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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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New Vemos Features: June 2017 Edition

We’re always hard at work to provide you with features that help improve your business. This past month was all about identifying and developing better ways for you to get deeper insights on your guests.

Understand Average Age of Your Guests

When you use Vēmos, you’re able to collect important guest information, including birthdate. We’ve now added a few data points in your Analytics > Events dashboard. You’ll see at the top a new box to show the median age of event attendees. You’ll also see a new column graph showing guests by age range who attended your event.

Track General Admission Guests by Price and Promotion
General admission guests are the hardest to track and understand. This is a mission of ours to solve, and in the meantime we’ve launched some graphs in analytics to help you better understand what’s bringing in these guests. Under Events > Analytics and Venue > Analytics, you’ll see a graph titled “GA Transactions by Price & Promotions.” This automatically displays which promotions are being used at GA along with the price point each GA guest is paying. Use this to understand what is and isn’t working to bring walk-up guests to your venue.

Other Fixes and Improvements

In addition to these graphs, we also made several general fixes and minor improvements. When adding an event, you’re able to immediately add tickets to your event. We’re also working on making our events dashboard more intuitive, along with fixing a few minor improvements to displaying data in our analytics section. And a new iOS app was released earlier this month with improvements and fixes.

We’re continuously searching for and squishing bugs around here so you always have the best experience. If you ever have any issues, let us know and we’ll solve it ASAP.

New Vemos Features: May 2017 Edition

We’re always hard at work to provide you with features that help improve your business. Over the past couple months, we’ve been developing a new way for you to handle your reservations through pre-sale table inventory. Take a look below to see all the ways you can use the new table ticket feature.

Sell Tables as Pre-Sale Inventory

You’re now able to collect payment for your tables in advance. This helps reduce your risk of no-shows while guaranteeing your VIP reservation revenue for the night. You can set up as many tables in the system as you want, and can also use the functionality to pre-sell party packages. Tables paid in full automatically calculates your sales tax and gratuity in the pre-paid amount, and all pre-paid tables automatically appear in your reservation section of your dashboard.

Take a Deposit for a Table

Sometimes you just want guests to put a deposit down rather than pay for the table in full. No problem. You can choose to take a deposit while creating your table ticket. Just select the box “This is a deposit” and the system handles the rest. Reservations with deposits also automatically appear in your dashboard.

Manage Table Inventory and Table Map

With table tickets, you’re able to manage your table inventory directly in the ticket setup process. You also have the ability to set up table tickets with an admission fee for an event, or just set up pre-sale tables for your general nights. And since every ticket automatically appears in your reservations section, your’e able to easily arrange your table map before the night to avoid any double booked tables or seating hiccups.

Other Fixes and Improvements

In addition to creating reservation tickets, we also made a few general fixes and minor improvements. When adding an event, you’re able to immediately add tickets to your event. We also fixed a few minor improvements to displaying data in our analytics section.

We’re continuously searching for and squishing bugs around here so you always have the best experience. If you ever have any issues, let us know and we’ll solve it ASAP.

New Vemos Features: January 2017 Edition

We’re always hard at work to provide you with features that help improve your business. This past month, we released a few big features to help you track your customers’ spending habits inside your venue.

1. Enter Reservation Point of Sale Information

We now have the ability for you to track spend history at your VIP tables, which is also looped into your analytics and customer profiles. To add this information, go into a reservation, click on the “Spend” tab, and enter the information. Next stop for reservation POS: automated integration. Coming later.

2. Automated Tax and Gratuity Setting

We’ve added a setting to help you easily track reservation spending while avoiding as much human error as possible. This is the reservation tax & gratuity setting. Go into Settings > Pricing > Reservations in your dashboard to enter your tax and gratuity percentages. This way, the system will automatically calculate a bill’s total based on subtotal. This will also come in handy for selling VIP tables as tickets: coming soon.

3. Updated Analytics Graphs

Analytics are our bread and butter, and we’re always looking for ways to give you the data you need at your fingertips. We added a few new graphs to help you understand and predict your business even more, including:

  • Tracking general admission entries during an event by price & promotion
  • Tracking sales by type during an event, including pre-sale tickets, general admission, guest list, and reservations
  • Tracking guests by type during an event, including pre-sale tickets, general admission, guest list, and reservations
  • Tracking the number of guest list parties submitted versus arrived per referrer

4. General Fixes and Improvements

We made a few general fixes and minor improvements. When adding an event, you’re able to immediately add tickets to your event. We also fixed a few minor bugs of entering event information.

We’re continuously searching for and squishing bugs around here so you always have the best experience. If you ever have any issues, let us know and we’ll solve it ASAP.