Man cannot live by basketball alone, so Cleveland bars and restaurants may slim down with LeBron James gone and during reconstruction of the “Q,” the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers formally known as Quicken Loans Arena.
Here in Cleveland, perhaps more than other NBA cities, many question the economic impact of LeBron James’ departure to Los Angeles. Preceding his decision announcement was the start of a two-year renovation project of the Q, leaving the big-ticket sports and entertainment venue closed for the summers of 2018 and 2019. The CAVS announced that regular season CAVS games will resume for 2018-19, but during ongoing construction. The CAVS also announced that the arena will be back in business for games and other events at the start of the CAVS and Cleveland Monsters (hockey) 2019-20 seasons.
Often the most worried who come to mind when a major sports team makes a major change are the fans and the hospitality industry – mainly bars and restaurants.
It may go without saying, but LeBron is not responsible for the success or failure of Cleveland or its downtown bars and restaurants - though his presence was certainly a big contributor And let’s face it; we knew he wouldn’t be playing here forever, just as we know the string on Indians’ home sellouts couldn’t last forever - - we had to settle on 455, still good for 2nd place, behind the evil Red Sox (456 in 2008) in consecutive Major League sell-outs.
For the establishments near the Q who benefited from fans gathering before and after the games and concerts, the consequences will depend upon the ingenuity and creativity of the operators – as well as the competitive advantages that each can exploit, individually and as a business community.
Without actually sitting down with an operator to begin identifying competitive advantages and barriers to exploit or avoid during this lull, I would just offer the following questions that each should ask him or herself in order to find solutions to filling the void left by the LeBron’s departure and the Q’s temporary “hiatus.”
What did you have vs. what you expect?
- What are you expecting? This will let you know the scale of the challenge and should tell you whether or not you can expect a single promotional approach to close the gap. Answer: doubtful.
- Can you estimate this in terms of your performance metrics? Traffic to your venue and website? Transactions, average check, product mix and frequency of heavy, medium and low frequency customers, promotional vs. full price transactions, etc? Gross estimates of consequence are fine, but each area of loss will have a different level of effort and ROI associated with trying to sustain and grow it further. Now the crucial task of aiming the effort is underway.
- Have you identified the customers most likely to be influenced by these changes?
We have to reach the customer; what channels make sense in the changed environment?
- What channels (communication, sales, service, engagement, delivery, etc.) to YOUR customers were most effective? What channels are producing volumes of customer and prospect responses that lead them and YOU to a sale and a satisfying experience?
- How do you expect the CAVS and Q changes to influence the effectiveness of these channels’?
Finally, remember your product is NOT the problem or the solution. You’re up, you’re established in most cases, serving and you’re satisfying customers. This challenge is about placement of the mouse trap, not building a new one; the device will work just fine when placed where mice spend sufficient time.
No matter the industry, but especially key for hospitality, we all know there's nothing like location, location, location. LeBron won't be here, but your bar or restaurant is. You’ll just have to adjust to the new environment and keep it moving. Onward and upward!