By Nick Fosberg   |   September 4, 2014

In this video Brandon Hull From drills Nick about the top 3 bar restaurant promotions that don’t suck.

Here’s what you’ll learn from watching this video:

  • How to make a one-night bar promotion draw in huge crowds.
  • How and why you should run multi-week bar promotions.
  • How to steer clear of the biggest mistakes bar owners make with bar promotions.

If you’re at all in doubt, watch this testimonial interview with Terry Owen of Scotland Yard Pub in Rochester, New York.

Here’s the video’s full transcript:

Brandon: All right Nick, you’re on the spot today.

I’ve got an important question to ask from all of our bars and breweries, and even restaurant readers of…

They want to know what promotions they can count on, that will always work and won’t suck? Not the methods that are tried and true that everybody does, but ways they can run their promotions and that are always going to be successful.

I’ve asked you to think through maybe 3 elements, ideas, or promotions that you can bring to the table.

You got something for us today?

Nick: I do. Before I get started on those, I guess it’s important for the viewers and listeners to understand is what customers really want when they go to a bar or restaurant for a promotion.

For a lot of people, they’re getting out of the house because they’re bored at home – they want some kind of interaction, they want fun. They want something exciting. So what makes a good promotion is a good experience. So, when they go over to that bar or to that restaurant, they’ll walk out of there and say, “I had a great time tonight.”

Brandon: Yeah.

Nick: That’s the one thing to think about when you’re putting a promotion together as a bar owner. Especially if it’s: What can we do to make it more interactive? To get the crowd involved, to make it fun, to make them want to come back.

Anytime I’m putting a promotion together I always try to think of that. I try to place myself in the shoes of the customer – what I would want when I want to go to a bar or restaurant.

Some of the things are common sense, like one of the promotions I was running offered some kind of prize or giveaway.

One thing that we do is have what is called a spin-the-wheel promotion. One day out of the week, from 5:00 to 7:00, every ten minutes, we will spin this wheel and we have 50 paint sticks and 50 slots on the actual wheel. The first 50 people at the door are going to get one of these paint sticks.

We’ll buy a meal, a drink, or we’ll give them some small party packages for up to 4 people. We’ll just give stuff away; anything from Bud and Miller or our other liquor representatives. But usually, it’s something where people are going to go out to eat.

They’re hungry, they don’t just want to sit at home, but they can be involved in sitting [at the bar or restaurant] and still have a chance to win stuff. People spin the wheel, we’re MCing on the microphone – it’s interactive and people have a good time! And they love winning things! So that’s one thing that I tend to do and that my clients do as well.

Another thing, that’s always worked out really well, is to have customers win big prizes. Something like a flat screen TV (they’re pretty cheap these days). You can get a 40” or 52” TV from $300 to $400. You bring in one of your sponsors—Bud, Miller or somebody else—to throw you some money for the promotion, and put their beer or liquor on special for that day. The key is to get everybody in for a chance to win the TV.

We’ll see 50 to 75 extra people in the door to come out for this. People love that! They love winning! How many competitors out there are giving away $400 TVs? They’re not. This helps you stand out in the marketplace – you look completely different from the competition, which is key these days because everybody’s doing the same old stuff.

And the goal of the bar owner, what I teach my clients, is if your spending your money on a TV (for example) and you’re bringing a bunch of people in the door, now it’s your job to really be able to up-sell and maybe even increase your prices a little bit. But, you have to really know how to up-sell and increase those check averages so people will also stick around more.

We try to increase check averages if they buy a full-priced meal. Sometimes we’ll do food specials like 50 cent wings, $1.50 tacos, $1.50 sliders, things like that. But, if they buy a full-priced meal of $8, to $10 bucks, they’re going to get 3 extra chances to win that TV or get three extra tickets for every drink they get, whether it’s Pop or beer. Whatever it might be, they’re going to get another ticket and another chance to win. The more that they’re spending, the better chance they have to actually win the TV. This would be the first promotion I run that includes a prize or a giveaway.

The second promotion that works extremely well is in-house leagues. This obviously works more with bars, but restaurants could do this with trivia or something else.

With in-house leagues, there’s always pool, darts, or something I call Bar Olympics at one of the bars I own. We get teams of two together and they’ll play pool, they play, darts, and indoor bags. We have all of them compete with each other for 16 weeks. We’ll get anywhere from 8 to 12 teams each time we run the games – that’s 24 people consistently coming in every Tuesday or Wednesday when it’s a slower night of the week.

