This is a grand topic. But it is also very regional related. And like always on this pages, I try to be not too emotional and opinionated but just see the facts.
When Sarah, my better half and me came to Dubai in 2005, a lot of things were very different. I was appointed to be the new bar manager in Vu’s Bar, which was almost everyday really crowded. Guests really liked bling bars, bling products; the more luxurious the better.
Since my first time working for Hyatt, there was one concept, which became one with my professional alter ego: value for money. Hence I’ve offered really expensive spirits, cocktails and wines – however there was always the quality to back up the prices – and I tried to keep a few good but less expensive options for my guests.
The time, when luxurious bars were the most popular spots and were always crowded is over now. You can go to any previously crowded bars – some were more successful to retain guests, some less; however non of the previous bling bars are as successful as before. We could even say, that non of rather classic bars are as successful as before. The exceptions might be night clubs [which also had losses, which are nowadays no more that substantial] and bars which try to mimic night clubs. And then there are very casual places…
Ask me to recommend a bar concept, which is “self-filling” – I would suggest to open a casual place [just don’t call it bar].
The downfall of bars and the raise of pubs has several reasons. One can argue, that guests don’t have anymore that much expendable income.
The curious thing however is, that while some places are really cheap to retain their guests [which are often quite young], others are just on par with prices of the average bar; in these cases there are obvious psychological dynamics, which help these places to succeed. It is similar with the dynamics you could see in 5 star and 4 star hotels in Europe in the crisis: Guests rather stayed in 4 star hotels – despite the fact, that most 5 star hotels lowered their prices to the same level than 4 star hotels to cushion the effect of the economic downturn.
It is not only not “fashionable” nowadays to “do luxury” – it is also that people don’t analyze and compare prices – they “feel” the prices of products.
If you would own or operate a luxurious bar – you could even lower the prices to those of other competitors with more casual places [and a lot of F&B directors did] – and you still won’t gain any more volume [of guests] – you just loose profit!
Arguably another reason, why upscale bars are not as successful is, that they usually don’t offer a better quality.
Yes- you can pay for your Mojito AED 40, or AED 75 – the quality [there might be some rare exceptions] is the same. Basic rum, popular [but not necessary appropriate] recipe, the ubiquitous Barakat “fresh” lemon juice [instead of directly fresh squeezed lime] and usually quite sad “fresh” mint – often it is then sweetened with sugar syrup – sometimes with brown sugar. The guest shall be right: why should he pay 50% more?
So what is the future of beverage outlets and the future of the bar for Dubai now?
Casual pubs and joints don’t need to sport a questionable quality! There are countless ways to work around “budget restraints” – and if the whole team wants to contribute to offer a better product, there is no doubt to succeed. New concept should be a bit more creative [please don’t copy paste other “successful” places]. I will give some examples in one of the following posts, what possibilities there are to create a promising, creative and unique concept. Off course bar operators could contact me to get a much more in depth consultancy!
I still believe, that there is an opportunity to run a successful contemporary bar.
This I will discuss in the directly following post!