Personal Small Business Enterprise

5 Things Bars and Restaurants Need to Know About TV

Television sets are becoming almost ubiquitous in bars and restaurants, and for good reason — they help to engage customers and keep them in the establishment for longer periods of time. Used properly, television programming can make your place a destination spot, help boost traffic during seasonal lows and increase sales of high-margin items like appetizers, snacks and alcohol. But there’s more to consider than simply hanging a new wide-screen plasma set on the wall and plugging it in.

Here are five things you should keep in mind when considering what role television will play in your establishment:

1. Match your content to your desired audience
It might seem obvious that television sets at a sports bar would be tuned to the big game, while those at family-focused restaurants would showcase family-friendly fare. But the content you offer your customers might not be so intuitive, so give some consideration to the sort of crowd you’re hoping to attract and program accordingly. For example, your desired lunchtime crowd may be more interested in stock market listings, news and weather than in sports. On the other hand, if you’re trying to draw young adults, a music-video channel might be a better choice. By the same token, you might have different programming in the bar, where you want people to linger, versus your dining room, where you want to turn tables faster.

Bars in some of New York’s hippest districts are finding themselves filled with high-spending young creative types when they air English premier-league football (soccer) games live, even if it’s during the early hours of Sunday mornings! These bars are capitalizing both on the new-found enthusiasm for the beautiful game among trend-setters and on the inherently communal appeal of watching a big game in the company of fellow fans.

2. Match your content to your theme
Programming that complements your bar or restaurant’s theme can be a powerful scene setter. Restaurants that serve Indian and Chinese food can help set the mood by showing Bollywood musicals or Chinese action flicks. (Indeed, business television services like Bell’s provide other-language programming from countless different international television channels.) Beyond ethnic dining, barbecue joints can show westerns, and more than one fine French dining room has been known to play old, silent French movie classics.

Showing unusual content that ties in well with the theme of your bar or restaurant will help keep customers in their seats longer, where they likely will order more food and drink.

3. Build special promotions around popular programming
Every bar owner knows that a playoff run by the local team is great for business as fans flock to watch the game. But there are countless other opportunities to draw people into your bar or restaurant by building a special promotion around what’s happening on television. For example, even a fine-dining establishment could tastefully tie into Oscar night by setting up a red carpet outside and serving special food and drinks inspired by the nominated movies. You could even encourage your customers to dress up for the evening and walk the red carpet.

Believe it or not, major political events like election night and leaders’ debates also attract large audiences and lend themselves well to hamburger polls and other promotions. And the final or season-ending episode of a popular television show is practically begging for all sorts of creative menu and drink tie-ins, to say nothing of having staff dress up as characters and encouraging customers to do the same.

People love to congregate together for special events like a playoff run, Oscar night or a must-watch television finale. Making your bar or restaurant a destination location for such an event is sure to bring you larger crowds on what otherwise might be a low night, as well as give you the opportunity to feature higher-margin special menu items.

4. Try something unique for your neighbourhood
If you have a lot of competition from fairly similar-looking establishments in your neighbourhood, unique television programming can be an effective way to set your place apart. One obvious option would be to specialise in a particular type of programming — English premier league soccer, for example, or Latin American telenovelas — that will draw in devotees. You could become a destination where fans of a popular series congregate each week.

Making available programming that is rare, expensive or hard to get will also help differentiate you from your competitors and bring you new customers.

5. Integrate televisions with your decor
Advances in television technology mean that large, light-weight sets can be installed almost everywhere, so there’s really no excuse for bad interior design. Place the sets well above eye level. Leave the volume off — unless it’s a major event involving everyone in your place — and use closed captioning to let viewers keep track of what’s happening. And if you feel that not everyone who comes into your bar or restaurant wants to watch television while they eat and drink, it’s perfectly okay to have areas where there are no sets visible to your customers.

The bottom line
Modern, light-weight television sets and fiber- or satellite-delivered high-definition programming combine to give bar and restaurant owners almost unlimited options when it comes to offering engaging television programming to their customers. Be deliberate about what you want television to do in your establishment, and program accordingly.

How do you use television programming to bring in new customers or keep existing ones engaged longer? Have you ever run special events around a popular television show or event? Share your experiences with us in the comments section.

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