Now, we have that reoccurring income from just these leagues. And again, it’s fun! It’s interactive and it’s competitive and that’s what people like to do, rather than just sit at home. There are different types of things you can do with in-house leagues, like beer pong. It’s just a way to keep people coming back in, increase your sales, and give people something fun to do.

Brandon: Plus you have that frequency piece coming in there. You get fans locked in and you know they’re going to be there for several weeks, right?

Nick: Exactly, and people love it. They have fun with it and then other customers see it and want to get involved. The other customers who aren’t in it yet, see how much fun everyone else is having and say, “Hey, how can get in it on that?” Now you have new customers who want to play the next time then you find you’re developing more leagues.

One of the smartest things that you can do when you put these leagues together is to definitely find the people who are interested. Get their name, information, e-mail address, and cell phone number so in case a new customer wants to join a league that’s already running, you can contact them when the next one begins saying: “Hey we’re at it again, do you want to get in during this time?”

Sometimes we’ll stop during the summer; here in the Midwest, summertime sales really slow down because it’s nice out and people are less likely to want to sit inside a bar. Once fall comes back around, we have last year’s list of people and the year prior to that; we’ll have a list of 30 to 60 people that we can contact and say, “Hey, we’re doing this. We’re only taking 12 teams. Who wants in?” It’s a very simple process when you get it going and you get 24 people consistently coming to your bar or restaurant and spending 20 to 30 bucks a night!

Brandon: Gun to your head – if you could pull off only one promotion, would you go big with a single promotion where you have a huge giveaway or would you put your money towards a 3-week event where people were in teams and you could get people coming back multiple times? Which would you do?

Nick: That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that question. I would much rather do the promotion that has the consistency of bringing people back week after week, rather than just that one night.

You can pull off one-night promotions left and right, but to have a consistent promotion that’s bringing people in week after week and it’s fun and interactive, that’s the key. Because you’re going to make more money in the long run than you would with just that one night.

Brandon: How about running channels – your social channels? How do you incorporate your social network, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook? How do you use these to announce your promotions?

Do you count on them much or are they just one piece of the puzzle?

Nick: For any promotion in general?

Brandon: Right. Yeah.

Nick: The first thing I always start out with (and I teach all my clients to start with) is to build a list.

We figure out a way to get people to hand over their personal contact information to us so we can create what I call the lead magnet, a valuable offer.

We’re always list-building. The reason for that is when somebody is going to personally hand over to us their personal contact information, they’re saying they like us, they trust us, and want to do business with us. Otherwise they wouldn’t be giving us their information.

These people are the most profitable customers in the world for us to market to – people who personally give us their information. I’d start with that; by e-mail them with a personalized letter on what we’re doing and what we have going on.

Then, maybe text messages the day before or the day of – just a quick little reminder. But definitely utilizing our social media networks as well. With us having a big e-mail list, we can use their e-mail address and target people on Facebook. We can follow people on Facebook or even through Twitter with our promotion right in front of them. Anywhere they look online, when they’re on their smartphone looking at their social media channels, we’re popping up because we’re targeting our list of customers. We’re always there in front of them.

Brandon: Cool.

Nick: Yes. I always do focus on our in-house list because that’s the most profitable way for us to get people in the door. That’s the whole point of list building – so you don’t have to use newspaper, radio, or mail. I rarely ever use radio or newspaper for any kind of promotion because I have a list of people who responded to my business and who like getting my marketing. So I don’t have to use that expensive mass media marketing anymore. I just focus on the list that I have.

Brandon: Seems like the secret weapon in any promotion, even though you’ve shared some cool and fresh ideas, is thinking bigger than your competitors and focus on building a list.

It’s about building a relationship with people and then tapping into that list when your developing that promotion that keeps customers coming back. Sounds like that’s the secret weapon here.

Nick: Definitely. Honestly when I learned this concept back when I was a struggling bar owner, it’s what changed my life – it doubled my business. Creating a list and gathering people’s information is no secret. Everybody’s heard of it. But, what most bar and restaurant owners don’t do is personalize their marketing or follow-up efforts. They get everything – the names, the emails, etc – but it just sits on their desk, then someone might put it into a computer and it sits there. There’s no follow-up. There’s no communication past that point.

