Getting down globally.
Western nightclubs eye Asia, and clever technology.
FEW businesses are as local as nightclubs. Or so you might think. But a few hardy entrepreneurs are trying change that. In 2010 Matt Hermer, the owner of Boujis, a trendy London nightspot, opened a pop-up club (a temporary one) for three days in Hong Kong. Something clicked. Fun-seekers thronged through his doors. Mr Hermer will open a permanent venue in Hong Kong in September.
No big Western club has cracked Asia, but Pangaea and Avalon, two American brands, recently launched spin-offs in Singapore. Marquee, another American chain, just opened in Sydney. "There are only so many opportunities to grow," says Marquee's co-founder, Noah Tepperberg.
Global data on the nightclub industry are patchy. Clubs tend to be privately owned and deal a lot in cash. Many last little longer than a pint of lager at a stag party. IBISWorld, a research group, estimates that bars and nightclubs make profits of $800m on takings of $20 billion-25 billion a year in America, where data are most reliable.
Asia could offer equally rich pickings. Pangaea's Singapore venue, for instance, is already claiming receipts of $160,000 a night. Michael Ault, Pangaea's owner, says that the key in Asia is to have "the most expensive of everything".
Otherwise, the operating model is much the same as in the West. Raise money, find a dramatic space, befriend celebrities, promote, promote and promote. "First you go for the A crowd," says Mr Ault. "You spend all your money on DJs and celebrities to build the brand. Then the A crowd moves on. So you go from the A crowd to the B crowd. Then you have to ask yourself: do you want the C crowd?"
Nightclubs are a risky business. Spreading your bets across regions ought to mitigate that risk. But venturing into unfamiliar cities can mean dealing with unfamiliar undesirables. As one nightclub owner puts it: "Anyone can walk in and say: ‘Get out, or your head is in the trunk of a car'."
Anita Elberse of Harvard Business School predicts that more clubs will do deals with hotels to penetrate emerging markets. A rooftop club can make more money for a hotel than its rooms. Morgans Hotel Group, a luxury chain, last year bought the Light Group, a big American nightclub operator, for this reason. Andy Masi, the Light Group's boss, says that working with a hotel helps him meet the right people as he expands abroad.
哈佛商学院的Anita Elberse预计，会有更多的夜店与酒店联手打入新兴市场。酒店内的顶层夜店为其带来的利润远超其客房利润。正因如此，奢华连锁酒店摩根酒店集团去年买下了美国大型夜店莱特集团，该集团董事Andy Masi说，在他寻求海外扩张之际，与酒店联手能帮助他认识需要认识的人。
Some bars and clubs are using a novel technology to help partygoers decide where to party. SceneTap, an American start-up, uses cameras to scan the faces of those who enter and leave participating establishments. Its software then guesses each person's age and sex. Aggregated data are streamed to a website and mobile app. This allows punters to see which bars are busy, the average age of revellers and the all-important male-to-female ratio.
Bar owners gain publicity and intelligence about their customers. Did a promotion aimed at women attract many? Since drinks are often paid for in cash and by men, it used to be hard to tell.
SceneTap's cameras are watching more than 100 American watering holes. But they are controversial. The app could make life irksome for large groups of women, by summoning hordes of predatory males. So SceneTap has fixed its software to mask extreme sex imbalances. That will please bar owners, who would prefer not to admit when they are packed with men. But it will disappoint precisely the people most likely to use the app.