Ultimate Nightlife Operator’s Guide to ‘Last Call’ Best Practices

Posted on: by Manny Marquez | No Comments

The “Last Call” Process

Every great story has a beginning, middle, and end. But for nightlife venues, the end can often be an unruly chapter riddled with issues. We shed some light on the ‘last call’ process in our recent podcast, address how it can be a pivotal moment, often precipitating an incident.

Think of ‘last call’ as the witching hour for hospitality establishments. In the U.S., this usually hovers around 2 am, and some jurisdictions last call for alcohol service goes till 4 am. This is the time when, legally, consumption, sales, and/or possession of alcohol must cease. NSC recommends that operators and their well-trained security team give themselves at least a 30-minute window for closure, which allows for a smoother transition and lessens the chance of an incident.

1. Bottle Service vs. Individual Drinks Consideration

While understanding “last call’ is crucial, it’s also important to pay heed to the service style. NSC has found that 50% of our clients offer bottle service. The service style impacts how the crowd behaves during the last call, as well as the speed of their departure.

Whether you’re a server, bartender, bouncer, door host, or ID checker, it’s important to have open dialogues with your manager to strategize the ‘last call’ and responsible alcohol service effectively, especially when there is bottle service is involved. It doesn’t make much sense to sell a full bottle at a premium price near closing and then tell your guest they have to leave without finishing what they paid for. Operators should have concrete rules regarding time of last sale of bottles as well as individual drinks.  

2. No Hard Push: Give Guests Time to Leave Comfortably

The ‘hard push’, a term used in the industry when the operators and employees aggressively encourage patrons to leave post-last call, this is a tricky territory. NSC warns that a ‘hard-push’ often leads to unwanted confrontations. Use what you can control to give subliminal cues for your guest to wrap up the night.  Using levels for lights, music, and even the DJ’s collaboration – can play an important role in how your closing goes. This means we need to consider a more nuanced, gentle approach to closure, keeping our customer’s experience at the forefront. Send you guests home feeling good about their experience.

3. Staggered Closures & Setting Expectations

There are many entertainment districts in the US where neighboring venues chose to close at staggered times to avoid conflict as patrons spill out into the sidewalks and streets. In business districts, especially in large cities, staggered closures can distribute the departing crowd, reducing potential conflicts.

Just as with any other service industry, setting customer expectations is paramount in nightlife establishments. After the last call, patrons usually rush to get a quick drink before departure. However, proactive communication about the approaching last call can help to mitigate this rush.

4. Reevaluating Business Hours: Can We Close Earlier?

Post COVID-19, many business owners were tempted to extend hours to generate more sales. However, we urge our clients to modify for a long-term view. Limiting hours and opting for a sustainable closing time could be beneficial. It’s also a prudent approach to conduct an informal survey among the staff regarding the closure time. This can provide useful insights and help prepare for any necessary changes.

5. Getting Law Enforcement Input

Involving law enforcement on a positive note can aid in administrative discussions or negotiations with the city. Cities, like our hometown San Diego consider a 30-minute window before and after closure as reasonable. Again, staggered closing times can significantly reduce late-night incidents, an aspect law enforcement can certainly appreciate.

The nightlife industry, like any other, needs effective strategies for smooth operation. It’s about striking a balance between an engaging night and a safe, orderly closure. Following NSC’s advice could be the first step towards achieving this. Remember, every good story needs a great ending, and in the case of a bustling night venue, the ‘last call’ is just that.

6. Be Consistent

Consistent closing times for your bar business are crucial for maintaining customer trust and satisfaction. A reliable closing schedule instills a sense of predictability, allowing patrons to plan their visits with confidence. This consistency demonstrates your commitment to customer service, fostering positive impressions that encourage repeat visits and customer loyalty. Moreover, predictable closing times enable efficient staffing and resource management, ensuring that your staff can depend on their shifts and prevent potential conflicts that might arise from erratic closing hours.

For customers, consistent closing times set clear expectations. Patrons can confidently enjoy their time at your establishment, knowing when to wrap up their evening without the fear of abrupt closures. This promotes a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, enhancing their overall experience. Consistency also fosters a sense of respect for your customers’ time and enhances their perception of your bar’s reliability. Ultimately, by adhering to consistent closing times, you create a harmonious environment where customers feel valued and can focus on enjoying their time, reinforcing positive word-of-mouth recommendations and bolstering the reputation of your bar business.

Please Vote:
0 out of 0 found this information useful

Leave a Reply