Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Contrived Exclusivity over Substance

I'm not usually one for swanky bars or restaurants but yesterday, a friend and I fancied an afternoon treat, so we thought we'd give the Radio Rooftop bar a go. The bar is on the roof of the ME Hotel in London's Aldwych. That means it has amazing views of the river. It has always been billed as an exclusive place. We did consider booking a table and I enquired about it. The manager emailed back to say there was a minimum spend of £25 each + service to book a table but at that time, we could probably just walk up and find a spot to enjoy a drink and a chat. I should add that if you want to book a table for a larger group, the minimum spend is £75 per person.

I rocked up at the appointed time already knowing that my companion was running late. I figured that I could bag us both a table or spot at the bar before it got busy with the early evening, post-work crowd. I've never been before so I just wandered through the hotel behind a man who clearly looked like he knew where he was going. Since I was loaded with shopping bags, no-one stopped me. I expect they thought I was likely to be a guest in the hotel. I headed to the back of the hotel and got in the lift and went straight up to the bar. I didn't even know there was a separate entrance for the lift to the roof.

On asking for a table, I was told that there was nothing available - in fairness, the bar was busy but certainly not full - but I could sit at the bar. I sat down, pulled up another bar stool for my friend, tidied my shopping bags out of the way and waited. With my phone and the charming French bar man for company, I was quite enjoying being in a different environment and doing some people watching.

Next thing, I'm getting a flurry of WhatsApp messages from my friend saying they won't let her inside to take the lift. Apparently there's a queue and even though I've saved her a spot and we're both solo, there was no way whatsoever the bouncers were going to let her in. This is at 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon and the bar, although busy, was certainly not full. I spoke to the manager at the bar and he somewhat grumpily told me that was the policy and there was nothing he would do. My friend just had to wait her turn, frustrating though that is.

There were about 20 people in front of her. Fortunately, half of those people gave up waiting having been at the receiving end of the surly bouncers. That meant the wait wasn't too long and eventually we were reunited. My friend and I had a nice drink and chat together, and we had some lovely tapas. The crab cakes were particularly delicious and the bar staff we engaged with were utterly charming. We can't say the same of the door staff or the manager unfortunately but we had a nice enough time there.

I think I would describe this as contrived exclusivity.

Did the slightly painful wait make the experience in the bar even better for us? In this instance, I don't think so. I'm unlikely to be adding this bar to my favourite bars of London list.It seems that there are plenty of other customers who respond well to this deliberate positioning strategy. The mix of swanky surroundings, a good cocktail menu, and this contrived exclusivity seems to hit the spot. Maybe it makes people feel special for being the lucky ones who are in there. Perhaps by making it that bit harder to get into, it attracts only a certain type of clientele, and probably a rich clientele and so the visitors there find others just like them. Or maybe there's more to it than that?

I'm not saying the Radio Rooftop Bar has no substance. The food was tasty, the views are great and the waiting staff are very nice, but I can't help feeling that this contrived exclusivity makes the place feel a lot better than it actually is to a certain type of customer.

As so often happens with me, other things crop up in my timeline that are very pertinent to something I've just experienced. When I got home last night, I spotted this on Twitter.
Glamour, as opposed to style, is important in marketing terms so maybe the Power of Glamour needs to be on my reading list. You can get it over on Amazon.




And then today, when I was wondering what I should write about today, I read this article from Vice about how someone made his shed the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. It's a fascinating read and tells us a lot about human behaviour. Exclusivity plus high ratings seems to have made 'The Shed' a big hit even though there was absolutely no substance to it at all.


So maybe there is something in this contrived exclusivity mullarkey. I'm racking my brain though as to how this could work in a digital or mobile environment. Something for me to ponder further.

Day 6/25 Blogmas