Why Your Venue Needs to Be a Destination Rather Than Just a Location

“Good enough” may be the two riskiest words uttered in the food and beverage industry today. Without a competitive drive and willingness to innovate, bars and restaurants alike run the risk of being left in the dust as fresh, new concepts draw the attention—and dollars—of potential customers.

Millennials are now the largest living generation in the United States and conversations about their impressive and alluring buying power are often focused on their desire for experiences over products. But this can be good news for bars and restaurants, as theirs is a product that is steeped in experiences.

Competition, however, is possibly fiercer than ever. You’re not only competing against other locations, your competing against the convenience of people staying in their homes.

Anyone can order restaurant-quality food to their area with the touch of a button, so the reasons for spending time outside their homes have shifted. It’s not just about the food anymore, if it ever has been.

Now, it’s about the experiences they’ll have, the memories they’ll create, the photos and stories they share online. There has to be unique reasons to venture into a venue, beyond the food or convenience.

It’s time to move from being a location, to being a destination!

What Is the Difference and Why Is It Important?

A location exists in and of itself as a particular place in physical space—and that’s about it, really. A destination, however, is somewhere you need to go. A destination has a purpose and meaning.

The word itself is infused with action, implying a goal to be desired and achieved! This is how you want people to view your business; not as “just another place” but as an exciting and rewarding destination.

Being a destination is about becoming so relevant to people’s experience that your business is the one they think of first for drinks or a meal.

4 Things Destinations Do That Locations Don’t

With that relatively poetic difference between location and destination in mind, let’s look at four key elements that make a destination what it is.

1. Exceed Expectations
When going out for the night, everyone has a set of pre-conceived expectations. The food will be worth the price, the service will be fast and friendly, and the space will be clean. Those are three very basic expectations that most people assume will be met—and most locations will deliver on basics like that.

A destination, however, doesn’t settle for simply meeting those expectations. In each and every way possible, operators looking to create a destination for guests will go above and beyond, exceeding them whenever possible. The food isn’t just worth it, it’s a must try! Servers are trained in a way where the service isn’t just fast and friendly, it’s helpful and personalized. The space isn’t just clean, it’s engaging and lively with an ambiance that’s customized to targeted guests’ desires.

Exceeding expectations from the moment they walk in, to the moment they leave is what makes a venue memorable. It gives people a story and makes them want to share it with others, both online and off. In return, those that hear the story become excited to experience it for themselves—changing their view of the business from “another location” to "the destination" for their next time out.

2. Personalizing the Guest Experience
There are all kinds of guest experience moments to personalize at your bar or restaurant. Each should contribute to the goal of exceeding guests’ expectations. Even something as seemingly small as learning guests’ names can make a huge impact. Knowing their go-to drink, playing the music they personally love, asking for genuine feedback on what can be improved—these are all personalized moments that guests truly appreciate.

TGI Friday’s has recently placed a large focus on personalized experiences, even going so far as to retrain staff and update standard practices to reflect said goal. For such a large restaurant chain, it’s quite the undertaking. Though, as their chief experience officer Sherif Mityas put it, “personalization really matters whether you’re a 900-unit brand or whether you’re a one-unit brand…That personal connection with a guest every night across the bar with every drink is what really separates you from the competition.”

Whether or not you’ve decided to implement new restaurant tech to help with this effort, focusing on personalization is pays off with both brand loyalty and recurring guest visits.

3. Brand Engagement
Because it can be a tricky term to define completely, I’ll be talking solely about online engagement in this section. Especially when marketing to millennials, brand engagement drives brand loyalty

In a seminar held during this year’s Nightclub and Bar Show, President of the company Vemos, Whitney Larson, stated that 62% of millennials are loyal to brands based on their engagement online.

Having a professional and strategic social media strategy can humanize your brand in a way that today’s customer—who’s grown more weary of businesses—can truly appreciate.

With the right brand engagement in place, patrons are less likely to see your brand as a faceless, heartless corporation. Instead, they’re speaking with real people and eliciting real reactions that make them feel connected in a way previously unmatched in ages before social media.

4. Modernization
Making people excited to venture out their doors and in through yours can’t be done without some degree of modernization. Keeping up with the latest dining trends—craft beers, beyond meats, experiential dining, etc.—can shine light on new ideas that are drawing crowds. Remember, the most important element in being a destination is giving people a reason to visit your venue above all others.

Beyond the menu, however, you also have to ensure the modernization of your environment. The décor and ambiance, the general vibe of the place, can be enough to entice guests to a destination.

For example, your everyday location may have the radio or some basic music streaming service playing while muted TV screens are set to network television broadcasts of The Food Network or sportscasters. But people will seek out a destination that has modernized entertainment involved in the guest experience. A destination has upgraded to music videos, combining the visual and audio elements of the space into an experience that stands out from the competition.


Of course, these are just a few examples of what “destinations” are doing differently than “locations.” What it all really boils down to is differentiating the guest experience with moments that make people say "WOW," as soon as they walk in—and making that feeling last until the moment they leave, and possibly beyond that!

Thinking of your venue as a destination, rather than just a location, allows you to more fully consider the moments of experiences that people crave and how you can begin to provide them for your guests. To compete in today’s food and beverage market, these techniques are becoming more and more necessary.

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Kevin Avram

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