Author Archives: Whitney Larson

4 Ways to Build Your Bar with Guest Data

Do you know who your guests are? The ones who frequent your venue, who spend a lot of money, and who would be considered “loyal?” Many venues think they do, but few have the full picture.

Recognizing your guests’ faces or even their names is just the start. Imagine knowing how many times they’ve been to your bar or club, how many reservations they’ve made, how much money they’ve spent at the bar, and what their most popular drink purchases are. That’s valuable information, and that’s what’s going to propel you forward. And an ID scanning system tied to your point of sale is just what’s going to get you there. Not only does this increase your security and reduce your liability, but it also acts as the driving force behind building loyalty with your guests.

Here’s what you can uncover when you know your guests on a deeper level.

1. Better identify guests

I’ve been to bars that didn’t know which guests made up the biggest volume of sales. I’ve been to nightclubs where high-profile guests were stopped at the door by the bouncer and denied access, purely from the fact that the bouncer didn’t recognize that guest. This lack of understanding, communication, and identification is a threat to your venue. In the first instance, you’re losing out on increasing the average cost per transaction from that guest by not identifying the opportunity. In the second instance, not only did you not make money from that person that night, but that person is infinitely less likely to return to your venue. In an industry driven by providing great hospitality, knowing your guests is essential to maximizing your revenue.

2. Upsell guests before they walk through your doors

With the right ID scanning system, you’re able to collect data on all of your guests. This goes well beyond their name, age and other demographic information. We’re talking behavioral data. Notice it’s their 5th time coming in this month? Comp their first drink. Is it a regular attendee from your bar crowd? Upsell them to a VIP table right then and there, thanking them for their loyalty and letting them know you think they would enjoy their experience more this way. They’ll be more likely after this experience to continue to be a high value customer, become more loyal to your venue, and refer friends.

3. Provide personalized service

Your guests expect personalized service. They get it from nearly every other industry, so your business is no exception to them. When you have access to behavioral data, you uncover key insights that allow you to provide this level of personalized service your guests have come to expect — how often that guests comes, what time of day they check in, how many visits they’ve had this month, what types of events or promotions drive them there, the list goes on. It’s with this information that you’re able to reward your guests for doing what they’re already doing — simply showing up — and begin to offer them personalized service well after they walk through your door.

4. Improve marketing efforts

When you combine an ID scanning system, a CRM system, and a point of sale system, you become unstoppable with your marketing. Now you have a database of rich guest information that combines meaningful demographic information with invaluable behavioral information. Use this information to send targeted, personal and relevant messages to individual guests. You can hyper target your digital ads directly to a segment of customers with a message that speaks 100% to them. You can segment your database into specific audiences and send a text message offer just to them. You no longer have to mass blast generic promotions into the unknown. When messages are personal and specific, it increases your marketing ROI so you can continue to reinvest in the actions that build your business.

Insights: The Powerful Weapon Behind Your Success

There’s a lot of factors that go into a successful bar or nightclub. While there’s no one-size-fits-all model that works across the board, there is one element that has a direct impact on every business’ success: your data and your ability to pull insights from that data. Your data is the key to understanding what builds your business up, and what tears your business down. But data in and of itself is overwhelming and lacks direction. That’s where insights come in.

Insights are the story behind your raw data points; the why behind the numbers. When you have insights, you have action. And it’s that action that continues to propel your business forward.

The good news is it’s no longer complicated to track, compile, and understand all your data from across your venue to create your own personal insights storyboard. There are solutions built specifically for nightlife venues that automates all of this for you so you don’t have to be a data scientist to figure all this out.

Here’s how you can use your insights to boost your results.

1. Make your nights more predictable.

Today’s Reality: Few venues today have an accurate idea of what each night will hold. Doors open, guests walk through, and the night happens. At the end, you pull your reports to see what performance was like. It’s an incredibly unpredictable model, which makes it hard to understand before you open how your night will translate to revenue, operating expenses, and overall profit.

Data’s Fix: The key to measuring the success of your venue and getting it to a point of predictability is knowing exactly how you’re performing, and that means knowing your numbers. You’re likely already doing this with your end of night reports. However, they’re a reactive look at how your night went, and is often presented in spreadsheet format that you need to make sense of. Other numbers to know is your staff productivity, your product inventory and its sellable rate, and your guests’ actions throughout the night. Without data on any of these items, you’re spending every day guessing until you’re no longer able to make ends meet. But just having the raw numbers alone isn’t enough to drive longterm success.

