Developing a Bar Concept w/ Sensory Experiences
By Doug Radkey – 09/23/2019
Once your idea has been researched and the market, location, technical, business, and financial viability of the idea has passed a series of reviews throughout a feasibility study, a concept development plan can then be started.
Remember, outside of being scalable, you want to build a concept that is sustainable, profitable, memorable, and consistent.
Bar concepts over the years have gone from being tame (or lame) or overplayed, like tiki bars or sports bars, to concepts that push the boundaries of what a bar can be. One of the best ways to build a customer base is to go off the beaten path to create a bold and fresh new bar concept.
A concept plan will focus on ‘chapters’ and visual storyboards that include an overall:
- Concept Summary (a one page summarization similar to that of an Executive Summary)
- Statement Overview (Value, Vision, Mission, Culture)
- Architectural Design (characteristics, features, costs)
- Bar/Kitchen Production (your equipment specs)
- Entertainment & Guest Experience Summary
- Menu Design Attributes (food & beverage)
Owning a bar is a dream for most that must be met with the right research, planning, and mind-set.
One’s market will, and must, define the concept. To be successful, you must be open to building a venue the market both wants and needs.
Concept development is giving your ‘idea’, both soul and character. A bar’s concept is the lifeline of its brand and longevity in the market. It makes your venue stand apart from the competition, and it’s ultimately your bar’s unique selling proposition.
Have you ever walked into a bar and been confused about its identity? The interior doesn’t match the beverage offerings, the social media experience doesn’t reflect the actual experience, and even the music doesn’t seem to match the vibe of the bar.
This is what happens when there isn’t a clear and detailed concept development plan in place, and it is a sure fire way to be just average at best.
It’s More Than Just a Drink
Most conceptual ideas start at the food & beverage level. A bar however, needs to remember that they don’t just sell food & beverage; they sell experiences through the enhancement of guest emotions.
When planning a concept, it’s imperative to have a focus on the style of menu and niche of entertainment – but a winning concept will elevate a guest’s variety of senses. Here’s how:
Visual: Use the mindset of a traditional bar meeting on-trend beverage effects. Consider the style of beverage vessels, the use of unique ice cubes or even dry ice, the garnishes used, and potentially a variety of ‘smoking’ techniques within a variety of your signature cocktails, providing a visual effect that grabs every guest’s attention.
Plus, it will be hard to find a guest who is not taking a photo and sharing it on social media – an easy promotional tool to make each of their individual networks feel as if they’re missing out (FOMO) on the best experience in town.
Auditory: Music, drinks, and food share an intimate connection. From the beginning, this should be a focus. Every day, every weeknight, and every weekend must be filled with strategic decisions around sound.
From your day-part strategies, to the sound of cocktail shakers, to live music calendars and even proper speaker placement – your venue must see why 76 percent of bar customers surveyed believe they stay longer due to the sound of the environment.
Olfactory (smell) System: Like sound, a pleasant and subtle fragrance can lead to an improved perceived quality of the environment and can enhance the mood of guests, causing them to stay longer. Our sense of smell is after all, directly linked to the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion – two things bars need to strive for.
For example; consider a Smoked Cedar Plank Whiskey around the Christmas season. The scent of the smoked cedar will fill the bar area with a subtle Christmas tree aroma, prompting the guests attention and need to spend more money.
Gustatory (taste) System: Food & beverage pairings have never been more important, and it isn’t just for wine. Consider appetizers (snacks) within your food & beverage program that pair with miniature versions of your signature beverages (beers, wines, and even cocktails) that could be served on flight boards; elevating all flavor profiles.
Your remaining food & beverage menu should be small, balanced, and targeted around flavor profiles that your ideal guests desire.
Summary; When you combine these efforts, it’s easy to see how a successful brand can build a community around thousands of fans – within 30 days of opening.
This is something you can easily replicate if you focus your decisions on layout, design, food, beverage, training, and events around the above sensories.