and a key driver in the overall hotel business growth strategy.  The reasons:
  • The driver for hotel marketing programs is – more hotel guests (rooms).  The industry is focused on Occupancy and ADR growth.  The goal of the bar marketing program is to highlight the bar as a great amenity in the effort to win the customer as a hotel guest.  There is nothing wrong with that strategy.  But a bar marketing program has to also live on its own, outside the hotel marketing program and have its own digital identity.  Yet because it is still an amenity, the program has to be executed in sync with overall identity standards. When property teams try to run their own social media programs for the bar, corporate marketing teams are driven crazy because of the standards conflicts and quality issues.  This leads to a zero tolerance for independent local marketing programs.
  • The kind of outreach messaging and targeting that you need to build a non hotel guest bar connection, is very different then what works to chase a hotel guest.   In addition, a bar digital marketing program is very different than a restaurant focused program.  A program that effectively supports a great concept restaurant with its own identity, will not work when you go after a Living Room bar customer.  And you can’t turn to the promoter world that works in high volume active lounge / nightclub situations to drive customers into the venue, because a Living Room bar is not a nightclub.  You need a unique program executed by experts who understand the business development environment in hotel bars.
  • Inbound marketing programs for hotel bars require work to be done.  And there are no resources standing around in lean hotel management teams to take on that responsibility.  In addition the key to success in any inbound marketing program is delivering quality content that is effectively distributed.  It’s not just about making Facebook posts like you do on your personal Facebook page. Corporate marketing teams are often fully consumed by the overall Hotel brand marketing objective.  You need a partner who can execute locally with quality and who can stay in formation with the corporate marketing effort.
In our overall Assessment process we often recommend partners whom can execute against an opportunity in a given situation. But we have never had a partner option to help a team go after a bar digital marketing  opportunity.  The net result is this opportunity withers on the vine of “no way to go after it.”   Now there is SBS Inbound, a program that makes ROI sense when a local GM, an owner and SBS recognize there is a 2X to 3x business growth impact opportunity in the bar/restaurant in a hotel situation.    SBS Inbound gets funded at the property level, so there is no carve out of limited corporate marketing budgets.  The success of the program is easy to track and keep score on.   And the program is constantly getting adjusted by the analytics inside the program.  A popular television commercial which has a space shuttle changing colors, words and even mission in response to real-time analytics is not far from the truth of how a great program works. So the question becomes – is it time to launch your bar digital marketing “space shuttle?”  If it is, SBS Inbound would like to provide an assessment.

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