The point of The Hideout blog series is to share my experience of being our own customer — including what went well, what goes terribly, and everything in between. We opened The Hideout a couple weeks ago and have three Saturdays under our belt. It’s safe to say this is all a great learning experience, and now it’s time for me to share this experience with all of you.
What went well
Overall, it was a successful grand opening. We had a good amount of people pre-registered before opening night, but we ended up with a full house. I was very pleased with the turnout. Keep in mind our venue has a small capacity and is meant for a more exclusive feel.
I received a ton of feedback with guests liking the look and feel of the space — our investment in the design elements really paid off. We also came up with a different way of bringing our guests into the venue for the very first time. The Hideout is hidden inside a larger venue, and guests get escorted to an elevator, walked through a hallway, and then they enter the venue. I wanted guests to be surprised the first time they walked in, so guests were handed a blindfold prior to getting in the elevator, and were prompted to remove the blindfold once they were inside. It was highly talked about and our guests said it made them more excited to be a part of the experience.
One touch that I’m excited to continue beyond opening night is our table-side mixologists. I heard a lot of people talking about this as a cool and unique element that they hadn’t experienced elsewhere. We bought a vintage bar cart and have a professional mixologists make craft cocktails for our VIP table guests. It’s an added flair for our VIPs, and they really seemed to like the concept.
What didn’t go well
Our service wasn’t at the level where I want it to be. The level of attention wasn’t up to par with what I was expecting. Service was slower than I would have wanted — it felt like more of a traditional nightclub service and I wanted it to be more personal. I stopped by a few tables, and they hadn’t had their bottles or a server yet. We seemed to be more backlogged than I thought we would have been, even with adequate staffing and a soft opening. It’s all a part of the new growing pains and something we’re working through.
We also could have done a better job with putting signs outside our venue so people could find the right entrance. As I said earlier, The Hideout is hidden inside a larger venue, and with it being the first few weekends, a lot of people were confused about where the main entrance is to get into the building.
What we dropped the ball on
This is an exclusive, invite-only venue which is built off staff referrals. We had the concept to each invite people who we think would fit this venue well to get the word of mouth going. But we as a team failed to execute on this, with only 20% of staff members following through. Luckily the turnout was high, but we ultimately dropped the ball on this and I worry about the trickle down effect for our following weekends. We’re looking to address this with incentives.
Another area we dropped the ball on is with data collection, which was the most eye-opening for me as a founder of Vēmos. Part of it was a staff training issue, part of it was our setup with the system. Our door is set up in a way that a guest’s ID is scanned at the entrance of the door to not only validate legality, but to also collect data on each of our guests. Once the guest is scanned in, they go to the cashier to check in and pay the cover. However, in both of these instances, I noticed we didn’t ask for email or phone number when prompted in the system to add that in for the guest upon checkin. We’re willing to slow down the door to make our conversations more personal, and we failed to take the 30 seconds to ask for their phone number so we could reach back out to them later. I also think we can make some improvements with our UX for Vēmos to make the prompt more clear and easy to input.
What I would change if I went back in time
Definitely work with staff to make sure they’re collecting information on every guest who walks through the door. I’ve taken my software improvement suggestions to our team at Vēmos to implement, but I wish we would have been more diligent about asking and putting it into the system. Now I have all these people that attended without a great way to reach back out to them. If we would have inputed their information, I could reach out via text or email letting them know about upcoming events and specials they’d be interested in. I also would have had our front of house staff remind guests that they are now forever on the guest list and can bring one more person with them the next time they come. I don’t think we made that part of our concept clear for our guests. That’s the biggest thing I would go back and change — I just find that right now it’s hard to communicate with our guests, and in hindsight, it shouldn’t be. I can see in our analytics we had 150 guests walk through at our grand opening, and I can see exactly who each of those people are, but I should be able to contact all of them about what’s coming next.
Next steps moving forward
We’re starting to solve some of the issues I presented above. We’re going to incentivize our staff with a kickback program for every guest they bring to the venue so that they have more ownership stake in who attends. We’re also building a street team that socializes with people in the community, and is responsible for finding and inviting the right people who are the right fit for this venue. I don’t see a lot of venues doing that here locally, and could be a great way for us to have a more personalized presence in the community.
I also want to work with our bartenders in becoming more conversational and giving a unique experience. While I’m happy with our turnout and bar sales, I noticed a lot of people didn’t know they could order a speciality cocktail or that we have professional mixologists. I’d like to see our bartenders recommend a cocktail or even create one for a guest based on their tastes so people don’t feel they need to default to a standard rum and coke.
This venue is all about experience, and I’m excited to start implementing some things that will bring our experience above a traditional night out. Stay tuned on our improvements and what else we have in the works. And of course, if you’re interested in seeing The Hideout for yourself, contact me to get on the guest list and be a part of the experience.