How long have you been working in the Live Music Venue and Bar industry, Johnny? What originally prompted you to want to work within these industries?
Revention Interviews Johnny So, Owner of Fitzgerald’s
Just 2 years, and let me tell you that the learning curve is steep! But, the other two partners at Fitzgerald's have been booking and promoting live bands for almost a decade, so we decided to pool our resources and open a venue.
POS systems in Bars and Nightclubs are becoming more and more common – in fact, many consider them absolutely necessary in these industries today. Had you used a POS system prior to Revention, and if so, when did you make the switch and what can you tell us about the experience?
We opened with POS systems because we knew we would need reporting functions based on our volume. We spent a lot of time exploring various POS options because POS systems are a significant investment for a new business, but are very happy we went with Revention. Aesthetically, I think Revention's user interface is head-and-shoulders above other systems. And the support we've gotten from Revention has been top-notch, which is important for a new business learning a new system. I can't remember how many times I've called Revention's tech support in the dead of night to help solve an issue, and they've always been there.
Was there a particular issue that led you to choosing an all-in-one POS system like Revention for Fitzgerald’s?
Our salesperson at Revention recommended the all-in-one system, and the footprint of the unit seemed just right for our bar areas. Bar countertop space is a premium!
Businesswise, do you feel that modern technology, specifically an all-in-one solution such as Revention, is mandatory in today's highly competitive Nightclub, Bar, and Live Music Venue industries?
Yes, if you do any kind of volume that requires reporting, inventory tracking, or sales analysis. Plus a POS makes sales to customers much faster, whether in terms of handling credit cards, making adjustments or voids, adding or deleting items, running specials, etc. I know that our jobs would be a lot harder without a POS, and our bartenders would be losing their minds!
Every industry and every business has individual needs, different from everyone else. What attributes of the Revention POS have most impressed you when it comes to the specific needs of your business and industry?
Multiple menus that allow us to change our pricing or menu items at the flick of a button has given us tons of flexibility to change our product offerings and/or prices on the fly. We might, for example, change our prices depending on the band playing that night. With preset menu options, our bartenders can pull up a new menu with new pricing in seconds as opposed to manually reprogramming every item. Also, handling of credit card tabs is made immensely easier, reducing confusion and mistakes in the heat of the moment.
Do you believe that a POS system has a direct impact on a customer's experience?
It definitely gives the place a more "professional" feel. Plus they love the ease in which credit cards tabs are handled, allowing them to move their tabs between our two floors.
After implementing Revention's POS system, in what areas did you immediately see positive results? Over time, what measurable positive results have you seen?
Managing credit cards, speed in ringing items, tracking inventory and sales trends. The reports have definitely allowed us to manage inventory better, both on the front end for orders and the back end for minimizing product loss. From an HR perspective, it just makes our bartenders' jobs much easier—they spend less time fumbling around with credit card terminals, can ring up items lightning fast once they are familiar with the menus, and closing the drawers is made much, much faster.
Over time, which Revention POS features have become truly integral parts of running your business?
Reports, menus, and having reports automatically emailed to us at the end of the night.
Do you have personal opinions on PCI related issues? Do you think it is important in this day and age to protect sensitive customer data? DO you currently feel secure?
I have not focused on PCI related issues in detail, but I of course think it is important to protect our customers’ data.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey thus far as the owner of Fitzgerald’s?
Just showing up on a busy night and seeing hundreds of excited, happy faces at the venue. Our team brings it all together to provide our customers with a memorable and fun night every time we are open. Over the years Fitzgerald's has become a cultural icon in Houston, and it seems like everyone has seen a show there at some point--it's cool to say that I'm a part owner in it!
Do you have any goals you are working toward in 2012?
Just to continue to build on our momentum and bring the best live music acts to Houston! Hopefully we'll get so busy that we'll have to buy a couple more POS stations!
Being as successful as you are, what advice would you give to others out there hoping to one day own their own live music venue and bar business?
Hire people you can trust but have systems of accountability in place as a backstop. Remember the mantra, "trust, but verify."
Ask a local music lover in Houston where they saw their first show and put money on their answer being: Fitzgerald's. Since 1977 Fitzgerald's has been the go-to venue for live music in Houston when it first opened its doors to musical greats like James Brown, Tina Turner, Steve Ray Vaughan, R.E.M., The Ramones and countless others, as well as being the place where many local bands got their first start. The first floor hosts a full bar and smaller stage and leads out to an expansive cobblestoned back patio with another bar and plenty of seating. Fitzgerald's main stage is upstairs along with another full bar, a mezzanine complete with its own express bar overlooking the large original wooden dance floor, and an outdoor anterior balcony.
The two story structure has withstood nearly a century of inclement weather and dance shoes and real estate developers. It has earned its place twice in Houston's history, first as a center where Polish immigrants could unite, and again as one of the city's oldest live music venues. Sara Fitzgerald, the original proprietor and venue's namesake, purchased the building in 1977, which was built in 1918 by the local Polish community. Even then the Polish Home, or the Dom Polski as it was called, served as a gathering place for people to be entertained with music and dancing, as well as a central meeting place for game nights, social activities, and big holiday dinners which were prepared downstairs and served in the upstairs dancehall. The Poles definitely knew how to party. The team now running Fitzgerald's has revived and restored the venue, making way for a new generation of audiophiles who too will one day name Fitz as their live music 'first.'
For additional information, go to www.fitzlivemusic.com.
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