Over the past decade, restaurants, bars and nightclubs have become a major part of our business. Before opening Serious Audio Video in Union City, N.J., I owned/operated a bar/nightclub in the suburbs of New York City, gaining experience with advanced restaurant technology in a crowded market to help understand our clients’ needs.
More bar/restaurant owners are familiar with integrated controls and automated systems, but they don’t fully understand their potential. Traditionally, expansive AV systems take time to operate, even with a well-trained staff. Now, single-touch controls properly set the audio, video, HVAC, lighting, shades, digital signage, etc. in seconds; not minutes. That can add up.
Being mindful of these growing trends can help integrators grow and succeed in the restaurants and bars vertical.
Clients Will Pay for Something Unique
One client jokes with us about the price difference between us and our competitors. After integrating seven of their restaurants, we still have to submit bids and consistently win because our systems are unique.
Think outside the box, recommend the newest technologies and pitch impressive systems with “wow factor.” We pitch every system hoping it’ll be the next great piece for our portfolio that earns an award. If they balk at the price (or run out of money), we can scale it back and plan to add things later.
If You Build It, They Will Come
The best possible advertising is word of mouth and, for us, the biggest compliment we can get from a client is, “This is f***ing cool!” Every time we convinced a client to push the envelope it led to someone else contacting us for something bigger or bolder.
“We pitch every system hoping it’ll be the next great piece for our portfolio. If they balk at the price (or run out of money), we can scale it back and plan to add things later.”
There’s Never Enough Time
Be prepared to work around the clock to complete a project.
Most of your clients don’t understand the time it takes to install and program these systems. But they understand the labor involved with other trades (construction, painting, laying tile, etc.).
Even though the entertainment is what sells their venue, it’s often the last thing considered. A huge sports bar client HAD to be open in time for the Super Bowl, obviously; but we didn’t get access to the space until 10 days before.
We worked day and night — and the weekend — to install/program a $300,000 system, troubleshoot it and train management.
They Want User-Friendly Controls But …
More and more potential customers have a mild understanding of integrated controls, but it’s up to us to give them a better understanding of how it all works. We find that educated customers are very, very good clients.
As much as we love and rely on technology, it’s ever evolving. Updates to the network or software will occasionally give the system a hiccup, and an educated client is less likely to call you freaking out. They’ll understand that it’s not a matter of what wasn’t done right the first time, but rather a matter of moving forward correctly.
You Have to Cast a Wide Net
The industry is booming; new integration firms open all the time. So, we and the DIY market are all fighting over the same Google ad words, social network hashtags and advertising space.
A few years ago we hired a marketer to manage our brand, make more people familiar with our work and find new opportunities. Through trial and error we’ve found what works for us while building up brand recognition.
Diversifying the type of systems we pitch has helped a lot. The system we did for one Buffalo Wild Wings is different from the other BWW locations, and they’re very different from the system at Hoboken’s Porter Collins, which is very different from Barrio Costero in Asbury Park, and so on.
Each space, customer and target demographic are unique — treat them accordingly. You can’t copy and paste your way through the industry.
Joe Lipari who handles marketing for Serious Audio Video co-wrote this article with Serious Audio Video president Casey S. Johnston.
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