Traditionally January can be a slow month for tasting rooms. For some drinkers, excessive spending and entertainment during the Holidays are to blame. Then there’s winter weather causing more people to hunker down indoors. Others may be participating in Dry January where they reduce or even eliminate alcohol consumption for the entire month (it’s estimated 1 and 5 adults of drinking age started the month with those intentions). Whatever the reason, traffic may be down for your tasting room, and this post dives deep into one potential solution.
If how to drive traffic is the question, could Trivia be the answer?
We participate in a number of industry forums where most of the conversations revolve around the use of equipment or tips for achieving a desired production result. We’re a lot less qualified to participate in those discussions 😉 However, owners and managers have recently been discussing the merits of contracting a Trivia service. A number of our clients promote Trivia events, so we wanted to share some of their experiences and insights we’ve gained to help you decide if it’s right for you. Or to build on your existing Trivia strategy.
Of all the events your craft beverage business could promote – music, yoga, DIY art projects, etc. – Trivia appeals to the broadest audience with a casual, semi-competitive event. It allows your drinkers to be social in their small group as well as a crowd. Both during and outside of COVID-19, many are craving social interactions with others, and Trivia is a great equalizer/ice-breaker. For managers, Trivia helps drive traffic during slow days of the week. Regulars at Trivia will help attract even more customers to the tasting room through free word-of-mouth advertising, building community in ways that larger chain restaurants can’t.
how to promote
Marketing your Trivia event starts in the tasting room, with flyers/posters throughout. If you partner with other businesses in the area, give them a stack as well for promoting to their customers. It doesn’t cost anything extra for you to add Trivia dates and details to the calendar on your website or post to social media. Make sure all team members know about the event and can answer any customer questions. Consider offering a special food or drink menu during the event, or scheduling an outside food truck at the same time. When possible, advertise bigger prizes for the winners, like gift certificates or free merchandise. Not only do the drinkers leave happy, but winners leave wearing your branded gear!
You can argue a more general theme attracts bigger crowds: players don’t have to be expert in any one particular subject to participate. Sometimes you may want to get a little more focused, using questions/answers inspired by the local community and partners. There’s plenty of timely/topical content nowadays, but stay away from anything polarizing like politics. Other themes could include pop culture, video and board games, sports, cinema/TV, history and arts. Holiday-themed questions could be especially relevant, but only if there’s enough content to fill an evening. It’s a question of how much time and effort your team wants to spend compiling lists of questions/answers around any topic, thematic or otherwise. Because who wants to do that in addition to their day job? Which is why for most craft beverage brands it makes the most sense to contract an outside service, either for sourcing the question-answer pairs or administering the whole event.
There are two ways to bring Trivia to your tasting room: subscribe to a question-answer service or contract an event organizer. If there’s someone with an especially outgoing personality who isn’t intimidated to speak in front of [large] groups, then by all means ask them to emcee your Trivia nights! Give them parameters and expectations for a successful event and let them run with it, using question-answer content from one of the following sources:
- Brainwave Trivia: weekly subscription service starting at $49/month
- Brainstormer Trivia: on-demand question-answer content and themed quiz packages with the option for hosted remote/Zoom events
- Quiz Runners: single quiz packs ($24/each) and weekly subscription service starting at $59/month
- Stage Time Trivia: themed quick packages ($35/each) and weekly subscription service starting at $100/month
- PubStumpers: a 12-week Trivia league based on the British-style pub quiz, including everything needed to organize and promote
If you want more of a turnkey solution, you may want to contract a Trivia service. For a per-event or monthly fee your tasting room gets an experienced Host with their own source of question-answer combos. Regional and national services include:
- King Trivia: in-person, private and special trivia events, with a huge network of hosting venues and online leaderboards (nationwide)
- Geeks Who Drink: used by over 4,000 bars for general, themed and now “Small Batch” quizzes with venues promoted online (nationwide)
- Quizmaster Trivia: in-person and remote Trivia events with venues promoted online (Midwest States)
- Buzztime for Business: mobile- and tablet-based trivia and other entertainment with streaming services starting at $25/week (digital only)
- Last Call Trivia: hosted, private and virtual trivia events unlocked by weekly hints posted on their website (regional)
- America’s Pub Quiz: in-person events with online game card and leaderboard (regional)
These and a number of other services establish a local presence by allowing Hosts to buy into the business as a franchisee: a cost they must pass on to their tasting room customers. Which is why some nationwide Trivia brands have gotten mixed reviews on value for the money. In response, outgoing, personable entrepreneurs have launched hyper-local Trivia services in their communities. We caught up with Sam Layle, owner of Shut Up and Drink Trivia services in Denver, CO, for his thoughts on a successful Trivia event:
Market Your Craft: why would bar owners choose a smaller, local Trivia service versus a known, national brand?
