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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » "Building a Tiki Experience - What's important, and how to do it?"
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"Building a Tiki Experience - What's important, and how to do it?"
HaleTiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 03, 2017
Posts: 25
Posted: 2017-03-15 1:08 pm   Permalink

So, it seems to me that the most important thing to do is ensure my guests are feeling the environment via the employees as well. Much like holding the theme to the Imagineering standard the plan was to hold my employees to the same standard that Disney holds theirs as well. In a similar manner I've only referred to my customers as guests both here and in my business plan for this reason. Also, in response to the high standards I have built a month to month budget on not skimping on bartender and waiter pay.

If we can create a welcoming environment both in theme and in spirit via our employees then I think that foundation will go a long way towards us being a success.

Keep all of the ideas flowing guys and gals.
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2159
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2017-03-15 2:00 pm   Permalink

Good idea to look at what standards you will need to hold high. Another couple of ways you could look at it:

- What would cause the local press to celebrate your place?
- What achievements or experiences would the press get excited about and want to share with their readers?
- What would be so unique that it would get people excited about your place, generate tons of word-of-mouth, and stimulate repeat business?

It's not necessarily about paying top dollar for bar staff as it is in finding the staff who have enthusiasm and will be committed to your vision of what needs to be achieved with each guest. Your leadership must inspire them, but then they must be able to catch and carry that vision day-in and day-out going forward on their own. If they fall flat, you will too.

For theming -- "easter eggs" are something I think you've hinted at, and I think that's a great idea. What can you have that will be programmed to light up ONLY BRIEFLY and ONLY ONCE EVERY TWO HOURS, or move a bit, or make a sound? Now THAT'S unique and memorable and will give the press something to get their arms around and your guests something to sit on the edge of their seats for. But don't break the bank with something complex. Simple is definitely ok if it makes a strong impact on the guest. Make them sit on the edge of their seats and wait to see your magic and come back often with friends. These things could be the icing on top of your good drinks, your great bar staff, creative theming, and decent food.

One more thing - location, location, location. But rent will be higher in more desirable high traffic areas. Just don't handicap yourself right at the start with super low rent which comes with little or no visibility or unsafe or poor parking. We could make a list of things which are "death" to success just as easily as the things which inspire and interest us to keep coming back for more.


 
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Prikli Pear
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2017
Posts: 183
From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted: 2017-03-16 8:14 pm   Permalink

Okay, I'm going to risk ostracism here because I know this is going to be heresy in some quarters. But I'm a relative newcomer to tiki culture, so maybe I can get away with it as I offer a newcomer's perspective.

Part of the issue here is training the uninitiated guests to the bar that quality tiki cocktails are something special to be savored. The trouble is, many will balk at the comparatively higher prices (like I did a Pilikia) and if that high end cocktail doesn't blow them away (mine was okay, but mostly ice), they're gone. It's all or nothing with little to offer the neophyte who is intimidated by the daunting classic drinks. How to bridge that gap, financially?

Beer is an obvious necessity. Local craft beers are preferable to the Budweisers and Millers of the world, but even beyond that there is opportunity. Kona Brewing Company has a nice line of beers that fit nicely within the tiki theme. The Caribbean isn't tiki, but it is tropical and Red Stripe is fairly well known. Corona isn't a particularly good beer, but it's very popular and associated with tropical relaxation. The idea is escapism, right? Tropical beers can be thought of as escapism with training wheels. Availability through local distribution would be the biggest hurdle here.