Insight’s Power: Longterm success comes when you understand the why behind the numbers. That’s what insights provide. They’re powerful triggers that you can leverage to build even more business. Which staff member has the highest up-selling rate? Assign them to your best VIP table or schedule them during the highest selling hours behind the bar. Does your main bar get so slammed at 11:30pm that you’re over capacity and no longer churning drinks at a rate you need to make money? Consider opening a popup bar at another location at that time to speed up your flow and increase drink orders. What can you expect in sales this Thursday based on the past four Thursdays’ results? And how does that compare to your Saturdays? These are the questions you’ll begin to have answers to, and with those answers come smarter decisions to make even more money.


2. Shine a spotlight to decrease unnecessary costs.

Today’s Reality: When your nights are unpredictable, you tend to get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing day in and day out. This tends to be out of habit and out of your actions superficially appearing to be working.

Data’s Fix: Without data to back your actions, the reality is you don’t know what is and isn’t working to get guests through your door and spending money. You end up operating blind and oftentimes spend too much of your money pumping it into activities that aren’t working or causing you to lose money.

Insight’s Power: Data allows you to get clarity on the actions you’re doing. Insights empower you to make smart decisions about the data that’s presented. For example, you see in your end of night reports (i.e. raw data) that you’re breaking even with your overhead and sales, but your overall sales seem on par with what you’d expect. When data is presented as a storyboard, you get insights on the different factors that’s causing this. Rather than comparing spreadsheets, you now clearly see that you’re staffing for far more guests than is realistic at 8pm, when you’d be better allocating those staffing needs until 11pm. Maybe you realize you’re paying your promoters a per-guest fee when the guests they bring in don’t end up spending any money once they’re inside your venue. These insights allow you to know where you’re overspending and cut costs accordingly.


3. Improve marketing efforts.

Today’s Reality: Speaking of knowing where you’re overspending, marketing is one of those places you’re likely throwing money in the wrong places. You have a general idea of which channels to market on – social media, in-venue specials, text messages. But you’re not sure which actions are actually driving people through the door while simultaneously earning you more spending per guest.

Data’s Fix: Marketing is incredibly measurable now, especially with digital at the forefront. When you track your marketing efforts, you’re able to see exactly what drives traffic and results. So while a third-party website may claim to have garnered you 100,000 impressions, you know that it actually only got you 3 clicks and $0 in return. Now you know not to spend money there in the future and redistribute those dollars toward activities you know work for you.

Insight’s Power: With insights, you can take your marketing to the next level and distribute personalized, habit-based promotions to each individual. Think in the likes of Amazon and Starbucks, each of which send individual consumers messages that are based on their buying habits. Notice that a guest typically drinks a rum and Coke rail drink? Send them an offer to try a rum-based signature cocktail you think they’d like. Notice a guest hasn’t attended your venue in several weeks? Reach out to them to get them back in. Notice it’s a guest’s 10th visit this month? Give them a reward or upgrade them for their loyalty.


When all of your data is combined into one system and works together to tell your personal story, you get to see insights on how your guest’s habits affect your sales, inventory and staffing needs. This story (also known as your insights) is what empowers you to make data-driven decisions that boosts your business even more.

Serving a Minor: Who’s at Risk and What’s at Stake?

Serving a minor is a costly mistake — one that can shut down your business entirely. After spending months of time and thousands of dollars to obtain your liquor license, why risk it all at the hands of busy stressed staff? Without the right tools and processes in place, this is exactly what you’re doing every night, even with the best of intentions.

Who is legally responsible?

It is illegal to knowingly serve alcohol to a minor, and anyone who does can be held responsible for any injuries or damages that result from the minor’s impaired state. But it’s not always black and white in pinpointing the exact person who is responsible. There are several factors that go into determining the exact person, which is oftentimes the reason why separate penalties are given to the person who holds the liquor license (the owner of a bar) and the person who makes the sale (the bartender who serves a minor). Depending on the severity of the situation and state laws, the penalties can range from a fine, to jail time, to a temporary suspension of the liquor license, to the liquor license being completely revoked.

What if someone else checked the ID?

The seller is the one liable for serving the minor. As a bartender or server, you are responsible for checking the ID of your customers even if another person has previously checked it. That’s why it’s particularly important for a validating process to be instilled within venues that have a person checking IDs prior to going to the bar.

What if a minor uses a fake?

When a minor is served, you need to show that you did the steps to the best of your ability to not purposefully serve that person. That means in most cases, you’re only liable for selling to a minor if you didn’t ask for identification or if you looked but didn’t use your best abilities to detect the minor. If the guest presents a realistic ID that says he or she is of drinking age, no charges will be filed against the establishment. However, if it’s obvious that the ID is fake or if that ID clearly does not belong to the person presenting it, then the establishment and the person who served that minor becomes liable.

What if it’s a planned sting?

When authorities are checking to make sure you’re compliant, they legally cannot do so by using a fake ID or purposefully deceiving you. They’re typically checking to make sure you’re properly asking for identification. Most sting fails are a result of not asking for identification, or asking for identification but incorrectly calculating someone’s age based on their date of birth. When these human errors happen, you’ll fail the sting and both the server and the establishment will be presented with the ramifications.