Or, if there is communication, it’s, “Hey, we have this special going on today. I hope to see you.” It’s pretty boring. The key is to have the right follow-up and be personal. “Wow” your customer and be different from your competition. That’s how you get them coming in the door.

The third promotion that I haven’t brought up yet, and I that I think is extremely important, is charity events and fundraisers. What’s important about this is, number one: it builds customer loyalty. When customers see that you’re doing something good for the community or for an organization, they respect that and it makes them want to do business with you. It builds your reputation.

It’s also good because not only are you doing something good for the community and building your reputation, but you also get free publicity out of this! Newspapers, TV channels, and radio stations are more then happy to help promote the charities, which brings free publicity to the bar.

The thing that I hate to see is when you walk into a restaurant or bar and they say, “Oh, we’re giving 10% of our sales to this charity or organization.” So you’re telling me, if we raise a $1000 for you, you’re going to give [a charity] $100? Honestly, I think it’s B.S. What I typically do for fundraisers or charity events is put some kind of meal together and we’ll pre-sell tickets ahead of time.

The organization will get their staff to sell tickets and I’ll offer, let’s say, a meal for $12. Our cost for the food is $3; I’m not talking about labor, I include that in there with the cost of the food. For every sale, I’ll give $9 to the charity or organization. That’s 100% profit to that charity.

The reason I do this is because, number one, I genuinely care for the organization or fundraiser. I believe in helping people and the more you help, the more you’re going to get back. Plus, I know that when people see how much you giving back, they’re going to remember that and are likely to continue to do business with you. This is the future sale.

That’s really the key to building trust and credibility within the community – getting people to come back and giving a good portion away to a charitable cause. There are so many people who come to us month after month who want to host their fundraisers or charity events at our bar because they know how much we give away. We’re not giving a little piece of the pie away; we’re giving 100% of the profits. We might do a 50-50 raffle, so the charity can make up to $5,000. Some of the charities are even able to do $10,000 in a single day!

However, it is on the organization to get customers to come to the bar. We don’t use our marketing costs in everything we do, but we will say to the organization, “We’ll put on a hell of an event for you. We’ve done this multiple times and we’re going to give you 100% of the food profits, we’ll clean up, we’ll do everything, because we want you to make money and help you be successful.”

Brandon: They just have to make sure they bring as many people and as much as possible to the party, right?

Nick: Exactly. It’s a win-win both ways.

Brandon: If I had to recap, you mentioned three promotions you can count. Number one is going big on prizing. The second is in-house leagues, where you host a multi-week contest because people love competition and competing on a weekly basis. If they miss a week, it’s spread out over the course of time.

The third idea you mentioned was to host charity and fundraisers.

Outside of those three, any final words of wisdom you want to throw out to people on how to make sure their promotions don’t suck?

Nick: The key thing is it’s all about what the customers want.

If you want to put together an awesome promotion that’s going to bring you a bunch of money, the very first thing you should do is reach out to your top 25 customers and say “Listen, we want to do a new promotion; I’m clueless on what to do. What do you think would be a great idea?”

Listen to what your customers want and deliver on it. That’s going to be a killer promotion right there.

Brandon: The first step is identifying who those top 25 people are. That’s what a lot of bars and restaurants will do. I think you’re a specialist in that actually. Consider what your customers want so you can have a real relationship with them and they’ll be some of your biggest advocates in bringing large groups at a time.

It takes a lot of pressure off you to run the “perfect” promotion. You justyou’re your cool promotion, have a great group of loyal advocates that you have a good relationship with and they’ll help you spread the word.

Nick: Exactly.

Brandon: Cool. Thanks for sharing some promotion ideas with us.

Nick: No problem.

Brandon: I know our readers will love it and I know your listeners will love it as well. Thanks for sharing them today.

Nick: Awesome. Sounds good. Thanks Brandon.

Brandon: You bet.

Nick: See you.

Nick Fosberg

Nick Fosberg is known as one of the highest paid, marketing and promotional consultants in the bar & restaurant industry and he owns 2 bar / restaurants in the Chicagoland area. He's famous for creating some of the highest grossing digital marketing promotions in the history of the bar & restaurant business..... without spending a penny on marketing. All done through e-mail & Facebook posts. 

Click here to get a free copy of my latest book.

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