The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Make your bar an experience in Level 2

Saint Alice/Facebook

With bars now officially open around New Zealand, are Kiwis heading out for a drink with friends, or are we happy to stay home?

According to a report by the IWSR, consumers globally are still proceeding with caution and the industry, especially the on-premise, will need to keep in mind that consumers are not guaranteed to revert to their pre-crisis behaviour.

The IWSR says that in China, one of the first countries to ease restrictions, there are signs that it has not been met with overwhelming enthusiasm, and consumers have been slow to return to restaurants and bars. 

Callum O’Brien, owner of Saint Alice in Auckland’s Viaduct, says that one of the biggest issues following the pandemic in New Zealand is that consumers are going to be much more careful about their spending and it’s essential for bars to stand out from the crowd.

“Service and product are going to be key in this time more than ever,” he says. “As people become more cautious with spending, hospitality is going to have to really strive to make the experience customers have exceptional.”

Callum O’Brien

O’Brien says they call it the ‘experience gap’. “It’s the gap between buying a beer for $10 in a bar, and buying the same beer for $2 at the supermarket and drinking it at home,” he says. 

“People are excited about home cooking now after spending so much time practicing during the lockdown, and beer/wine is so cheap in liquor stores and supermarkets, so we as hospitality operators need to do as much as possible to make the experience something they can’t get at home.”

O’Brien says at Saint Alice they close the gap by offering DJs playing their own vinyl collections most evenings, and a stunning view of Auckland harbour. “And really focusing on exceptional service and treatment of our customers,” he says.

Plus, during lockdown, Saint Alice had a refit to “encourage social occasions to still happen here, whilst being sensitive to the rules around distancing”.

Saint Alice

“We have moved a few walls and opened our space up a lot to provide a more spacious and free-flowing area,” says O’Brien. “A few tables have been removed to give more space between groups. All of the tables here now can fit 6-10 people on them so we can cater to different sized groups easily whilst keeping them apart.”

But while the distance and single server rules can make the lives of bar staff extra-hectic, O’Brien is confident that Kiwis will quickly adapt to the new way of socialising.

“Personally I believe that humans in general are very good at adapting and changing to different environments – we saw how quickly the whole country adapted to being in lockdown and how quickly it became the norm,” he says.

“I think and hope this will happen going the other way too – if we can keep the virus out now hopefully we can start to rebuild people’s confidence in socialising and get the economy moving again.

“I hope that hand shakes and hugs are not too far away from being the norm again!”

For more tips on how to draw in customers to your bar and keep them entertained while seated, click here.

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