Author Archives: Parag Shah

The Hideout Volume 2 | Opening Night

The point of The Hideout blog series is to share my experience of being our own customer — including what went well, what goes terribly, and everything in between. We opened The Hideout a couple weeks ago and have three Saturdays under our belt. It’s safe to say this is all a great learning experience, and now it’s time for me to share this experience with all of you.

What went well

Overall, it was a successful grand opening. We had a good amount of people pre-registered before opening night, but we ended up with a full house. I was very pleased with the turnout. Keep in mind our venue has a small capacity and is meant for a more exclusive feel.

I received a ton of feedback with guests liking the look and feel of the space — our investment in the design elements really paid off. We also came up with a different way of bringing our guests into the venue for the very first time. The Hideout is hidden inside a larger venue, and guests get escorted to an elevator, walked through a hallway, and then they enter the venue. I wanted guests to be surprised the first time they walked in, so guests were handed a blindfold prior to getting in the elevator, and were prompted to remove the blindfold once they were inside. It was highly talked about and our guests said it made them more excited to be a part of the experience.

One touch that I’m excited to continue beyond opening night is our table-side mixologists. I heard a lot of people talking about this as a cool and unique element that they hadn’t experienced elsewhere. We bought a vintage bar cart and have a professional mixologists make craft cocktails for our VIP table guests. It’s an added flair for our VIPs, and they really seemed to like the concept.

What didn’t go well

Our service wasn’t at the level where I want it to be. The level of attention wasn’t up to par with what I was expecting. Service was slower than I would have wanted — it felt like more of a traditional nightclub service and I wanted it to be more personal. I stopped by a few tables, and they hadn’t had their bottles or a server yet. We seemed to be more backlogged than I thought we would have been, even with adequate staffing and a soft opening. It’s all a part of the new growing pains and something we’re working through.

We also could have done a better job with putting signs outside our venue so people could find the right entrance. As I said earlier, The Hideout is hidden inside a larger venue, and with it being the first few weekends, a lot of people were confused about where the main entrance is to get into the building.

What we dropped the ball on

This is an exclusive, invite-only venue which is built off staff referrals. We had the concept to each invite people who we think would fit this venue well to get the word of mouth going. But we as a team failed to execute on this, with only 20% of staff members following through. Luckily the turnout was high, but we ultimately dropped the ball on this and I worry about the trickle down effect for our following weekends. We’re looking to address this with incentives.

Another area we dropped the ball on is with data collection, which was the most eye-opening for me as a founder of Vēmos. Part of it was a staff training issue, part of it was our setup with the system. Our door is set up in a way that a guest’s ID is scanned at the entrance of the door to not only validate legality, but to also collect data on each of our guests. Once the guest is scanned in, they go to the cashier to check in and pay the cover. However, in both of these instances, I noticed we didn’t ask for email or phone number when prompted in the system to add that in for the guest upon checkin. We’re willing to slow down the door to make our conversations more personal, and we failed to take the 30 seconds to ask for their phone number so we could reach back out to them later. I also think we can make some improvements with our UX for Vēmos to make the prompt more clear and easy to input.

What I would change if I went back in time

Definitely work with staff to make sure they’re collecting information on every guest who walks through the door. I’ve taken my software improvement suggestions to our team at Vēmos to implement, but I wish we would have been more diligent about asking and putting it into the system. Now I have all these people that attended without a great way to reach back out to them. If we would have inputed their information, I could reach out via text or email letting them know about upcoming events and specials they’d be interested in. I also would have had our front of house staff remind guests that they are now forever on the guest list and can bring one more person with them the next time they come. I don’t think we made that part of our concept clear for our guests. That’s the biggest thing I would go back and change — I just find that right now it’s hard to communicate with our guests, and in hindsight, it shouldn’t be. I can see in our analytics we had 150 guests walk through at our grand opening, and I can see exactly who each of those people are, but I should be able to contact all of them about what’s coming next.

Next steps moving forward

We’re starting to solve some of the issues I presented above. We’re going to incentivize our staff with a kickback program for every guest they bring to the venue so that they have more ownership stake in who attends. We’re also building a street team that socializes with people in the community, and is responsible for finding and inviting the right people who are the right fit for this venue. I don’t see a lot of venues doing that here locally, and could be a great way for us to have a more personalized presence in the community.

I also want to work with our bartenders in becoming more conversational and giving a unique experience. While I’m happy with our turnout and bar sales, I noticed a lot of people didn’t know they could order a speciality cocktail or that we have professional mixologists. I’d like to see our bartenders recommend a cocktail or even create one for a guest based on their tastes so people don’t feel they need to default to a standard rum and coke.

