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Biggie, Tupac and how technology can save the hospitality sector

BLACKBX founder, Patrick Clover, answers our questions on the hospitality sector, the increasing problems it faces and how embracing digital marketing can get customers back in the bars. 

Can you tell us about BLACKBX’s recent research on the fortunes of the hospitality sector?

These are really challenging times for the hospitality sector and we wanted to understand people’s loyalties to their favourite venues and how businesses could become part of people’s day-to-day routines.  

We also wanted to know what people thought of their local pub, if they even had one, since you read a lot about pub closures and general industry decline. I think it’s important to understand what people really think of their local pubs if we’re to save them. 

What were your key findings?

Overall, people are rarely as brave or adventurous as they’d like to think. People are creatures of habit and we found that the British public are stuck in a routine of going to the same places repeatedly. We also found that younger generations are ditching the local pub and that people only try new food & drink venues once a year or less on average. This last point goes a long way to explaining why so many new restaurants and bars struggle.

Our report also dispelled the popular myth that people are more likely to leave a bad review than a good one. People want to leave good reviews and there’s no reason to fear Tripadvisor if you know how to use it and keep customers happy.

Do you have any advice for restaurants and bars that are struggling?

Again, the research can offer a few pointers. Half of our respondents said that they only try new venues when given a prompt, be it a promotional deal or recommendation. However, 78% of people said that their favourite pub/bar puts little or no effort into marketing new deals and events. There’s an imbalance here and clearly a lot of venues need to be doing more to entice new customers and generally be a bit more creative when it comes to these promotions. I suspect that a lot of these businesses don’t know how to do digital marketing and may even be a little intimidated about trying it out.

Thankfully, we believe all it takes is the right promotion, a good review or a suggestion from a friend and even the most unadventurous people will brave new experiences. 

Is this where technology can come to the rescue?

Yes, I think technology plays a really important role in delivering an effective marketing campaign. It’s not just about reaching people digitally, after all email marketing has existed for years now. The real value in technology is the insights it offers about people. Data can empower venues to better understand who their customers are, what they want and what promotions will be of interest. Rather than blanket emailing a massive email database, the most innovative venues are being much more selective and creative. For instance, a bar might message customers with a free bottle of birthday prosecco, happy hour cocktail menus or, if they haven’t been seen someone for a while, a “we miss you” beer.   

Can you give me any examples of this in action?

We recently helped Montpeliers Group launch its Edinburgh Fringe cocktail club, a wristband promotion with the goal of selling 25,000  cocktails during the festival. By reaching people directly on their mobile devices with BLACKBX’s new Instagram style Wi-Fi Stories feature, bars limited their use of paper and increased the number of touchpoints with customers. It was incredibly successful and helped Montpeliers stand out from the crowd during an ultra competitive period for nightlife in Edinburgh.

We also have customers that go for more left-field options when getting to know their customers better. Brother Marcus in London asks customers “Biggie or Tupac?” when they connect to the Wi-Fi. It’s not the kind of question you’d expect from a restaurant, but Brother Marcus isn’t your typical restaurant, and it’s a good way for them to inject their personality into customer comms. Giving customers the opportunity to vote on the subject also helps with conversion rates elsewhere too, prompting more people to provide more important info such as their email.

Where do you stand on the issue? Are you team Biggie or team Tupac?

DRE all the way.

Finally, what are BLACKBX’s plans for the future?

BLACKBX is growing incredibly quickly. We’ve doubled in size in 2019, taken on new office space twice to accommodate the extra members of staff and we have no plans on slowing down. Watch this space because we should be announcing new funding later this year and a couple more exciting moves too.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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