We Love Feedback
Vigilantes! Last week we released our second survey. Within a few hours we noticed comments within the survey that raised a red flag in our minds. Later we received an email from an upset potential patron. One of the fun things about the first survey is that users learned just as much about us as we learned about them. Unfortunately, this time around we have inadvertently miscommunicated some of our vision through the questions we asked.
Because we want to operate as openly as possible, we have (with permission of the author) shared his entire email below, as well as our response. First, please take 5 minutes to complete the new survey, (context is important, y’all) then have a read below. You’ll learn more about our vision, a few juicy potential details about private rooms, and see Preston get excited about patron service stuff.
(Editor’s Note: This is LONG. Sorry!)
From: A Concerned Patron
Date: September 4, 2015 at 9:49:17 AM CDT
To: zack@, preston@
A survey of yours is making the rounds that I just completed and I have to tell you, it stole a LOT of the excitement away I had about this place.
Your site touts: We are proud to announce Austin’s premier bar for board gamers and nerd culture is opening this Winter. Prepare yourself for an audacious, quality, welcoming, and unabashedly nerdy experience.
However, your survey suggests your model is karaoke rooms but with board games. Your survey suggests an anxiousness about making money from people who may hang around longer than average. Of course, you are a business and that part makes some sense but it’s at odds with that statement above. Particularly the word “welcoming.” It puts a GIANT “IF” on that word – you’re welcome IF we’re not losing money to you playing a longer game…
Also the game rentals – if this place is for “gamers” as you say, we’ll bring our own. Not to mention, I could just as easily go to Dragon’s Lair and grab whatever game I wanted to without “renting” it and play it there without anybody ever worrying about my spending money because I’m sitting at a table.
I mentioned it in my survey and I’ll mention it here: The difference is the environment. Starbucks, Dragon’s Lair – they ARE truly welcoming environments. They make NO point EVER to stress worry about the money they need to make. They create a welcoming environment that people want to visit and they THRIVE. No one at those locations (I’ve played board games in both) has ever come up to me and implied that they “prioritize paying patrons” as your survey did. Instead, because I feel so welcomed and enjoy the environment so much, I spend my money there. I buy coffee. I buy snacks. I buy games. In your case – I’d buy food, I’d drink beer so long as I never am made to believe that my presence is a burden to someone’s bottom line.
Your survey was very off-putting for these reasons. It’s worded “many of our patrons are concerned…” trying to make it SEEM like it’s not a concern of yours but that’s very thinly veiled. Quite frankly some authenticity on your part would have set better with me. Maybe some people have brought it up, but you wouldn’t put it on a survey if it wasn’t a concern of yours as well. You should have just said so.
Initially I was VERY excited to hear about your business when I first heard about it, but now that I know the establishment’s leadership will be glaring at me and any other “welcome gamers” that aren’t spending as much as you think we should I’m fairly sure I’ll just play board games and drink beer with my gamer friends in the very much more welcoming kitchen table in my own home.
I understand wanting to get some feedback from people to help manage your expectations, but if I were you, I’d be taking that survey down IMMEDIATELY.
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 6:01 PM
To: A concerned Patron
First: thanks for reaching out. We always want to hear ways that we can strive to improve our communications. To be honest, we were pretty surprised by your response, which tells me that we have not done a good job communicating our intentions for the survey to our potential patrons. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We’re passionate about providing a space for gamers. Hearing that you saw us as anything else really made us sit down and re-read our survey from your perspective. Looking at it in hindsight, I’d like to say two things:
- I now completely see how this would be a valid conclusion for you
- Please allow me to explain how we were trying to do the opposite
This survey is a smaller follow-up to our first survey, which was very extensive and garnered about 260 responses. It shaped our conversation with landlords, determined where in Austin we will locate Vigilante, informed our preliminary interior design choices, and has influenced our initial menu design. Furthermore: the survey also gave us many new and exciting ideas for Vigilante that we had never considered before.
Vigilante is a business, first and foremost. We must earn money to keep the doors open and pay ourselves and our staff. Anytime we want to implement a new feature we carefully examine the costs and benefits of doing so. The second survey (that you emailed us about) is our attempt to gauge the financial validity of some of the ideas our patrons brought to us in the first survey.
For example, many people were excited about having a few private rooms to game in at Vigilante. But there are a few things we need to know:
- How many people would rent private rooms
- What they feel a fair market price is for those rentals
- How long they would rent those rooms
Without that information we have no way of knowing if it would be prudent to pay the upfront cost of constructing those rooms, as well as the cost of having fewer tables available in our general dining room. Our vision is to have 2 or 3 rooms that will each seat 6-8 people. These rooms will constitute less than 5% of our seating capacity. This survey will help us make an informed decision for our patrons who are most excited about this unique product.
There are many industry-standard metrics that restaurateurs take into consideration when building a new concept. If these metrics can’t be met by the restaurant or bar then it is likely that your business will fail. Key metrics include: how long people sit at your tables and how much money they spend. Part of this last survey is to find out whether we will be close enough to restaurant industry standards to keep our doors open.
Vigilante is a passion project. We know with 100% certainty via our survey responses that our patrons will spend significantly more time at our tables than is recommended by industry standards. And we want them to do to that. I have no interest working for a gaming establishment that chases away patrons to be sure they are earning a buck. When I play a 4 hour game of Battlestar Galactica at Vigilante, I want the waitstaff to high-five the winners (and not be glaring at them for “camping” at a table.) We are excited because (just like yourself) most of our survey respondents have indicated that they will spend enough money at Vigilante that we won’t have to worry about those long table stays.
That being said, if our survey respondents had indicated an unviable amount of spending, we needed a solution to the challenge of long table stays. The final part of our survey investigates solutions to that problem. I can tell you with 100% candor and honesty that the more popular solutions were proposed to us by concerned patrons at the Austin Board Game Bash, where we had dozens of conversations with gamers about Vigilante.
We are not a board game retailer. We are also not a counter-service cafe or coffee shop. We are a full-service bar and restaurant concept. Vigilante is a big, audacious, and expensive undertaking. We create value by providing an amazing place to play games and our patrons recognize that value by paying us for food and drinks. We do not retail games. As such, the only way we can succeed is for our patrons to purchase food and drink from us. This survey will help clarify the actual numbers we can expect, which will have a direct impact on how big and audacious Vigilante will be. Over the next week or two we will continue to gather responses and decided what to do when the final numbers are in.
I hope this email has cleared up any misconceptions you might have had and has restored your opinion of us. Would you be open to us sharing this correspondence on our blog? Your e-mail was well thought out, and if you felt strongly enough to compose it I have a feeling others might have had similar thoughts. We’d like to clarify for others as well!
Co-Founder and Keeper of the Bar
We are always open to your feedback. Patron input has already manifested itself directly in our concept: our location (that we’re negotiating!), the tables we design, and even the food on our menu. We will always be open about our thinking and the choices we make. Please don’t be afraid to ask. If this person hadn’t reached out to us we would not have been aware of the miscommunication we were presenting. Here’s Concerned Patron’s final reply:
From: A Concerned Patron
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 6:34 PM
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for you to take my words into consideration and then in turn help me gain a better understanding of your perspective.
I think I now have a clearer picture of your vision for Vigilante and I can honestly say my excitement for your establishment has been restored and then some.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond and if you believe it will help you then of course you may use this on your blog.
Best of luck and I look forward to being one of the first patrons through your doors!
We look forward drinking nerding with you, too.
May the force be with you,
Co-Founder and Keeper of the Bar