This venue is all about experience, and I’m excited to start implementing some things that will bring our experience above a traditional night out. Stay tuned on our improvements and what else we have in the works. And of course, if you’re interested in seeing The Hideout for yourself, contact me to get on the guest list and be a part of the experience.

The Hideout Volume 1 | Parag Runs a Nightclub

“I have no interest in ever owning a nightclub.”

– Parag Shah, quoted at least a million times.

I’ve been in the nightlife industry for six years now. Never as an owner, never as a worker, but always as an observer and constant innovator of how technology can make life better.

As a founder of Vēmos, I spent the past six years building a tech company that serves the nightlife industry. It was one of those situations where being naive was actually an advantage. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions or challenge the status quo. I wasn’t engrained in how it’s always been done, and I could see the opportunity to do things differently. While I didn’t know how to run a nightclub, I did know how to build a tech company and how to ask for help from the true experts — owners and managers of nightclubs. In the history of this company, we’ve built our software right alongside our customers.

But now the tides have turned. I’m going to become our own customer.

I love our customers and am thankful everyday for their willingness to let me in and learn from them. This will never change. But now I get to become one of them. I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth is and do what I tell everyone else to do while experiencing their reality.

Don’t get me wrong, this idea wasn’t a sudden lightbulb moment where I immediately knew I had to dive in and then figure out how to pursue it. It was actually just a classic happenstance. I was talking with the VIP manager of one of our customers here in Minneapolis about how he could better use Vēmos for his reservations and how he could make better use of his back space. It’s an exclusive area. It’s niche. It needed to live up to that.

Bam! Concept.

My belief is that bottle service in Minneapolis isn’t up to par with where it should be. We needed a spot here locally where wealthy individuals could experience the level of exclusiveness that’s available on the coasts. This space is exactly the space to do this.

The idea was pitched to the owners of the venue, and it was greeted with hesitation. I don’t blame them. It’s a concept that hasn’t really existed here in Minneapolis, and their reaction was right on par saying it likely wouldn’t do well here. I naturally disagreed. I’ve seen this concept work really well in other markets. I see the need here. I know it can be done if it’s done well with the right setup. I was asked to be a consultant on the project. But being the person I am, I set out to prove this concept right and decided to own it.

Five months later, I’m excited to introduce The Hideout, which will be launching this weekend.

We’ve spent the last five months redoing the whole space to turn it into an elite private venue. We worked with over a dozen vendors to get it to this point, with us as an internal team laying the groundwork of who we are, why we exist, and what experiences we want to provide our customers. I believe in identifying your purpose/cause/passion first, and building everything out around it.

For us, our purpose is to be an elite venue with the best customer experience. To provide an intimate, exclusive space where likeminded individuals can party together. Everything we do is about that high-level exclusive experience, from the design to the execution. I want everyone who spends a night at The Hideout to say “wow, I’ve never had this unique of an experience in nightlife before.” Whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience, my goal is for it to be a unique experience.

In order for that to be successful, we need to have our details down. Everyone should be blown away by the level of service we provide. They shouldn’t have to wait for a drink. Each person should be known by name and face. There should be a server at their table at all times. They should feel genuinely special while they’re there. We want to make sure that from the time someone makes up their mind that they’re going to The Hideout, to the time they arrive back at their house after a night out, that they have an exceptional experience. Most other places start their experience at the door, and end it at the door. I want to take this a step further. I think we as an industry need to take this a step further.

So what does this mean?

  • It means I’m thinking differently about the way the door works. There isn’t going to be a line. My guests will know where to go to get in — it’s modeled after 1920s speakeasies. We will scan their license to validate their entrance. There’s not going to be a loyalty card for them to add to their wallet. Their license is their loyalty card.
  • It means we’re going to have a strict guy to girl ratio of 60/40. Which means we need to track our data in real-time to be able to live up to this each and every night.
  • It means providing alcohol, drinks, and champagne brands that people in this market haven’t experienced before. We want to bring something new to the table, and give our guests something they can’t get elsewhere in this market.
  • It means the only way to be guaranteed into the venue is to be invited and then by pre-registering or reserving a table.
  • It means the people who are invited to pre-register either know a staff member or are invited by someone else who has experienced the venue.
  • It means we’re tracking when they register to attend, what time they do end up attending, how many guests they bring with them, and what they buy once they’re there. This is what allows us to tailor individualized experiences. My vision is to get to a point where once a guest scans in, their drinks are waiting for them without them having to order.

