There are few markets that scream “AV” more than sports bars, where proprietors lure in customers based on the quality of their sports viewing and listening experience.
These days sports bars — much like sports venues — need to compete with the affordable large displays in most customers’ homes as well as the phones in their pockets.
To figure out how an integration firm can keep its sports bar customers drawing them in, we turned to Union City, N.J.-based Serious Audio Video, a CI Industry Leader in the Restaurant & Bars market. President Casey Johnston offers some surprising insight.
Did your firm end up doing so much restaurant and bar work because the market plays to Serious’ strengths?
Yes, definitely. Our strengths are system design and reliable system engineering. Restaurant and bar owners want systems that blend into their spaces and they want the system to work without heavy service or support.
At Serious Audio Video we take a look at the space as designed by the architect and interior designer and we look to complement their designs.
We source our products from hundreds of manufacturers to ensure our equipment matches finishes, colors and design styles. This approach is welcomed by the owners because they feel we truly care for the success of their establishment, rather than just installing our standard cut-and-paste system as many other AV companies do.
Once we have our design aesthetic agreed upon we back it up by our award-winning customized control platform to make sure the system reliability is there for years to come.
What was the thing you designed that was so impressive?
It was a user interface using a collage of different products, which has become kind of our secret sauce. When the owners saw it and saw that it works, they wanted to use it for all of their existing and future locations. It does a lot to standard-ize the customer experience inside the space.
It offers an intuitive user experience to experts and novices alike; executes time-saving tasks for employees and it regulates the atmosphere by ensuring the climate, lighting and AV are all as the owner wants, all automatically.
Is the sports bar market on the upswing?
Yes. The trend of destination sports bars in on the rise. We have been involved in a few projects where an old Chili’s or neighborhood restaurant has now been turned into a gastro style pub with craft beers, undated food and, of course, lots of TVs. TVs and good quality audio keeps people staying longer and helps bump up check averages for these restaurants.
What are restaurant and bar customers demanding these days technology-wise?
The biggest priority is simplified system control — a great user interface where the end user cannot “mess up the system” is important. In the past,restaurant AV systems were very complex and required one or two employees who got advanced training just to manage the AV system.
If that employee was off or left the position, the AV system and the ambiance of the restaurant would suffer. Our customized and “user-proof” control platform solves this problem.
We are also seeing a demand for unified controls of all of the restaurant sub systems such as lighting, CCTV, motorized shades, HVAC control and more.
By providing an easy way to control and automate the system, we give control back to the owners and out of the hands of lower level managers. Something that we do for a lot of our sports bars is create system macros or shortcuts.
For example; in the event of a satellite going out, we have a quick button programmed that switches all the TVs to cable TV so the screens won’t be down for more than a few seconds.
Who is the typical person within a restaurant that is making purchasing decisions?
We’re usually contacted directly by the owners of the establishment or the companies that own the franchises. From time to time we will receive inquiries from architects and interior designers as well.
Will a restaurant/bar tend to purchase a service contract and are there managed services offerings that lend themselves to restaurant/bar customers?
They do. This is a part of the business we are rapidly expanding upon. Restaurant and Bar owners are accustomed to having service contracts on their cooking equipment, HVAC systems, hood systems and more.
Selling a commercial service contract is easier than selling a residential service contract because the AV system is equipment that is making revenue for the owner.
To ensure that system is always running at its best and, if not, having someone to call to fix it quickly is an no brainer for most owners.
Can you think of anything unique that integrators might find interesting about working with sports bar customers?
Control expectations are extremely high. When you have 80 TVs, that’s 80 different requests. They want a unique experience for their customers, so there is a higher demand for control. Control systems in these sports bars are very sophisticated.
We’ve done [installations in] lots of markets and there is no higher demand for control than these monster sports bars, and it’s tricky to get it done right.