Monday, February 07, 2011

How not to do it (Superbowl edition)

I noticed in the Agenda listings magazine the other week that the Stumble Inn was advertising a 'Superbowl special': 150rmb!!  Reservations recommended, it said.

Well, I certainly had plenty of those.  Reservations, that is.  The other kind.

The wretched Stumble made such a poor first (and second and third and fourth and fifth) impression on me that I've long since completely given up on the place: upstairs in a mall, a bad space (units designed for boutiques or restaurants, not bars: high ceilings, big windows, ugh), bad decor (I like low lighting; but, without the pool table light, those tiny spotlights they have upstairs aren't enough for you to see the food on your plate, or your hand in front of your face... ridiculous!), chaotic service, overlong beer list (I hate the affectation of this 'Try all 100 of our beers' gimmick: I'm not going to do that because I know you haven't sold 92 of them in months and they're going to be well past their use-by date), high prices.  A hopeless case - I can't see it surviving the year.

I did, in fact, find myself wandering around Sanlitun in search of somewhere to watch the Superbowl this morning (more on that fiasco later in the week, perhaps), but.... it didn't even occur to me to check out the Stumble Inn.

To be honest, I'd just completely forgotten about its existence... because it's upstairs in a mall (the same failing that led me to ignore the possible claims of Blue Frog and the Union Grille).  But if I had given it a moment's thought, I think that stupid bloody advertisement would have put me off.

The only reason, really, to have a flat fee for an event like this is to discourage overlarge crowds.  If given a choice between a venue that is free and a venue that's demanding something-for-nothing, then A LOT of people are going to prefer the free option (hence, The Den drew a much smaller crowd today than Paddy O'Shea's; but maybe that was a good thing; and maybe Paddy's should have considered demanding a small door fee to stop the crowd getting quite that big!).  Most places that do something like this only charge 50 or 80rmb, and they usually throw in a breakfast buffet (sometimes with unlimited coffee or juice).  However, bearing in mind how much revenue they can bring in from early morning boozing, they could well afford to give away a modest breakfast for nothing; the function of the door charge, I maintain, is essentially to keep the numbers down.

The Stumble Inn didn't even appear to be advertising a free breakfast.  And heck, for that sort of money, they should have been throwing in a free-flow of beer as well!!!

150rmb just to walk in the door???!!!  Get out of here!

That line about 'reservations' was a bit of a sick joke as well.  I sympathise with bar owners wanting to try to avoid overcrowding, and wanting to know how much provision they may have to make for extra staff and laying on food; and, yes, it can be very difficult to predict just how many people might to turn out for something like the Superbowl, but.... reservations for a thing like this don't really work; at best, they're only going to give you a very rough basis for calculating your likely trade, not a precise final figure.  Most people aren't going to think of making a reservation.  And many of those that do will be doing so only on a provisional basis (perhaps making multiple - non-enforceable, no-penalty-for-cancellation - bookings at several different venues around town); they may change their plans at the last minute, oversleep, watch the game at someone's home...  The only major impact of trying to secure advance reservations is that people who show up without reservations are likely to be treated rudely by poorly trained staff - turned away altogether, or corralled into a cramped corner of the bar for an hour or two until it becomes apparent just how many of these 'reserved seats' aren't in fact going to be used.

I believe the Stumble Inn, despite its many shortcomings, is starting to do modestly well with the weekend Shunyi lunch-and-shopping crowd; and it may have drawn in a modest crowd from that core customer base.  Given the dearth of other places showing the game, they may even have drawn quite a decent crowd - catching some of the forlorn Paddy O'Shea's overspill, perhaps.  But my bet would be that they abandoned that absurd 150rmb entrance fee idea.....

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