I know what it looks like from the outside. Over-indulgence, superficiality, and people spending money on heavily marked-up alcohol. That’s not what I see. I’ve been in the nightlife business for over 12 years and I have never seen that. When I step inside sober (mostly) and observant, I witness the most basic of human interaction. We can go back 15,000+ years to our caveman ancestors where protection, social network, and the ability of a man to hunt and woman to reproduce were the key elements of DNA survival and easily understand the underlying motives of most nightclub-goers.
If you look closely, nightclubs are simply the human interpretation of “Peacock Behaviour” or ancient mating calls in the modern-day era. Man buys bottle. Woman likes bottle. Woman likes man. Nightclubs are typically viewed as a young-person’s game, but the reality is it’s more of a single-person’s game (which also happens to usually be when you are younger and have fewer responsibilities). Clubs are mating grounds for the masses. Tinder on steroids, if you will. For me, understanding motives is key in creating a nightlife experience, the same way knowing your customer and why they are buying your product is important to running any business.
Firstly, it’s important to note that nightclubs and restaurants are completely different but are all too often incorrectly lumped into the same category. I am sure the following sounds familiar: “I want to open a restaurant that turns into a nightclub.” Possible? Yes. Easy? Well, first think of how many of those you have been to. If you are one of the few who ever have frequented such a place, I ask you to then think of how many of those you actually enjoyed.
Restaurants are Food and Beverage (F&B) establishments, while nightclubs serve as Entertainment. Before embarking on an entertainment project (for instance, opening a nightclub) operators should ask themselves an important question, one that separates F&B from nightlife the most: “How many times do people attend the same concert, movie, or play?” Answer: Probably once. Successful operators understand that nightclubs are a part of this entertainment category and operate based on that, which is why nightclubs built on this knowledge have the ability to last and others, even in spite of great initial success, can have a very short life-span.
Let’s talk about “The Door” (getting in versus not getting in). This is an area I always found interesting to explore. By the time a person reaches a nightclub they have already gone through a series of decisions leading them to be waiting at the velvet ropes. Mentally they are ready and amped, either primed to meet Mr. or Mrs.Right Now or have a memorable celebration with friends. This is a much bigger decision than popping into a bar for a quick beer and it’s usually one that has been made a bit further in advance. Therefore, when a person is denied entry this is understandably a major disappointment. However, more than the usual expected disappointment, there can be rage. Sure, this can be alcohol-induced, but over the years I have tried to understand where they are coming from with the ultimate goal of preparing my team to better deal with the situation. What I have learned is this: not only is the now terrible club ruining their epic plans, but most importantly, how could you not want them? As we all know, everyone sees themselves as a special snowflake, something unique and to be desired, and you’ve just crushed this idea along with their envisioned fabulous night out. Although being denied is simply an operational concern, they see it as a rejection of them as a person. I get it. This makes complete sense. Getting angry does not make the person crazy, they are just being human.
So how does this translate into nightly operations and standard operating procedures? The Golden Rule: Don’t lie. People can sense when a person is being disingenuous and they will always appreciate (but not always like) honesty. The Silver Rule: Be overly nice. Sound easy? It’s not.
Understanding on an internal level where the guest is coming from has helped not only myself be better at what I do, but also train my team calm situations, get through tough nights, and make friends of would-be enemies. Almost anyone can be turned, it just takes patience, honed skill, and a killer party.