This concept isn’t for everyone, and I get that. My individual purpose is to drive innovation in a space that hasn’t innovated in a long time. I’ve made crazy suggestions like this to countless people, and have been laughed at. And honestly, I like when people laugh at my ideas. It means they’ve never thought of it before. And while I admit that not all of my ideas are good, I’m excited to implement some of my wild ideas and see how they go. This idea in particular I wholeheartedly believe in and have set up the tools we need to succeed.

And so, I invite you on this journey. This is the start of a blog series about me being my own customer. I’ll share what goes well, what goes terribly, and everything in between. I’ll share my wild ideas, the execution of that idea, and the end result. I want you to learn with me and see how a different way of thinking coupled with the right set of tools could amplify your own journey.

This Saturday will be our first night open to the public, and I look forward to sharing the results with all of you. So, I raise my glass to this crazy journey and look forward to seeing you at The Hideout.

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How to Pre-Sell Tickets to Your Event

Every event or venue, regardless of size, benefits from pre-selling tickets. It’s how you’re able to pay for your event before it even happens. It’s how you know whether or not your event is going to be a success. And it’s one of the easiest revenue-building things you can do.

Follow these steps to earn more pre-sale revenue for your event.

1. Get the right ticketing system

The first step in pre-selling tickets is finding the right ticketing partner. Many ticketing companies fail to give venues access to their own data. Make sure you have full control of your events and get access to all of your data before, during, and after the event. There are technology platforms that incorporate ticketing into the rest of your efforts, giving you that full 360-degree look at how your venue is performing. This platform enables you to:

  • Create and manage an online event page
  • Sell tickets to consumers right through the page via an e-commerce system
  • Get access to a white labeled widget so your online ticketing page looks identical to the rest of your website
  • Integrate the event with a mobile app for promoters to sell tickets directly from their devices
  • Track ticket sales and results along the way

This type of platform syncs all promoters and marketing efforts together to maximize ticket sales before the night of your event. Contact Vēmos to learn more about this system and get signed up.

2. Use a combination of selling techniques

Selling tickets is an ongoing effort, but it doesn’t have to be laborious. Use a multi-channel strategy to sell your tickets, such as one that consists of online, mobile, and in-person sales. If you get on board with the above system, you’re already a step in the right direction. The integrated ticketing widget allows you to use the e-commerce ticket sales system directly on your website so your visitors never have to be redirected somewhere else to make that purchase. Plus, the accompanied mobile application turns your promoters and sales team into a traveling box office by selling tickets to customers directly from their device. All the channels working together at once is what drives awareness, buzz, and sales.

3. Get the word out to the right people

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand. So while your sales team is out there making transactions, make sure your marketing team is working alongside them with spreading the word. The best strategy is to always keep your customers informed while maintaining a clear and consistent message. If you have a CRM system in place, use filters to segment your customers into specific targeted audiences, which in turn means each audience gets messages that are 100% relevant to their habits. That’s powerful marketing, and that’s what continues to drive guests to your events.

4. Make sure the money goes directly into your bank

Most ticketing sites collect your customers’ payments in their own banks and hold it until after the event is over. Instead, look to companies like BookBottles that ensure payment goes directly through your merchant services provider and into your bank account right from the get-go. That way, a guest purchasing a ticket to your event is the same process as that guest buying a drink inside your venue. There’s no point in collecting pre-sales to help pay for your event if you’re not going to get your money from those sales until weeks after the event is over.

5. Analyze results to increase revenue for the next event

Getting access to your data gives you the opportunity to truly understand how your venue and events are performing. The BookBottles platform automates this process by putting everything in one spot, plus everything is displayed by individual guests and staff members to truly identify areas of strength and weakness. Once you know how well you did, you’re able to better set yourself up for success for your next event. Optimization is key to long-term success.

Parag Shah is the founder and director of sales at Vēmos. Contact him at

4 Steps to Use Data to Increase Profit

The key to measuring the success of your club is by analyzing critical data. Yet, most venues don’t look at their data to get an accurate gage of how well their club is performing. The problem is few venues have a system in place to analyze this data, and even fewer have the necessary time and resources to comb through data points to make sense of it all. As a result, venues are operating blindly and wasting time and money on areas that may or may not be working.

