Let your business reflect your personality
The first time I heard Otis Redding, he was telling me how he was sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away. It was right around the time that I moved to the Bay Area and I immediately fell in love with the song. So naturally when I heard about a bar in downtown San Francisco named “Otis”, I just knew I had to check it out. Otis is located in Downtown San Francisco and it definitely encompasses that cool-cat, tastemaker energy that is embodied in every song by Otis Redding. To me Otis is much more than a bar, it’s got that lounge feel, but much more intimate. The seating is white leather couches and stools, the music typically is something you’d hear on the soundtrack of a Spike Lee joint and the drinks are flavorful. I can’t forget to mention the upstairs loft that has the DJ booth and the ever-so necessary dance floor, but again, very intimate. The crowd is always a mixture of lovely people, usually from the Financial District (FiDi) or local service industry folks paying tribute to the owners. And that’s because, get this, the owners work behind the bar. When I first learned this, I thought that it was strange but after a night of hanging out it made complete sense. Otis is a great place that delivers a great time. Why wouldn’t one want to pour drinks for their friends and other beautiful people, while making money in the process?
Years would go by before I would have the opportunity to actually speak to one of the owner’s on a personal level to understand the story behind Otis. Otis is owned by two men; Damon White and Phil Shell. Mid last year I had the opportunity to speak with Phil Shell about his background as an entrepreneur and owner of Otis, which he explained reflected his personality. It was quite an insightful conversation into the life of an owner of a nightlife establishment. I remember when I was 18, I used to go to a major nightclub “Club Love”, in Washington D.C. on “College Thursdays”. Every once in awhile I’d spot the club owner outside, Marc Barnes, who at the time was my idol. I saw that all of the ladies wanted a hug, everyone else wanted to shake his hand, the nice cars, the big lights, the cash. I knew from the beginning, I wanted in. But I never thought; mainly because I never knew, about the relentless amount of work that is involved in making that night possible. That 3.5 hour window to get enough college-age students to pay $20 at the door to make the night profitable. And to say the least, Phil informed me about all the work that is involved. Everything from inventory, repairs (your guests are drunk shortly after they arrive), staffing, marketing, menus; there’s much more to it than just opening the doors and pouring drinks.
According to NCIAA the Bar/Nightclub industry is a $18 Billion industry and 352,000 people are employed by it. Despite a recession the industry that saw the lowest amount of decrease in sales was the bar and nightclub industry. In 2011 club Marquee; a major nightclub in Las Vegas, exceeded $70 Million in revenue which was a record breaking figure and this was within their first year of operation. The following year Club Marquee tied with Club XS which is also a nightclub in Las Vegas for the number one spot in revenue generation, they both exceeded $80 Million in sales. According to a study in Atlanta, the average bottle sold in VIP is $239 and the average price of a cocktail is $10.50. So in other words, that $25 750 ml bottle of Grey Goose sold at the liquor store will generate 17 drinks or $178.50 in revenue and as for the VIP 1.75 L bottle sold in the liquor store for $50, will generate $239! Everyone has different profit margins, also these numbers are all assuming there is no over pouring and returned drinks. Nonetheless, sounds like a great business model to me!
The truth is that no matter what you’re selling; your profit margins don’t matter if there’s no one buying. What I have learned from Phil and in hindsight from Mr. Barnes is that people want to consume alcohol in places that they enjoy being at. If no one enjoys being at your bar, nightclub or lounge then no one will spend time there. And by no one I mean everyone and by everyone I mean you. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, it’ll be hard for your guests to. Like most businesses, a nightlife establishment begins and ends with the owner. Like the saying goes “Happy wife, happy life”, “Happy owner, Happy staff, Happy guests, Lots of revenues.” And yes, in that order.