Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Billy's Forty-First Law: Sometimes it’s smart not to follow the crowd

If everybody else jumped off the Lions Gate Bridge, would you jump off the Lions Gate Bridge?  (It all depends on the tide and wind conditions)

Sunday February 1, 2015 was Super Bowl Sunday. They anticipate that over 115 million people watched the game.  This does not include the millions watching in pubs and restaurants all across the US, Canada and throughout the world.  None of these people was at the Dubh Linn Gate pub in Whistler BC.  The manager of the Dubh Linn decided that the Pub would remain Super Bowl Free for the entire afternoon.  This despite the huge numbers of Seahawks fans who routinely visit Whistler. How can it be, that a pub could make such a decision?  Are these people crazy or is there something that we are missing. 

Firstly, the pub is not a sports bar.  There are televisions and they will have sports playing without the sound on but this is an Irish Pub.  The Pub’s house band has it in their contract that the televisions be turned off when they are playing. 
Secondly, there were plenty of places in the resort showing the game.  These places were packed with football fans, and those wondering what this spectacle was all about.
So what possessed the manager of a pub to keep the game off during the biggest annual sporting event in the world?  The answer is simple…money. The general manager analysed the difference between Super Bowl Sunday and other Sunday’s during ski season.  She noted that although the pub was full, revenue was actually lower than a typical Sunday.
The problem with the Superbowl, from the pub’s point of view, is that people park.  Some fans were in the pubs at 11:00 AM for a 3:00 PM kickoff and a 6:00 PM end.  This may mean lots of drinking, however; it is less than turning over the seats in the restaurant with skiers on a normal Sunday.  Although the pubs were filled, even the most hard core football fan slows down his, or her, rate of consumption during that long a period.  People also eat less.  They may order snacks, however; they do not order meals. 
At the same time, staffing levels ramp up.  There are more people, and more people who have consumed a bit too much.  This, in turn, increases the staffing costs to the pub.  One local establishment, a bar serving a younger crowd, actually had a cover charge for both the NFC final and the Super Bowl.  The reason, the Seattle factor. (Not only are people from Seattle fans, but the Seahawks are Vancouver’s adopted team.)
So on the Monday after the game, I asked one of the managers what happened with the Great Super Bowl Experiment.  He told me that the patio was full.  This was the usual après ski crowd coming in after a day on the slopes.  He also told me that inside the pub was very slow.  When they compared revenue this year to revenue on Super Bowl Sunday last year, and remember that Seattle was in both games, the revenue was higher without the Super Bowl. Smaller crowds, with faster turnover, provided higher revenue that large crowds with lower revenue.
There are times when good business tactics are counter intuitive.  The decision not to play the Super Bowl at the pub was bold, yet in this case it seems to have worked.  It is great to see an environment analysis, experimentation and results are an important part of the culture. 
This experiment was a success.  It is still important to experiment, and celebrate experiments that are not successful...even down right failures.  To quote business writer Louis E. Boone:
Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things.  The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions...could have...might have and should have.


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