Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who Decides What's "In"?

Last month I met up with a couple friends over at Whiskey Priest, which is near the new convention center on the South Boston waterfront. We got there about 4 or so on a Saturday afternoon, and we left about 10. The place was a zoo, with a line a few blocks down the street as we walked to our car. I remember just a summer ago that Whiskey Priest was never crowded.

Somebody decided the place is now "in." I mean, the place hasn't changed its menu. The inside looks the same. The roofdeck is the same. Yet this year, the place is packed, whereas last year the place was empty. It certainly helps that a few other restaurants have been added down the street, such as Remy's and a fancy steak restaurant, but how should that affect the popularity of Whiskey Priest. And who gets to decide that the area is worth going to?

I have lived in Boston long enough to have seen a few "in-and-out" cycles. A place is suddenly in, and everyone wants to go. And just as quickly it's out and only the dorks are inside. It happened with Jury's, which is in a hotel that used to be the Boston Police Headquarters. When Jurys opened, you couldn't get inside unless you arrived at 1 p.m. or new the bouncer. The place has an attractive outside space, a rarity in Boston. Yet today, the bar is empty most of the time. In fact, I think they had to change the name; it's not even called Jurys anymore

Or take Post 390, which I have never been to, because I was always worried it would be too crowded if I showed up. Well, I guess everyone who used to go to Post 390 now goes to Whiskey Priest, 'cause Post 390 is dead as a doornail.

Being that I work in marketing, I understand that there are fads, and that our peers have the most powerful influence on us. And there obviously are forces in play in Boston that involve both fads and peer-to-peer marketing. A few people "check out" a new bar and that has a parabolic momentum impact. Suddenly hoards are eager to find the new bar.

My work doesn't involve promoting restaurants or clubs, but there are pretty neat Internet services out there that are trying to gauge people's influence on others. As Malcolm Gladwell has written, there are people who connect, and there are people who have a profound impact on other opinions. And you need both to "cross the chasm" and create market momentum. As Boston's casual bar scene would indicate, the actual differences among the products don't matter. Beer is beer, and the inside of one bar pretty much is similar to the inside of another. But get the right people to go, and presto, you're "in."

As for me, I am now interested in checking out Post 390, because it will be easy to get in, and as I remember it, people say the place is pretty cool. And, oh yes, I am dork.

Current bars that I think are in: Remy's on the Waterfront; Liberty Hotel; Red Lantern; and for the college kids: Tavern in the Square (TitS)
Bars that are suddenly out: Post 390

1 comment:

Post390 said...

The world keeps on turnin' in the big city, no question. But in the ebb and flow of things, we think there's a long term place in Boston for chef-inspired versions of good food in a space that's a notch above what you might expect. That's what Post390 is about, and we'd LOVE to have you, whenever you stop by.

Ask for Guy, he'll take care of you... :)