The way a hospitality venue opens won’t necessarily define its future. If the opening day, week or month goes awry, there may be opportunities to recover.
But a positive venue opening provides a real opportunity to build momentum, and firmly establish the venue within the local community. Goodwill is often at its highest just before the venue opens, as people want to learn about the new bar, café or restaurant in town.
But buzz doesn’t manifest on its own. A successful opening may require tight organisational skills, a strong publicity campaign and a lot of hard work.
Hopefully, this checklist helps the venue get off to a good start.
✓ Spread the word
More than ever, the time to let people know about the venue is just before, or during its opening.
Think laterally. Tell family and friends, and ask them to tell their family and friends. Set up social media accounts and get to work on them. Email food and drink publications, like DishCult, to let them know why the venue will be the next best thing.
Print posters and disseminate them widely. If the venue is in a street precinct or trader’s association, let them know. Get onside with retail neighbours and ask them to spread the word. Start a newsletter if inclined.
There’s so many approaches to consider; leave no stone unturned in getting people through the doors.
✓ Timing is key
When a venue opens may be as important as how it opens. A critical variable to consider is the weather. Customers may not want to line up in the pouring rain for a smoothie, or want a bowl of minestrone soup in the sunshine. If the weather is expected to be bad, consider delaying or bringing forward the opening.
Another factor is the day/date. If located in the CBD – with a concentration of clientele expected to be office workers – it may be worth a grand opening on a weekday, around lunchtime. A weekend may be best for a suburban café, bar or restaurant, as diners will likely be at home with more leisure time to eat out.
✓ Consider a promotion
After watching the development of a new venue, or the reinvention of an existing one, by-passers may be adventurous and eager to give it a shot. But, in deciding between a new venue and a more established one with strong reviews, they may want to stick with what they know. From a diner’s perspective, there’s always the opportunity cost to consider.
So entice them in. Consider an irresistible deal, discount or promotion that persuades diners to go with the new place in town. While there may be some risk involved, a good promotion can generate publicity and will tempt first-timers to the venue.
If the product, service and experience are great, future promotions may not be needed to encourage a return.
✓ Set plans and procedures ahead of time
It’s a perfect day, a great deal has persuaded locals through the door, and an aunt has told her hairdresser who’s coming along with their family. There’s a big line out the front and excitement in the air. The only problem is that the venue has run out of stock, cash-flow is short, and/or staff have cancelled at the last minute. The end result may be an early closure, and disappointed customers.
It’s hospitality, so things can go wrong, and it may take some time to get into a groove. But, the opening will be made smoother through strict protocols that account for a variety of different possibilities. Do everything possible to minimise human error. Keep adjusting until these procedures are air-tight, as the few weeks post-opening are critical.
A grand opening isn’t the be-all-and-end-all to a successful venue. But, how a business opens may set the tone. So think carefully about when and how the venue opens, and what plans are in place post-opening.
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Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.