To get a true sense of how your venue is performing, you should be able to rattle off:

  • How much money you made or lost over a given time period
  • Which days of the week are your busiest
  • What type of liquor you sell the most on a given day
  • How many tables are reserved a night
  • Which promoters are brining in the most guests
  • Which servers are upselling the most and making the most tips
  • What types of promotions or events bring in the most traffic

If you don’t have an answer to these points, it’s time to put an analytics system in place. Here are the 4 steps to do just that.

1. Use a platform that collects data on all areas of your venue

Don’t cut yourself short by only turning to your point of sale (POS) system to provide this data. While it’s true that most POS systems collect data, it’s oftentimes presented in convoluted ways. It’s nearly impossible to get a glimpse of your club’s employee performance, promoter performance, individual guest sales, or trending liquor sales. That’s why it’s more important than ever to turn to a system that not only collects, but also reports, the data you need in meaningful ways.

The best systems are fully integrated solutions that collect data from any area of your club and analyze and present it in one central spot in real-time. Make sure everyone who works at your venue has his/her own login and uses the system correctly to capture the most accurate data.

2. Identify what information is crucial to your venue

There’s a lot of data that gets collected on a given night, and there’s a lot of different ways it can be reported. But just because it gets collected doesn’t mean it’s going to be worthwhile information. Define the areas that are the most critical for you to analyze and set a goal for you to benchmark against. The more focused you are, the easier it’ll be to interpret.

3. Use filters to identify strong and weak areas of your venue

Integrated systems that have a filtering process are beneficial in a number of ways, because they:

  • Allow you to identify the audience you want to measure (servers, promoters, customers, overall club performance, or all of the above)
  • Collect data on any given area of your club
  • Provide insight on trending liquor sales, which helps with inventory planning
  • Report key information on individual guests – average spend, total spend, group size, favorite liquors, and top purchases – so you can better serve them
  • Present the results you chose to identify in easy-to-read charts and graphs, which removes the manual labor of you combing through all the data

4. Optimize your efforts to increase profit

Review the data that’s presented, benchmark it against your goals, and optimize your results to work in your favor. If something isn’t working – such as a certain type of liquor isn’t selling well or a promoter isn’t providing results – then fix the problem. The more you now, the more you can do.

Parag Shah is the founder and director of sales at Vēmos. Contact him at

Finding the Right Event Ticketing Partner

Event ticketing isn’t anything new for nightclubs. Yet, many venues rush through the planning process and don’t set themselves up for success, especially when it comes to selecting their ticketing vendors. It’s incorrect to assume all third-party ticketing companies are the same, and it hurts you to not do your research.

Here are three things you need to ensure your ticketing vendor is able to provide (note: most big-name ticketing vendors don’t provide any of these, which decreases your profit potential).

1. Money goes into your bank right away

Most ticketing sites collect your customers’ payments in their own banks until after the event is over. Once the day of your event has passed, they’ll cut you a check for what you earned, but not until they’ve made sure to take any fees they deem themselves worthy to collect. Then, it takes a few business days for the remaining money to appear in your account, meaning you may not actually get paid until a week after the event happened (and weeks to months since your guests even purchased their ticket).

Instead, you should look to companies that ensure payment goes directly through your own merchant services provider and into your bank account right from the get-go. That way, a guest purchasing a ticket to your event is the same process as that guest buying a drink inside your venue doors.

2. A customized event landing page

Many ticketing sites have online-hosted pages about your event to help promote it and attract buyers. Yet, some of these sites don’t have the capabilities for guests to purchase tickets directly from the site. What’s worse is your event page is chock-full of advertisements and information about “similar venues” (aka competing venues).

Confirm beforehand what’s going to be on your event page. Better yet, look for companies that 1) don’t have competing venues or advertisements, 2) allow guests to purchase tickets directly from the website, 3) have the capabilities for you to fully customize your page to your needs, and 4) are able to provide you with a white-labeled widget to embed directly on your own website.

3. You own the data

It’s sad, but most ticketing sites don’t let venues see detailed information on who bought their tickets. Rather, they leverage this data to sell tickets for other venues on their own site. This is a huge missed opportunity and something you should never let happen.

Always make sure you’re given full access to your data. After all, data is one aspect you absolutely need to make better decisions and grow your profits. Your data should be able to tell you the number of tickets sold, the amount of revenue earned, a comparison of tickets sold and sales by event, the number of parties who attended, and who bought your tickets – including their name, gender, age, zip code, email, and phone number. This information lets you know whether your event was a success, what to improve on for the next event, and toward whom your marketing should be geared.

Parag Shah is the founder and director of sales at Vēmos. Contact him at