Insights from the Experts

Thom Greco, owner of Greco Holdings, Inc., moderated a panel featuring Chris Lenahan, President of, Sam Sameni, President of Sameni Entertainment Group and Howard Weiss, Director of Nightlife Strategy and Development, Eastern Division, Caesars Entertainment, for the 2013 NCB “Ask the Experts” session. Chris Lenahan is an owner, operator, designer, consultant, the author of The Little Black Bar Book and worked with Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas to design their property. Sam Sameni is a club owner and restaurateur who owns Wish Ultra Lounge and Brownstone Kitchen+Bar and has been in the industry since the age of 19. Howard Weiss has overseen 18 venues in Atlantic City for Caesars Entertainment. The panel discussed several topics and fielded questions from the audience, ranging from opinions on celebrity EDM DJs to capturing customer data.

On the subject of big name EDM DJs, Howard chooses to not compete with DJs use to $250,000 to $350,000 checks and instead books reality TV stars for a fraction of that cost. In his expert opinion, too many clubs have made DJs celebrities and have made their booking fees astronomical. Thom added, “At the local level, $4,000 might be too much to pay the talent. If you're going to create a night scene, don't build it on something you can't control.”

Regarding questions concerning marketing, Chris prefers to spend his money on direct marketing. He embraces the strategy of reciprocal giving: Offer a complimentary shot and now the customer orders a drink. When they order a drink, they feel obligated to stay and finish that drink. Concerning indirect marketing, Sam brought up the proliferation of digital billboards and explained that eight advertisers are cycled on them. His advice is to ask the rep about “the hot list” to score incredibly cheap advertising on multiple billboards around town. Chris suggested launching new venues during Q1 as radio advertising rates will be a fraction of what they’ll be in the following three quarters.

When the question of how to capture customer data arose from the audience, Sam recommended asking all employees to ask for the email and birthday from everyone in the contacts lists on their phones. This simple suggestion should net hundreds of useful bits of data that can be used to reach out to potential customers.

Finally, Chris had an interesting and unique perspective on the future of offering guests an experience they’ll value: “Giving customers a choice is going to be the next trend.” He suggests that any venue capable should split the music they feature on any given night into two segments. Giving customers a choice will keep them in a bar or club longer.