Customer retention is the name of the game, and for some establishments—well, they’re taking that sentiment literally.
Ways to hook customers and get them to stay a little longer, spend a little larger, and come back with a few more friends, may look different for every crowd. But for bar patrons whose goal is likely nothing more than to eat, drink, and be merry, your answer may lie in providing a means of good old friendly competition.
What’s Old is New Again
Old-school games like shuffleboard, darts, billiards, and even retro arcade games are suddenly “new” again and are being tapped by a growing number of innovative operators to incorporate in their bars (and not just the dives).
These vintage games aren’t meant to attract an “old-school” crowd. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—more and more millennials are getting in on these retro games and others as well.
And these games may be your best bet for bringing in those millennials, as a 2016 article in Forbes titled “Millennials Gone Mild” admits an unsettling reality for bar and nightlife owners everywhere: young Americans aren’t drinking like they used to.
Younger generations, and really all bar patrons, are now looking for an experience when they go out to drink. And what better way to provide one than with interactive and social games?
Take, for instance, the AHoles game, invented in 2017 by Mike Rivard, whose idea for the game came from throwing cornhole bags against a wall in his office one night. But this wasn’t just any wall, it was one made from Western Red Cedar, a material that provides the basis for the gardening products under his company, Gronomics.
Though Gronomics planted its roots in 2008 as a company of innovative gardening products and accessories, the line quickly expanded to include outdoor furniture, games, and even chicken coops by 2013.
Just shy of a year in launching AHoles, the game is already taking off with 800-1000 bars carrying it throughout the country as well as a few outsiders in New Zealand and Germany. Not bad for a game that initially garnered sales through door-to-door bar hops.
As described by Sales Manager of Rivard Companies Jamie Reitz, the game itself is a cross between cornhole and darts, but it can be played with up to eight players.
Each player proceeds to throw four bean bags into the holes of the vertical A-shaped tower. The smallest target (top hole) counts for five points, the second target (middle hole) counts for three points, and the last target (bottom hole) counts for one point. Hitting the shelf won’t count for anything, but hitting the floor will set you back one point (even if the bean bag falls off the shelf). Each player throws from a distance back of 11 feet, 4 inches.
Why 11 feet, 4 inches?
“He went with [that] because you can fit this in a dorm room,” explains Reitz. “And the height of the game off the ground is 42 inches because your average pub tables are 42 inches off the ground. So you can either hang this on the wall, or you can put it right on a pub table with a weighted base so it won’t fall over.”
The games include remote-controlled LED lights, and custom backdrops are also available so that bars can include their branding on the back of the game.
The player totals up their score (the best possible high score on the first round would be 20 points with the lowest possible score being a -4), and the next person then proceeds to throw his/her bean bags until everyone has had a chance to take their best shots. The first person to exceed 22 points wins the game.
But don’t let that number stop you. Reitz ensures that there are multiple ways to play the game including “race to 40,” “call your shot,” or playing in teams with two bean bags per team member.
The concept of the game is straightforward, but it proves to be highly addictive due to its user-friendly yet challenging nature.
In fact, after explaining the rules and hanging the game at a bar for solicited feedback, Reitz was contacted back within half an hour.
“They said, ‘I need three more of these for my wall, everybody loves it!’” says Reitz. “Bar owners will call and say, ‘Hey, my slow night is Tuesday night usually, and I hung the game and let people play it, and now Tuesday night’s my busy night.’”
Reitz also says there’s a large profit advantage to a game like AHoles over some of the more traditional ones you may find at bars. “Usually on your dart boards and your pool tables and so forth, the bar usually leases those and only gets 50 cents on the dollar,” he explains. “With our game, they’re playing for free.
“So let’s say I had 40 dollars to spend that night at the bar: I put 20 dollars into the pool table and had a couple beers. The bar only gets 10 dollars of that. But if I had 40 dollars in my pocket and I was drinking and having a good time playing AHoles for free, the bar got all of my money.”
Another company offering bars a way to capitalize on games is Drink-A-Palooza: The Pregame Edition. The game was first created by David Wagner, CEO of Wagner Concepts Inc., in 2001 as a way for him to combine all the drinking games he learned in college into one. Since then, the game has undergone many revisions, developments, and even a name change (it was originally called “The College Experience”) to become what it is today.
Drink-A-Palooza borrows elements from classic games such as King’s Cup, Quarters, and Asshole and fuses them with newer games like Beer Pong and Flip Cup to construct the ultimate drinking game experience reminiscent of the college years.
The premise of the game is to fill up your empty six-pack holder game piece with miniature bottles that you can win as you play the game. To start the game, you will grab your game piece and spin the bottle located in the middle of the board. Whoever the bottle lands on starts the game. By rolling the dice and moving along, you’ll land on spaces that will prompt a group competition (such as High Low, King’s Cup, Waterfalls, Socials, or “Cheers”) or a dual competition (either Beer Pong, Flip Cup, or Quarters).
When you land on any of the spaces that cue a one-on-one, you spin the bottle to determine who you’ll be competing against for that specific game. The winner of the competition will collect a mini beer bottle while the defeated opponent(s) drinks from their cup(s).
From the game pieces right down to the spinner, Drink-A-Palooza’s detailed nuances and classic touches of college nostalgia are sure to keep patrons entertained for hours on end.
“It’s more about the competition rather than really trying to drink as much as you can,” explains Wagner. “The more excitement that you have coming from your bar, the more people are standing around the table wanting to get on the table and play, and the longer people are going to stay, and the better time they’re going to have. They’re going to want to go back to that bar because they’re having a good time there.”
In fact, the game has become so successful that bar owners can actually purchase the game as a physical table where people can play it right on the tabletop.
Bar owners who are interested in purchasing either of these games for their business will receive a special discount off the retail price.