Next are the tropical drinks everyone is familiar with that make tiki purists recoil: Daiquiris, pina coladas, margaritas, hurricanes, etc. The general public recognizes them, and knows what they're getting. They're safe, non-intimidating, and can be a significant revenue stream early on. Look, when The Wife and I first started getting into wine, we were pretty ignorant. Suffice to say, we drank a lot of white zinfandel. The bolder, more complex wines turned us off. Our palates simply weren't ready for them. But we haven't bought zinfandel--white or otherwise--in more than a decade. Our palates matured, but we had to start somewhere and white zin was the gateway. Those fruity drinks can be a lifeline to newcomers, and are a perfect opportunity for the bartender to say, "You like that? Have you ever had an octopus? Oh, I think you'll love it!" And even these tropical drinks can be tiered--the low-budget house liquors, and the premium stuff. Here in Texas where margaritas rule, almost every restaurant or bar has 3-4 different options on that one, and that doesn't even get into the frozen or on-the-rocks options.

A local pizza chain, Double Dave's, once specialized in exotic beers from all over the world. They had 90 or so in stock at any given time. That was a draw, but also terribly intimidating. So they sweetened the pot by offering a "Global Beer Expert" program. Once a patron had sampled every beer offered (they issued a punch card to keep track) one was designated an "Expert" and got their name added to a plaque on the wall with all the other Experts' names. There were also Master and PhD levels for those who repeated the feat (they discontinued the program whilst I was halfway through my Masters). It was a lot of fun, and introduced me to many beers I never would've even heard of otherwise. Something similar could be developed for the True Tiki Drinks, those that cost more and are intimidating to the tiki bar novice. Call them a "Master Cocktail Explorer" or somesuch and award them a custom tiki mug, or a mini tiki shot glass, or whatever with that designation (cost/benefit dependent, of course). Sure, it's gimmicky, but it's also fun. Some people just respond to a challenge. Others just want to win the "free" prize.

I guess the whole point of this long-winded post is that the bar needs to be welcoming to the non-tiki newcomers beyond even the training of the bar staff. Staff training, as others have pointed out, is super-important. Critical even. But even then, there are going to be guests that come in on busy nights that escape the notice of the staff. The look at the menu quietly, see nothing they recognize and prices higher than the dive down the street, get intimidated and leave without speaking to anyone. If there's a Kona Castaway IPA there, well, they like IPAs and this is one they've never tried. They order it, and this gives the wait staff an opportunity to engage them that might not have existed before.

Maybe I'm way off base, but I would think attracting the general public and having an opportunity to educate them and cultivate their taste in cocktails is a necessity for survival.

[ This Message was edited by: Prikli Pear 2017-03-16 20:15 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Prikli Pear 2017-03-16 20:20 ]


 
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HaleTiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 03, 2017
Posts: 25
Posted: 2017-03-16 8:34 pm   Permalink

Prikli I don't think you're way off base at all and I think you summed up a lot of what others have said here as far as making sure you create a menu and environment which allows you to stay in business and lure in customers who may not like the more hardcore tiki stuff or be willing to give it a try right off the bat.

It's funny you write all of this out tonight since I started writing out what I actually want on my opening menu this evening (while listening to Trader Sam's music) and I'll just go ahead and list off some of the stuff that's on there that might interest you.

A traditional Daiquiri
A hurricane
A standard, non-fancy grog
A painkiller
Then all of the classics

I also plan on having three beers on tap at the moment. A miller, coors, bud, light style. A Blue Moon style craft. And then last but not least a Kona because it fits the theme. I know beer sales can be a huge boon, so I was already planning on having those.

Finally, I have in mind a few different ways to engage customers in loyalty type programs. I don't want to give too much away but one involves what I'm calling for the moment a "Grog Log". Where a customer will try all of our on menu Grogs and then a few off menu with different types of rums, but the same ingredients everywhere else as an introduction to the way different rums taste and how that affects what you taste in a drink. For instance, a dark rum grog pulls out the demerara flavor more from the syrup that's included.

I also have ideas for a loyalty program that gets customers to drink through our menu, but I'm still trying to decide how exactly I want to do that. Either way there will be rewards at the end of the rainbow for either of these and I think they both have great potential to keep customers coming back and trying new things. I fully realize that the most important thing I can do is create a feeling of "This is my go-to place" for our guests.