Sam: people don’t follow Trivia companies as much as they follow Hosts. You want someone who’s going to engage the customers with a personality that reflects positively on your business. They tend to attract regular players week-after-week. Whether you choose a smaller business like Shut Up and Drink or a larger Trivia service, be sure to ask for a profile of the person who will be hosting your event to make sure they’re compatible.
Market Your Craft: what’s the best environment for hosting a Trivia Night?
Sam: players will have a much better experience in smaller, more intimate spaces. Tasting rooms can get pretty loud if they don’t have proper sound-dampening curtains or ceiling panels. You don’t want to have to repeat yourself during the game.
Market Your Craft: talk about minimum equipment needs for a successful event.
Sam: it really depends on the location and their in-house capabilities. Bars and tasting rooms generally have a speaker system we can tap into. We’ve invested in mics with on-off switches for quickly toggling between Trivia and music, for example. Tasting rooms should have an available internet connection we can access as a guest. To eliminate headaches the night of the event, Trivia services sometimes bring their own PA system.
Market Your Craft: any thoughts on marketing the event to help drive traffic?
Sam: there’s a lot of free promotion available to help get the word out about your Trivia Night. We like it when tasting rooms post to their social media accounts early the week of the event, then the day of. Adding to your website calendar is low-hanging fruit, as well as community event calendars. Sending an email out to your newsletter subscribers leading up to the event is often more focused and effective than social. Then think about posters, flyers and even bar receipt promotion.
Market Your Craft: do managers typically run drink specials or other promotions during Trivia?
Sam: if a bar has a daily happy hour, they will likely start Trivia after its over to entice drinkers to stay longer. Once a player starts Trivia, they typically stay until the end (about 2 hours) so deep drink discounts wouldn’t make sense for that captive audience. You have to strike the right balance.
Market Your Craft: what themes do players find the most engaging?
Sam: it may seem counterintuitive, but the more general quizzes tend to engage more audiences. You don’t want a drinker to walk into a Trivia Night and dis-qualify themselves for not knowing Pop Culture or 80’s Rock. If your tasting room is just getting into Trivia, start with more general question-answer pairs, build your audience and introduce themes over time.
Market Your Craft: talk tech for a minute. Are we still using pen and paper scorecards?
Sam: some Trivia Nights still use paper tally sheets. We’ve found most customers are comfortable using their smartphones which is why we invested in the CrowdPurr digital scorecard. The benefits include instant scoring, online leaderboards and timed answers. Plus, during COVID-19, it reduces unnecessary close contact between Hosts and participants.
Market Your Craft: beyond service fees, what can a Host expect to be comped at an event?
Sam: haha, great question! We’ve found tasting room managers to be very generous to Hosts during Trivia Nights, usually starting a tab for beverages and snacks. Can’t say we expect that, but we enjoy it when it happens 😉
Market Your Craft: any guesses on what new Trivia venues can expect in terms of new versus regular customers?
Sam: after a couple successful weeks you are bound to see some regulars. It’s all a function of how entertaining the Host is, combined with the right balance of casual competition. If you start to see a shift in customers or a drop-off in attendance, you can test different tactics like themed Trivia, aligning with a popular food truck or inviting a guest Host.
Check out Sam’s Shut Up and Drink Trivia upcoming events or follow him @BeerNLoathing. For a list of local Trivia services we recommend starting with a Google “Trivia near me” search. Hope this helps!