How to mitigate the risks?

Between human errors, miscommunication, inattention to detail, and simply not checking an ID, there’s a myriad of factors that can put you at risk for being liable in serving a minor. The first place to start is having a policy in place that requires your staff to check IDs of anyone who enters your venue. The second step is to go further by equipping your staff with an ID scanning system.


Having an ID scanning system essentially acts as an insurance policy that guarantees you’ll be covered when a minor is accidentally served. The system will reduce the chances of honest human errors, such as incorrectly calculating someone’s age based on the date of birth. It’ll confirm all IDs are reviewed in the case of planned stings. It’ll act as your paper trail to prove you didn’t purposefully serve a guest who presented a realistic fake ID. And it can act as your digital 86 list or even your digital loyalty program. It’s one of the most cost effective and worthwhile investments you can make to protect yourself from losing the license you worked so hard to obtain while growing the business you worked tirelessly to build.

Bar Crowd vs. VIP Crowd: Which is Better?

I was recently in an online discussion with industry leaders about which business model is best for nightclubs: bottle service or bar service. It seems there’s not one simple answer to this question, and everyone has a different viewpoint. However, most resonated with the idea that it doesn’t have to be one over the other; that they’re both critical to the success of a venue.

I believe treating the two as exclusive parts of your venue hurts you more than it helps. Both bottle service and bar service are important aspects of your club’s performance. The bar crowd controls the atmosphere and ambiance of the venue, which attracts the bottle patrons who bring in the revenue. Having a strategy to blend the two together is what makes the biggest impact as a whole.

The most successful clubs are those that integrate both areas with a similar level of priority, and treat all customers – whether bar or bottle service customers – on a personal level. Not only do guests prefer to go to these venues, but they’re the ones that are advancing their business most rapidly. When everyone in your venue (including your bottle service staff, your security, and your bartenders) is focused on a level of personalized service based on that guest’s past habits, that’s when you truly win. That’s when you start building loyalty, organic word of mouth growth, a higher spend per person, and your next wave of bottle service customers all in one.

While it’s true your big spenders at the VIP tables deserve the ultimate personal service, your bar crowd deserves some personal touches, too. And in the age of big data, people are used to being treated as an individual by brands more than ever before.

So how could this work?

With the combination of an ID scanning system that’s tied to your POS system, you get insight on every guest that walks through your door. You’ve likely had this level of insight on your bottle service guests already with your reservation management system. Now it’s possible to tie it back to the general bar crowd.

Every guest needs to have their ID to drink, so it’s an easy thing for you to leverage. You scan their ID and notice it’s their 10th time coming in a month. Use that information to personally greet them and cover their first drink. If your ID scanner is tied to your POS, you also get insight on spending habits. Notice they spend a lot each time they come? Offer them a VIP table instead.

It’s the small details that make a person feel like you notice them, and that’s what makes the biggest difference. This is true regardless if they’re a bar customer or a VIP, it’s just that historically there hasn’t been enough information on the bar customer to provide them with that level of service. So even though it’s natural to want to pour your energy and resources into your VIP section, don’t forget about your bar crowd. They’re an important aspect of the entire atmosphere of your venue and, with the right tools, can be persuaded to spend even more.

How a Simple Solution can Affect a Community

As a Minneapolis-based business in the nightlife industry, it’s hard to see a dominant player in the Minneapolis nightlife scene be struck with the terror of an active shooter inside their venue. In the weeks since the incident, we’ve been spending our time thinking about those involved — the victims, the staff, the owners, the guests — and discussing ways in which we can help keep nightlife venues across the country a fun, safe place for everyone to be.


It’s a mission that’s driven us from the beginning. We believe that with more data comes more knowledge. And that knowledge is what drives not only one business, but an entire community forward. Usually data is used for positive proactive reasons — to collect insight on what drives a business, to get a deeper understanding on valuable customer habits, and to bridge the gap between a venue and its consumer to drive loyalty and experience.


But data can also be used when the unexpected happens. When information from IDs is tracked, logged and timestamped, it’s able to act as the puzzle piece to help authorities track down the suspect of a crime. It empowers a venue to place a restriction on that person so they’re not allowed back inside. It can also alert other venues in the community if that person were to try to go into their establishment.


Data, of course, is not the only answer; but it is a step toward being able to take an action in the wake of an incident. There’s still work that needs to be done to continue to build safe environments for all. We stand behind our industry peers in Minneapolis and across the nation. We believe in the longevity of the nightlife industry and will continue to push ourselves to build tools to help our customers. And we’ll continue to pursue partnerships with the police and city officials to build a network of information that works to keep venues, staff, and their patrons safe.

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