 
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Prikli Pear
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2017
Posts: 183
From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted: 2017-03-16 9:02 pm   Permalink

That Grog Log sounds great! I know I've been going out of my way to try new rums and compare the differences. Again with the gateway thing, I started out with Puerto Rican rums not knowing much about the liquor. I now know this type has a mild profile overall, and I'm gravitating more and more to those with a more robust flavor. Evolution in action, as it were. Were I up in your neck of the woods, your Grog Log would be very appealing to me!

 
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MadDogMike
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Mar 30, 2008
Posts: 8651
From: The Anvil of the Sun
Posted: 2017-03-17 12:49 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2017-03-14 16:29, tikiskip wrote:
That's why Restaurant owners LOVE smokers they EAT, they DRINK, and they don't want water with a dam lemon in it.
Smokers want dessert too because their not on a diet cus they know smoking is going to kill them so live now.



BRILLIANT!!!

I know there are bars with an "incentive program" to try all the drinks. The Tonga Hut has the Loyal Order of Drooling Bastards for anyone who tries all 78 drinks of the Grog Log.


 
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tikiskip
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 4447
Posted: 2017-03-17 05:53 am   Permalink

They're.
Grammar cop must be twitchin.
"Twitchin" damn I just pissed off a spell cop.

They're is a contraction of they are. Note the spelling: The a from are is replaced by an apostrophe.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Okay, I'm going to risk ostracism here because I know this is going to be heresy in some quarters. But I'm a relative newcomer to tiki culture, so maybe I can get away with it as I offer a newcomer's perspective"

It's good to hear input from this perspective as it can give insight to the bulk of who would come to a new tiki joint.

"I started writing out what I actually want on my opening menu"

Damn, you left out a Mai Tai the gateway drink for all tiki bar drinks.
People know of this drink too, the Mai Tai is the tiki drink that will hook em.

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HaleTiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 03, 2017
Posts: 25
Posted: 2017-03-17 08:08 am   Permalink

Quote:



Damn, you left out a Mai Tai the gateway drink for all tiki bar drinks.
People know of this drink too, the Mai Tai is the tiki drink that will hook em.





No, no, no. The Mai Tai is included in the "Classics" section with the Zombie, the Singapore Sling, and others. It's on there, I promise.
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2159
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2017-03-17 10:43 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2017-03-16 20:14, Prikli Pear wrote:
Okay, I'm going to risk ostracism here because I know this is going to be heresy in some quarters. But I'm a relative newcomer to tiki culture, so maybe I can get away with it as I offer a newcomer's perspective.

<and>

Maybe I'm way off base, but I would think attracting the general public and having an opportunity to educate them and cultivate their taste in cocktails is a necessity for survival.



Prikli Pear, you're right on target! The "training" definitely happened to me when I was first introduced to the resurgence of interest in Polynesian pop. (It was greatly accelerated by attending the Hukilaus over the years.) I'm glad you added this to this thread, because I think it gives the whole thread some very helpful additional dimension and perspective.


 
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HaleTiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 03, 2017
Posts: 25
Posted: 2017-03-21 08:49 am   Permalink

Just to do a quick recap.

1. Service is of the most paramount all around. Especially after reading reviews on here and Critiki about how even at places like Smugglers Cove poor service can put a bad light on the night.
2. I'm going to list service here again. Because that's how important it is.
3. Decor and music. You need to draw in the guests with a new and inviting atmosphere that is all encompassing and makes them want to return to discover something new.
4. Drinks, something that I thought would be the most important is really not. As you guys have said, they can be a great way to round out the theme completely, but having the absolute perfect drink may not make up for failings in numbers 1-3.


I should have my business plan finished by the end of this week to send to my SCORE advisors to see what they think. Personally, I think the numbers look good. But the upfront cost, is higher than I expected, even though I did over estimate on purpose.

