Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Your Bar or Tavern Branded?

Most of the articles I write for the bar and tavern industry focus on "business basics."  They are intended to offer small bar and local tavern owners proven strategies to increase their profits. This article (or post) will be slightly different; it is a narrative story that conveys an important concept that every bar and tavern owner as well as bartenders should understand - Branding. 

Corporate America struggles with "branding" - a strategy to let the public know what their business does, what their products are, and what makes their company different, etc. Unfortunately, many small bar and local tavern owners have never heard of branding and few understand the concept.   So here is a real life example that might put "Branding" in perspective for you. 

Last November, a bar owner from Michigan called.   He had gotten my name from a former client.  His name was Frank and he and his wife had purchased a small bar and literally sank their entire life savings into it.   Now they were thinking it was a mistake.   They needed help.   

I asked Frank, "What’s the name of your bar?" 
He replied, "The Tiki Bar". The following week I had to meet with a client in a city about 130 miles away and I suggested I drive over for a visit.   I had Frank promise that both he and his wife would meet with me if I drove over.   

Frank’s bar was hard to find.   It had no exterior sign and was located in the middle of a city block in a nondescript building. A small neon palm tree sign flashed "Tiki Bar" in one of the windows. 

A bartender wearing a flannel shirt and faded blue jeans greeted me and I introduced myself.   He said, "Frank will be back in soon."  I strolled through the bar and nothing other than the flashing sign in the window indicated this was the Tiki Bar.  Frank arrived alone and said his wife would not be joining us.
Huh, I thought.  
My first question for Frank was, "What’s with the name the Tiki Bar?"   He grinned and replied, "Years ago my wife and I visited Florida and had a great time in a little bar called the Tiki Bar.   We decided if we ever bought a bar, we would call it the Tiki Bar."
Huh, I thought.  

I asked Frank, "Did the bar in Florida look like this?"
"No way." he said.   "That bar was on a sandy beach and had a really cool roof made out of palm leaves."
Huh, I thought. 
"How did the bartenders dress?" I asked. 
"Oh, they wore cool Caribbean style flowered shirts, khaki shorts and beach sandals – they looked real sharp," he replied.
Huh, I thought.  

"Frank, do you offer drink specials?" I asked.
Frank pointed to a sign reading "A Bucket of Bud - Five Bottles - $7.00." 
"Did the Florida bar have specials?"
"Yeah, lots of fruity cocktails like Bahama Mamas, Rum Punches, Pinot Coladas and Frozen Daiquiris," he said. 
Huh, I thought.  

"Can I see a menu?" I asked. His menu listed a variety of burgers, pizzas, and lots of deep fried appetizers.  "Is this the kind of food the Florida bar had?" I asked. 
"No way." he said, "It had great jerk chicken strips and lots of delicious fish sandwiches." 
Huh, I thought. 

"Frank does your juke box have Caribbean and steel drum music on it?" I asked.
Huh, I thought.  "How often do you schedule Caribbean parties?"
Huh, I thought.  "Do your bartenders make Caribbean style drinks served in coconut or bamboo style glasses?" I asked.
Frank laughed and said, "No way!"
Huh, I thought.   "So other than that neon sign in the front window, what have you and your wife done to create a real Tiki Bar experience?" I asked. 
A long period of silence, then "Nothing, I guess!" said Frank. 

I stood up, shook Frank’s hand, said adios to the bartender and turned towards the door.   Frank asked, "Where are you going Eba?"
"Out I replied!   Find your wife, then call me on my cell within the next two hours.  The three of us need to talk if you really want to increase your bar’s profits."

I wandered through town and visited some local shops. Two hours passed and Frank never called; I left.   A few months later, I heard the Tiki Bar closed and was now up for sale or lease. 

Question:   Do you now understand branding?   Does it kind of make sense?
If you enjoyed this post please let me know.  If you have any questions or suggestions, also let me know.  Eba G. only wants to share knowledge you can use to increase your profits or maximize your tips.

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