Thank you ALL again for your help in this thread. It has been huge for me.
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tikiskip
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 4447
Posted: 2017-03-21 09:46 am   Permalink

You know if you get to know your customer and talk to them know their names you will find that they cut you a lot of slack if you have a busy day or are off in your service.
Knowing your customers will also help as they can tell you of problems your place may have that you don’t know of.

Things like “hey that bartender is stealing” or that “person can’t make change” “I came in the other night and…”

Plus people like knowing the owner.
And don't do that BS "Hey how is everything tonight?" or "How's your food tasting"
Get to know them and talk as you would to a friend.

I see when places are failing the owners will hide stay in the back cuz hey who wants to face that, or even not come in at all.

But that is the time they are needed most to try and fix things, help out.

This could also be a “manager” but it’s hard to find a manager that will care as much as the owner and many times the manager is part of the problem.

In the old time successful places I see the owner is watching everything and working/helping.
Most times right next to the cash register watching the money.

The smartest thing I saw my sister do was introduce other customers to each other, now they come in to see each other.
And you don't need to entertain them as much as all their new friends are there doing it for you.


 
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2159
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2017-03-21 10:05 am   Permalink

Good points, Skip. I like the idea of introducing guests to each other - you build friendships and camaraderie that way.

Reminds me of the "community table" at Trader Sam's in Orlando. You are made to sit with people you don't know, and most of the time you have a good time together and get to talk.


 
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tikiskip
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 4447
Posted: 2017-03-21 11:22 am   Permalink

My mom used to do that, she would sit strangers together some time ago at Jacks.
you can't get away with that so much now.

My sister knew what half of the people who came to my place wanted before they said anything.

It was so hard when she went crying down the ally and quit one day for the 20th time.
People would want the new girl to know what they wanted the same way.


 
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finky099
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 502
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:29 pm   Permalink

Just wanna say this has been a GREAT thread. I and friends have entertained thoughts of starting our own bar or gallery/bar, but more to indulge in the fantasy of conversation and how we'd do it. I have incredible admiration for all who follow through with their passions and wish Hale Tiki and Mikehooker sincere good luck. I hope to make it to your respective establishments one day.

The only tangental advice I can offer comes from part time consulting with my brother in law's business. After several years of r&d he formulated an excellent way to "freeze" alcohol and make true alcohol infused ice cream and sorbets. The kind you have to be 21+ to buy. Not just flavored or with deminimus amounts of spirits. Ice cream. Alcohol. What's not to love?

And that's what EVERYONE said to him while in r&d and especially when he began taste testing his products. But when it came down to actually selling the product it became a whole other challenge. Sure people liked it but would they change their habits to buy it. And buy enough and share it enough to make the business model viable? That has been a whole other challenge. Things people said would work do not always apply in practicality. You HAVE to know who you are selling to and why they will continue to patronize your establishment. Otherwise you are wasting a lot of time with what amounts to shots in the dark. And as an owner, time = money.

I also agree and would reiterate what others have said here: start smaller and let things evolve organically. Whether that's decor, an international Rum selection, or in the size of your menu or leased space. Get AMAZING at what you do first. Of course, just make sure you've got enough capacity to be sufficiently profitable. You don't want to figure out you need to do X amount of sales per week/month only to realize you'll have to be open and fully staffed 24/7 to break even.

But it sounds like you're heavily into the analysis and budgeting conservatively and as long as you keep your eyes open to what's actually going on AND since it sounds like this is your first venture of this kind, keep attuned to what others with industry experience are telling you about what's working. When you think you've got it figured out, that's when it's easiest for something to sneak up on you.

But I don't mean to end on a dour note so please keep us updated on your progress. And best of luck!

Cheers!

Ryan

[ This Message was edited by: finky099 2017-03-24 22:34 ]


 
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finky099
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 502
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:30 pm   Permalink

And a very big YES to the loyalty club idea!

 
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